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BY Anne-Marie Chalmers, MD Oct 25,2011

Why Your Omega-3 Product Doesn’t Work

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On Saturday mornings I set up our booth at the local farmers’ market and talk with customers about the benefits of taking omega-3 fish oil. And, every Saturday, I invariably hear the same response. “Oh yeah, I already take omega-3, but I don’t really feel or see any difference when I take it.”

With new research studies appearing daily, confirming that omega-3s helps improve people’s heart, joints, brain, eyes, skin, sex organs and metabolism, you’d think that this country would be healthier than ever.  So, why don’t people experience the benefits they hear about on the news?

The simple truth is that most people are not taking the same kind of omega-3 sources and doses that are used in the promising research studies. So, the next time you head down the supplements’ aisle, ask yourself the following questions:

What’s the Source?

While fatty fish is the most common source of omega-3, flaxseed, walnuts and other plant products also are popular omega-3 sources. Whether the omega-3 is marine based or plant based makes a tremendous difference for the consumer.

The main workhorses of the omega-3 family are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found predominantly in fatty fish. The vegetable source of omega-3s (ALA or alpha linolenic acid) does not have the same molecular structure as the long-chained fatty acids, meaning that the body has to convert the ALA into the more effective EPA and DHA. In that conversion process only a few percent of the ALA ever changes into the EPA and DHA, so you’d have to consume about a cup of vegetable-based omega-3 to equal the nutritional power of about a teaspoon of fish-based omega-3.

The American Heart Association states that only the omega-3s from fish are effective in reducing elevated triglyceride levels and lowering the risk of heart disease. Flaxseed and walnuts contain wonderful nutrients, but it is only marine-based EPA and DHA that have the right molecular flexibility and anti-inflammatory muscle to give you the real bang for your buck.

How Much, Doc?

Many people take one capsule containing 1,000 mg of fish oil, and think they are getting enough omega-3. However, the dose used in almost all worldwide research studies is 2000 to 3000 mg of EPA/DHA per day. That is equivalent to 7 to 10 capsules of fish oil. Be aware that fish oil and omega-3 is not the same thing. Fish oil contains omega-3, so the only way to be sure of the dose you are taking is to investigate the EPA and DHA levels.

Doses also vary depending on gender, age and genetics. Rheumatologists recommend that patients take at least 3000 mg of EPA/DHA for reducing joint stiffness.  Reducing elevated triglyceride levels may take between 2 to 4 grams of omega-3.

How Fresh Is It Really?  

In the omega-3 business freshness equals potency. Yet, many omega-3 companies cover up the smell and taste of rancid oil by encasing their oil in thick gelatin capsules, or adding substantial amounts of flavoring to their products.

Remember, fresh fish doesn’t smell or taste fishy.  So open up your capsules and see what the product is really like. If your omega-3 sends you urpy reminders throughout the day, you can be sure it isn’t fresh.

For more information about freshness and omega-3, read our whitepaper, “The Rancid Truth about Omega-3 Fish Oil.

Get the Facts on Freshness, Omega-3 and Your Health. Read the Rancid Truth about Omega-3 Fish Oil.

Are You Ready to Commit?

Experiencing omega-3 benefits is more like a long-term relationship than a one-night stand. Omega-3 takes about four to six months to work its magic, although you may notice subtle changes in your mood, skin, and hair within the first few weeks. More dramatic results, like reduced joint pain and stiffness, can take up to two months.

Real change takes time and commitment.

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