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Make Winter a Smoother Ride with Omega-3s
During these longer, colder winter months, we typically need some extra protection as our immune systems, moods, and joints are taxed.
Issues with depression can be intensified, and those suffering from arthritis can have more aggravation, pain, and stiffness. Fish oil is the only naturally occurring major source of omega-3s EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are very well-known, researched, and documented for supporting cardiovascular, brain, nerve, immune, joint, and skin health.
Most of us consume very low amounts of omega-3s through diet alone. The typical Canadian diet is higher in saturated fats from meat products and low in beneficial PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) from foods like fish. As a result, the average person consumes an inadequate amount of EPA and DHA. Two 3.5-ounce servings of salmon contain approximately 500 mg each of EPA and DHA. Since most of us don’t eat the suggested amount, a fish oil supplement is a great option.
Our diets also often supply too many omega-6 fats. Too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3s has been associated with numerous health issues. Unhealthy omega-6 sources typically come from convenience foods and fast-food. They typically include: corn, canola, soy, and cottonseed oils. Unhealthy omega-6s are major contributors to increased inflammation levels in our bodies and many disease states.
Omega-3s and Joint Heath
Omega-3s are a great addition to your current joint health regimen. Clinical studies have shown the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which compete with arachidonic acid for the enzymes responsible for producing anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Arthritis (“arth” meaning joint; “itis” meaning inflammation) is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is considered the “wear and tear” form. A study done in 2015 in Thailand looked at the efficacy and safety of fish oil in treating knee osteoarthritis. Seventy-five participants were studied to find the efficacy of taking 1,000 mg and 2,000 mg of fish oil (400 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA in 1,000 mg of fish oil) once a day for 8 weeks. Fish oil supplementation of 1,000-2,000 mg daily was found to have significant efficacy over the control group to improve knee performance and pain, and also was found to be safe in mild to moderate stages of knee osteoarthritic patients.
Mood and Omega-3s
With regards to omega-3s and brain health during the darker seasons, a double-blind, randomized, controlled, 8-week, parallel-group trial was conducted October 17, 2005 through January 30, 2009 in eight Canadian academic and psychiatric clinics. This trial looked at the short-term efficacy of omega-3 supplementation in reducing depressive symptoms in patients experiencing a major depressive episode (MDE). Researchers looked at 432 adult outpatients, including 40.3% who were already taking antidepressants. They were randomly assigned to 8 weeks of 1,050 mg/d of EPA and 150 mg/d of DHA or matched sunflower oil placebo (2% fish oil). There was a clear benefit of omega-3 supplementation among patients with MDE.
Help for Raynaud’s Syndrome
Another condition that is exacerbated in the colder temperatures is known as Raynaud’s disease/ syndrome/or phenomenon. With Raynaud’s, smaller arteries that supply blood to the skin constrict excessively in response to cold. This limits blood supply to the affected area, which typically involves the fingers, toes, ears, and tip of the nose.
Numbness, pain, and changes in the color of the skin typically occurs. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 1989 looked at determining if omega-3 fatty acids could benefit patients with Raynaud’s. Thirty-two patients with primary or secondary Raynaud’s were randomly assigned to olive-oil placebo or fish-oil groups. Patients ingested 12 fish oil soft gels daily containing a total of 3.96 g EPA and 2.64 g DHA or 12 olive-oil capsules and were evaluated at baseline and after 6, 12, and 17 weeks. They concluded that the ingestion of fish oil improves tolerance to cold exposure and delays the onset of vasospasm in patients with primary Raynaud’s phenomenon.
When choosing a fish oil, be sure to look for companies that source their fish from cold, deep waters using sustainable methods. Be sure to also check that the product is independently tested by an FDA-registered laboratory. The product should also be IFOS rated. IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards program) is the only third-party testing and certification program exclusively for fish oils. It tests for purity, potency, and freshness of fish oils.
With today’s purification methods, fish oils taste great right off the spoon or can be drizzled into a smoothie, yogurt, guacamole, hummus or other favorite foods such as popcorn, peanut butter and jelly, and pizza.
1) Peanpadungrat P, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Thammasat University, Pathumthani, Thailand. J Med Assoc Thai 2015; 98 (Suppl. 3): S110-S114
2) The efficacy of omega-3 supplementation for major depression: a randomized controlled trial. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry [15 Jun 2010, 72(8):1054-1062]
3) Fish-oil dietary supplementation in patients with Raynaud’s phenomenon: A double-blind, controlled, prospective study, The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 86, Issue 2, 1989, Pages 158-164