Fabulous Fish Oil Findings: Part 1

By Amy Campbell | April 23, 2007 12:04 pm

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!

Source URL: http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/blog/fabulous-fish-oil-findings-part-1/

Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin.

Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

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