For many years, nutritionists in this country have repeatedly advised us to reduce our fat intake. In more recent years, research has indicated that not only is fat an important part of our diet, but there are some fats that are essential for life—and are especially essential for cardiovascular health.
As a brief overview, there are two main categories of essential fatty acids (EFA) known as omega 3 (primarily EPA and DHA) and omega 6. It has been estimated by many researchers in the field that approximately 80% of the population of the United States consumes inadequate quantities of these essential fatty acids. At first glance this would not seem to be particularly important, although the consequences of this are far reaching.
In the most recent edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers conducted an extensive case control study of cardiovascular disease in adults over the age of 65. Researchers measured plasma phospholipid concentrations of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the blood of over 5,000 men and women. Over the next few years, 54 of these individuals experienced fatal myocardial infarction (heart attack) or sudden death from a cardiac cause. This group was then matched against a control group who did not have fatal heart attacks. It was found that a higher concentration of combined DHA and EPA omega 3 EFA reduced the risk of fatal heart disease by approximately 70% compared to the control group. What was even more amazing is the total cholesterol levels between the two groups was the lowest in the group with the fatal heart attacks. This proves what we have been stating for many years, total cholesterol levels should not be relied upon alone to determine the health of your heart.
What is much more important than your cholesterol measurement is your omega-3 intake, antioxidant intake (Grape seed, green tea, Vitamin C & E, CoQ10, etc), homocysteine levels (B-Complex vitamins required to maintain healthy levels) and other factors. There are many people that die everyday in this country with so called “perfect” cholesterol levels of less than 200 or even 180. In fact, when cholesterol levels hit 150 the rates of depression and death increase. Cholesterol is our friend and required to produce hormones and protect cells, it only becomes dangerous when it is oxidized by free radicals due to a lack of antioxidants.
This study also indicates those with the highest levels of omega-6 consumption (primarily from corn oil, soybean oil and safflower oil in the American diet) had a 800% higher risk of death compared to the group with the highest omega-3 consumption. Please read the labels of foods you buy, almost all snack foods, baked foods, boxed foods, use these harmful oils. Even worse many are partially hydrogenated. Also it is important to realize that the fast food industry fries its food in these harmful oils.
Based on the chemistry and other studies of olive oil and borage oil, I do not believe these beneficial oils would be harmful even though they are not omega-3. Those with the highest consumption of alpha linolenic acid (primary source is flax seed oil) had a 52% reduction in death, not as good as the EPA & DHA group’s reduction in death but still excellent.
This is not the first study that showed that omega 3 EPA and DHA reduced the risk of sudden death. In another study published in the prestigious journal Circulation in April 2002, 11,000 patients were randomly assigned to receive either 1 gram daily of DHA/EPA, 300 units vitamin E, both essential fatty acids and vitamin E with a fourth group receiving no treatment. After only three months of treatment, those individuals receiving the essential fatty acids had a significant reduction in the total mortality by over 40%. The reduction in risk of sudden death at four months had increased to 53%. It was concluded that low dose (1 gram daily) of omega 3 DHA and EPA on total mortality and sudden death supported the hypothesis that this nutrient had an anti-arrhythmic effect.
The data on reduction of sudden death with omega 3 essential fatty acids is fairly clear cut. These nutrients also provide other benefits. Other clinical studies have shown that omega 3 fatty acids lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce the risk of heart attack and have even shown benefit in lowering blood pressure. DHA is a critical nutrient for proper brain growth and function. Many studies prove DHA can prevent and reverse many psychiatric disorders including depression.
The American Heart Association has recommended that everyone increase the amount of fish in their diets. The AHA recommends a fatty fish such as salmon at least once or twice weekly. However, many people have concerns about consuming excessive amounts of fish because of potential heavy metal toxicity of some fish. While other people may not like the taste or expense of fish. Also when preparing fish, baked, broiled or grilled fish is much better for you than fried fish. There have also been studies indicating the amount of omega-3 vary dramatically depending on how the fish was raised. For example, ocean caught versus farm raised fish.
There is a marvelous alternative that can provide you with the optimum levels of essential fatty acids. You should look for a standardized fish oil concentrate (from cold water ocean caught fish) with each soft gel containing 400 mg of omega 3 EFAs including DHA (250 mg), EPA (100 mg) and other omega 3 fatty acids. It should be ultra distilled and contains no heavy metals.
By consuming two soft gels daily, you are getting approximately the amount of omega 3 fatty acids used in the Circulation study that reduced risk of sudden death by over 50% in only four months time.
I also recommend a flax seed oil, while reducing your consumption of corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil and increasing your consumption of DHA and EPA.
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