Omega 3 EPA|
Author: David McEvoy
Copyright 2006 David McEvoy
Introduction to Omega 3
Omega 3 fatty acids are known to be beneficial to health in a number of ways, and scientific evidence is accumulating to back up the beliefs of those who have taken it for years in the form of fish oil. Some scientists believe that, as well as reducing the risk of sudden cardiac death, Omega 3 can improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They can also reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by keeping the heart healthy.
There is much evidence to suggest that EPA especially benefits the diet and can help with a wide range of conditions and health issues. EPA is Eicosapentaenoic Acid, one of the two active ingredients in Omega 3 (the other being DHA or Docosahexaenoic Acid), and is now considered by some leading doctors and professors in the UK as being the single most vital nutrient in the functioning of the brain and nerve stimulation.
Upping the intake of Omega 3 can help with many ailments including Irritable Bowel Syndrome, depression and manic depression, schizophrenia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is also known to assist weight loss and hair growth and to boost the immune system. Studies have also shown it may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
What is Omega 3?
There are three classes of nutrients; proteins, carbohydrates and fat, which is also known as lipid. Fat’s function is to provide energy for the body, and pound per pound it contains more energy in the form of calories than protein and carbohydrate. The three types of fat are triglycerides, cholesterol and phospholipids. Fatty acids provide energy to organs including the heart as well as muscles – they are also building blocks for cell membranes, and energy storage for the body.
Omega 3 fish oil contains two active ingredients: EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid). Most fish oils on the market contain both these ingredients in various quantities - the argument that has arisen concerns which of these essential nutrients you need, and which is better than the other. The simple answer to this is that both are vital nutrients, but they are each important at different stages of life; it is becoming clear in the scientific community that they both have different functions.
DHA is now thought to constitute the ‘building blocks’ of the brain, forming about 8% of the brain by weight - this is why it is important for pregnant mothers to ensure an adequate supply throughout pregnancy. DHA is also added to some infant milk formulas by some leading manufacturers, as an infant requires a lot of DHA in the first two years of life to support the growth of the brain.
EPA however is different; this essential nutrient is now considered by some leading doctors and professors in the UK as being the single most vital nutrient in the functioning of the brain and nerve stimulation.
There have been several studies into the beneficial effects of EPA on various mental illnesses including depression and bipolar disorder, as well as schizophrenia. The conclusion has been that Omega 3 can significantly improve the symptoms of these conditions.
Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disease. Approximately one percent of the population develops schizophrenia during their lifetime – more than two million Americans suffer from the illness in any given year.
The strongest evidence that EPA helps schizophrenia comes from a study at Sheffield University by Dr Malcolm Peet and his colleagues. They did a study in patients with chronic, partially treatment-resistant schizophrenia. These patients continued on their existing medications. They were then randomised on a double-blind basis to receive either a placebo, or high EPA fish oil from sardines or anchovies, or high DHA fish oil from tuna. In other words, all the treatments were coded so that neither the patients nor the doctors knew which patient was receiving which treatment until the trial had been completed and the code broken. When the code was broken, the results were very clear. The placebo patients, as is usual in such experiments, showed a small improvement. The DHA patients also showed a small improvement, but in fact a lesser one than was evident in the placebo group, raising the possibility that DHA may not be helpful. In contrast, the patients on EPA showed a significant improvement which was comparable to that seen with the newer antipsychotic drugs, yet without the side effects.
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in a person's mood, energy, and ability to function. Some mornings can start with overriding feelings of joy, elation and power. By the time the afternoon has arrived this can shift to feelings of desperation, despair and depression. Symptoms of a mixed state often include agitation, trouble sleeping, and significant change in appetite, psychosis, and suicidal thinking. A person may have a very sad, hopeless mood while at the same time feeling extremely energized.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are being studied to determine their usefulness, alone and when added to conventional medications, for long-term treatment of bipolar disorder. One such study was carried out by Dr Andrew Stoll over a four month period. The study was performed to examine whether omega 3 fatty acids also have mood stabilizing effects with people who have bipolar disorder. He found that the omega 3 fatty acid patient group had a significantly longer period of remission than the placebo group.
So can high grade ethyl EPA fish oil help with depression and low moods? Let’s take a look at the evidence. In one study involving 20 people with recurrent depression, researchers studied the effects of the specific omega 3 fatty acid known as pure EPA. Patients involved in this study randomly received either the ethyl EPA fish oil capsule or a sugar pill in addition to the anti depressant medication they were taking. After only four weeks, six out of ten patients receiving EPA had significantly reduced symptoms of depression.
How do I know I need Omega 3?
We all need Omega 3 and there are several ways to increase our intake in addition to taking a concentrated supplement. You can increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids by eating more fish, walnuts, flaxseed oil and green leafy vegetables. For instance, you can obtain an adequate dosage of omega 3 fats by eating two salmon a week, or by taking a gram of omega 3 fatty acid supplement daily.
If you’re not getting enough Omega 3 there are several warning signs which may indicate a deficiency:
1) Fatty food craving
2) Ear wax accumulation
3) Sun-induced headaches
4) Leg cramps caused by walking
5) Tightness across shoulders
6) Brittle fingernails
7) Low moods, irritability
8) Thin / thick cracked heel calluses
9) Poor / slow wound healing
10) Yeast / candida infection
11) Chronic inflammations
12) Dry skin, dandruff
These may point to the fact that you are lacking Omega 3 in your diet and would benefit from upping your intake.
Why should I take Omega 3?
Omega 3 helps the body in all manner of ways – even if you feel healthy you will benefit from an increased intake. These are the five top reasons to take Omega 3.
1) Most of the modern western diets contain way too much omega 6 in the form of breads and pasta - supplementing your diet with an omega 3 fish oil supplement it will help to correct this imbalance.
2) High grade omega 3 EPA fish oil has been shown to be very beneficial in the fight against depression. If your brain becomes clogged up with trans fatty acids (bad fats) it is possible that the whole messaging system within your brain could become sluggish - should this happen then the onset of depression may occur.
3) In one recent study performed, people who supplemented their diet with EPA fish oil lost more weight than a placebo controlled group. This is thought to be due to the cells releasing the bad fats, and the body then burning them as fuel.
4) High grade EPA fish oil helps with concentration and the ability to think clearly by aiding the passage of signals within the tiny gaps of the brain called synapses.
5) Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid and cannot be produced by the body. It is called an essential fatty acid because it is essential for correct body balance and function of most vital organs and hormones.
Start living better with Omega 3
Omega 3 is not a miracle cure for any ailment, but more evidence is emerging all the time showing how widely varied and impressive its health-giving properties are. For people suffering from depression Omega 3 pure EPA gives the hope of a better future.
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Dave McEvoy is an award winning personal trainer with over 20 years experience; he also runs a high quality health supplement website. www.mind1st.co.uk www.mind1st.com