While it is
true that certain types of fats, such as
saturated fats and trans fatty acid,
contribute to heart disease, obesity,
diabetes and other conditions, there are
also highly beneficial fats that are
absolutely essential. Like vitamins,
essential fatty acids (EFAs) are essential
to life and good health and cannot be
produced by the body. EFAs must be obtained
from the diet or from dietary supplements.
Scientists estimate that 80% of Americans
are deficient in EFAs. Research suggests
that a lack of essential fatty acids plays a
significant role in the development of
chronic degenerative diseases such as heart
disease, cancer and stroke. The good news is
that taking EFA supplements help to prevent
deficiencies and to protect against heart
disease, cancer, autoimmune disorders such
as MS and rheumatoid arthritis, skin
diseases and many other conditions.
There are 2 main classes of essential
fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. Both the
amount and the ratio of these two EFAs in
the diet are important. The typical western
adequate levels of omega-6, but is
deficient in omega-3. Also the ratio of
omega-6 to omega-3 is much too high.
Supplementation helps to correct the
deficiency and to restore the proper
balance. Fish oil and flax seed oil are
both excellent sources of omega-3.
Which to take, fish
oil or flax seed oil?
Those who are vegetarian or have trouble
with fatty fish would be better off with
flax seed oil. Fish oil is a potent source
of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.
These fatty acids are well utilized by the
body for a variety of essential functions.
Flax seed oil is the richest source of
omega-3 fatty acids, primarily ALA. This
fatty acid is converted in the body to EPA.
Flax seed oil also contains omega-6 and
omega-9 fatty acids to a lesser extent as
well as other nutrients such as vitamin A.
The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids in
general as well as specific benefits of fish
and flax oil are detailed in this article.
Dr. Weil, the well known natural medicine
doctor and author, in his book Eight
Optimum Health, lists flax seeds as
the first thing that anyone interested in
eating healthier take. While he recommends
ground flax seeds, flax is also available in
capsule and oil form.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively
studied and shown to be of benefit to the
- Heart disease/ high cholesterol/high blood
- Memory loss/ Alzheimers
- Psoriasis and Eczema
- Ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s Disease
Heart and Cardiovascular System
A large volume of medical literature
shows that fish oils prevent and can help to
improve or even prevent arteriosclerosis,
heart attack, heart failure, angina,
arrhythmias, stroke and peripheral
vascular disease. Fish oils act by helping
to maintain elasticity of artery walls, prevent
blood clotting, reduce blood pressure and
stabilize heart rhythm.
Studies have shown that those who eat
diets rich in fish or fish oils are less
likely to develop heart disease and
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to
lower bad cholesterol by up to 25% and
triglycerides by up to 65%. Research has
shown that omega-3 fatty acids from flax
seed oil makes platelets less sticky which
reduces the tendency of the blood to clot.
A German study found that fish oil
supplementation for 2 years caused
regression of arteriosclerotic
deposits and an Italian study of 11,000
heart attack survivors found that patients
supplementing with fish oils markedly
reduced their risk of another heart attack,
a stroke or death.
There are at least a dozen studies that show
a clear protective effect of fish or fish oil
against breast, colon, and prostate cancer.
There is considerable evidence that fish oil
consumption can delay or reduce tumor
development in breast cancer. Studies have also
shown that a high blood level of omega-3 fatty
acids combined with a low level of omega-6 fatty
acids reduces the risk of developing breast
cancer. Greek medical researchers report that
fish oil supplementation markedly increases the survival time for
cancer patients with generalized malignancy.
Daily supplementation with as little as 2.5
grams of fish oils has been found effective in
preventing the progression from benign polyps to
colon cancer and researchers in Korea recently
reported that prostate cancer patients have low
blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to
enhance the immune system and to reduce inflammation in the body. This has
implications for many disorders associated with inflammation and the immune system such a
rheumatoid arthritis. Daily supplementation with
EPA and DHA can markedly reduce the number of
tender points and increase the time before
fatigue sets in. Some studies have noted a
decrease in morning stiffness and at least two
clinical studies concluded that arthritis
patients who took fish oils could eliminate or
sharply reduce their use of NSAIDS and other
Fatty acids are essential to the health of
the brain and nervous system. The brain is 60%
fat and contains more than 20 grams of DHA. Fish
is often referred to as “brain food” because
of its high concentration of DHA. Numerous
studies have established a link between low
levels of omega-3 fatty acids and increased
rates of mood disorders and depression, bipolar
disorder and suicidal behavior. Research
conducted by Donald Rudin, M.D., author of Omega
3 Oils, found that flax seed oil supplements
benefited nearly 2/3 of subjects studied with a
reduction in stress, anxiety and tension.
A high intake of fish has been linked to a
significant decrease in age-related memory loss
and cognitive function impairment, and a lower
risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Consuming fatty fish once a week or more has
also been linked to a decreased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.