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May 30th, 2012
Fish oil is the most reliable source of active omega-3 fatty acids (referred to as eicosapentanoic, EPA and docosahexanoic acid or DHA).
By Stephen Holt, MD
Omega-3 fatty acids are described as essential fatty acids because they are not readily manufactured by the human body and form a class of dietary supplements that are somewhat like vitamins (essential nutrients). There are other sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet and in dietary supplements, but these are precursor molecules that may not always be handled by the body in an efficient manner (e.g. flax oil). The key issue in modern nutrition is the finding that there is a widespread deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in many standard western diets. There appears to be an emerging trend over a period of many years for the amount of omega-6 fatty acids (found in vegetable oils) that far exceed the intake of omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oil). The disturbance of this ratio of intake of omega-3 and omega-6 is observed to be associated with the emergence of several diseases…this means that correction of this ratio of intake with supplementation by omega-3 fatty acids is a valuable nutritional intervention for health and well being in many people.
Essential fatty acids of the omega-3 series can affect favorably the clinical course of many diseases, including but not limited to, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory disorders, hormonal upset, altered immune function (both immunosuppression and auto-immunity states), arthritis, depression, neurological disorders or degenerations etc., to name a few. Many patients who wish to protect their liver have begun to understand the value of fatty acid composition of membranes around cells in the liver. In fact, membrane function is a key factor in promoting healthy liver function. The use of fish oil in the promotion of a healthy liver has been underestimated and there is new science that shows the creation of membrane molecules (phospholipids) that require good dietary sources of essential fatty acids. One small warning should be applied with the use of fish oil and that is that it tends to have blood thinning actions. People with liver disease may have weak clotting tendencies. In cases of doubt, individauls are recommended to speak with their healthcare practitioners.
Where does this lead us in our understanding about the potent and versatile health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids? It would appear that relatively high dosages of omega-3 fatty acids may have to be used in some circumstanes and this creates a problem with a person’s ability to tolerate fish oil supplements. Some fish oil liquids taste bad and even produce halitosis. Regular fish oil capsules can cause digestive upset and there is variable absorption of the active fatty acids EPA and DHA.
To overcome some of these difficulties, fish oil capsules have been made with enteric coating that permit the delivery of the fish oil to the site of maximum absorption beyond the stomach, in the small intestine. This is described as a targeted delivery system, which has been associated with reports of better acceptability, improved absorption of active EFA, lack of gastrointestinal upset (e.g. fishy burps, nauseau and occassional diarrhea).
Many physicians in integrative medicine have accepted the superiority of delivery of high concentrations of good quality fish oil in enteric coated capsules. This is the technology used by Natural Wellness® and it is important not to confuse the advanced delivery system of the Natural Wellness® form of fish oil with regular fish oil or capsules. It is clear that achieving good intake of fish oil is not easy for many people and a special delivery system used by Natural Wellness® may overcome many of these problems.
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