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Fabulous Fish Oil Findings: Part 1
April 23, 2007
A few weeks ago, I did a two-part blog series on triglycerides. I mentioned that omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in lowering triglyceride levels. I decided to devote an entire blog entry (or two or three) to these unique but popular fats, as friends, family members, and colleagues are constantly asking me about them.
Fish oils are technically called omega-3 fatty acids, which are types of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs, for short). There are two subclasses of PUFAs—omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. Both subclasses are called essential fatty acids because the body can’t make them and must obtain them from dietary sources.
Linoleic, gamma-linolenic, and arachidonic acids are omega-6 fatty acids. Sources of omega-6s include corn oil, sunflower seed oil, and soybean oil. Eicosapentaenoic (EPA), docosahexaenoic (DHA) and alpha-linolenic (LNA) acids are the omega-3s. EPA and DHA are the fatty acids found in fish and other seafood. LNA is found in plant foods, including flaxseed, walnuts, and canola oil, and is converted to EPA and DHA after ingestion.
Our bodies need both omega-6s and omega-3s, but the typical American diet is too heavy on the omega-6s. The ideal balance is 4 parts omega-6 to 1 part omega-3, but “Westernized” diets can be as high as 16 parts omega-6 to 1 part omega-3. A diet too heavy in omega-6 fatty acids has been linked to heart disease, certain types of cancer, and some autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.
So, what’s up with omega-3s, or fish oils? Well, if you keep up with the latest health news, it may seem like every few months we’re hearing more and more about how helpful and healthful these fats are. In fact, fish oils are so good for us that even the American Heart Association has jumped on the bandwagon as far as recommending that pretty much everyone aim to fit these oils into their eating plan. Let’s look more closely at what fish oils have to offer:
More findings next week!
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