|Natural intake of omega-3 fatty acids is essential
|by Rich Jordan
Omega-3 fatty acids (FAs) are a class of nutrients that has been on the
tips of tongues of dietitians in nutrition circles in recent years. Its
popularity lately is caused, in part, by the broad range of media
coverage it has been receiving in books, peer reviewed journal
articles, news broadcasts, and infomercials. Another reason for the
popularity is based on the up-and-coming research in the field. Any way
you look at it, omega-3 FAs seem to be the new supplement for our
generation in nutrition.
But why are they so popular?
Let’s start with the basics. Omega-3 FAs are a subgroup of
polyunsaturated fatty acids that include linolenic acid (ALA),
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are
all essential in the human diet, meaning the body is incapable of
making these nutrients on its own and eating them consistently in the
diet is important for maintaining good health.
When advising patients and clients on the use of omega-3 fatty acids
supplementation, make sure to encourage moderation. Like most
micronutrients, excessive intake can result in harmful or even toxic
effects on the body. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that
the average adult American consumes 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids per
day. For safety of use, the upper tolerable limit is 3 grams per day.
As dietitians, we know that omega-3 fatty acids are an essential
nutrient for growth and development. Their credibility can be
attributed to a myriad of scientific studies that include more than 900
clinical trials showing evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can be used
in the treatment and prevention of inflammatory conditions and heart
disease. They were found to be effective in helping to treat rheumatoid
arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and
ulcerative colitis. There is also preliminary research being conducted
on the performance side of the spectrum to see how well it can limit
the effects of exercise-induced soreness in localized muscles.
With all the new information regarding the benefits of omega-3 fatty
acids, there has been a skyrocketing marketplace for products
containing omega-3. When an individual thinks of sources of omega-3
FAs, the most common food items that come to mind are fish and seafood.
However, they can be found in a variety of non-fish sources such as
eggs, meats, milk and cheese (from grass-fed cows), perilla (an herb of
the mint family) and flaxseed, which has among the highest levels of
Omega-3 is also found in fruits, such as black raspberries, native to
Western North America, as well as walnuts. In 2007, nearly 1,300 new
omega-3 products were introduced to North American and European
countries alone. Additionally, many Americans choose to get their
omega-3 fatty acids through diet supplementation. The most common
supplement source is fish oil which is available for purchase in most
local grocery stores and specialty supplement stores. However, like all
supplements, it is better to get nutrients in the form of food rather
than as a refined, processed, packaged supplement.
Ways to increase
omega-3 FA intake
- Add one to two fish meals a week.
- Sprinkle flax or walnuts on your cereal,
oatmeal, or yogurt in the morning.
- Make a healthy omelet in the morning.
- Add kiwi slices to your sandwich for a sweeter
- Add olive oil and vinaigrette dressing to fresh
Friday, Nov. 26,