Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The Best Sources, Benefits, and How To Get Enough
It would be hard to find any health practitioner - traditional, functional, or otherwise - who doesn’t acknowledge the importance of consuming omega-3 fatty acids. Supplements in the form of fish oil or krill oil are widely recommended and consumed, and come with claims of cardiovascular disease prevention, cognitive benefits, and anti-inflammatory properties. But is it really a good idea to get your omega-3s in a gel cap rather than from food? And do they really do everything the media would have you believe?
On this podcast, NBT Scientific Director Megan Hall and I discuss omega-3 fatty acids: what they are, what they’re good for, and the best ways to get them. Megan outlines the different types of omega-3 and explains why some are better than others. She also explains why some health claims are overblown, and why buying fish oil supplements may not be the best health strategy.
Be sure to follow along with Megan’s outline for this podcast. Here’s the outline of this interview with Megan Hall:
[00:04:30] Blood flow restriction (BFR) training; Podcast: Blood Flow Restriction Training for Improved Strength, Performance, and Healthspan with Dr Jim Stray-Gundersen MD.
[00:04:51] Podcast: Wired to Run: Why Your Brain Needs Exercise, David Raichlen.
[00:05:41] What are omega-3 fatty acids?
[00:06:31] Picture of omega-3 fatty acids.
[00:08:40] Finding omega-3s in the diet; Review: Saini, Ramesh Kumar, and Young-Soo Keum. "Omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids: Dietary sources, metabolism, and significance—A review." Life sciences 203 (2018): 255-267.
[00:09:16] Poor conversion from ALA to EPA/DHA: Gerster, Helga. "Can adults adequately convert a-linolenic acid (18: 3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20: 5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22: 6n-3)?." International journal for vitamin and nutrition research 68.3 (1998): 159-173.
[00:10:56] Why EPA and DHA are important.
[00:11:38] Conditions associated with inadequate omega-3 intake.
[00:12:02] Whole foods vs. supplements; other micronutrients.
[00:12:42] Krill oil vs. fish oil; Studies: 1. Ulven, Stine M., et al. "Metabolic effects of krill oil are essentially similar to those of fish oil but at lower dose of EPA and DHA, in healthy volunteers." Lipids 46.1 (2011): 37-46. 2. Schuchardt, Jan Philipp, et al. "Incorporation of EPA and DHA into plasma phospholipids in response to different omega-3 fatty acid formulations-a comparative bioavailability study of fish oil vs. krill oil." Lipids in health and disease 10.1 (2011): 1-7. 3. Maki, Kevin C., et al. "Krill oil supplementation increases plasma concentrations of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids in overweight and obese men and women." Nutrition research 29.9 (2009): 609-615. 4. Mödinger, Yvonne, et al. "Plasma kinetics of choline and choline metabolites after a single dose of SuperbaBoostTM krill oil or choline bitartrate in healthy volunteers." Nutrients 11.10 (2019): 2548.
[00:16:59] Megan's outline for this podcast.
[00:18:21] Algae-based omega-3 supplements.
[00:19:40] Omega 6:3 ratio; Paper: Simopoulos, Artemis P. "The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids." Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy 56.8 (2002): 365-379.
[00:25:54] Should we be supplementing with grams of fish oil? Studies: 1. De Magalhães, João Pedro, et al. "Fish oil supplements, longevity and aging." Aging (Albany NY) 8.8 (2016): 1578. 2. Strong, Randy, et al. "Longer lifespan in male mice treated with a weakly estrogenic agonist, an antioxidant, an α‐glucosidase inhibitor or a Nrf2‐inducer." Aging cell 15.5 (2016): 872-884. 3. López-Domínguez, José A., et al. "The influence of dietary fat source on life span in calorie restricted mice." Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biomedical Sciences and Medical Sciences 70.10 (2015): 1181-1188.
[00:27:42] No support for omega-3 (fish oil) in the prevention of cardiovascular disease; Meta-analysis: Aung, Theingi, et al. "Associations of omega-3 fatty acid supplement use with cardiovascular disease risks: meta-analysis of 10 trials involving 77 917 individuals." JAMA cardiology 3.3 (2018): 225-233.
[00:29:12] Signs you're supplementing too much fish oil.
[00:30:26] Podcast: How Oxidative Stress Impacts Performance and Healthspan
[00:30:43] Elevated blood glucose omega-3 supplementation; Study: Friday, Karen E., et al. "Elevated plasma glucose and lowered triglyceride levels from omega-3 fatty acid supplementation in type II diabetes." Diabetes care 12.4 (1989): 276-281.
[00:31:01] Immunosuppressive effects of supplementing omega-3s: Fenton, Jenifer I., et al. "Immunomodulation by dietary long chain omega-3 fatty acids and the potential for adverse health outcomes." Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 89.6 (2013): 379-390.
[00:34:17] Stages of life when omega-3s are especially important.
[00:34:48] Specialized pro-resolving mediators; STEM Talk podcast episode: David LeMay Talks About Countering Inflammation with SPMS.
[00:35:31] DHA to mitigate traumatic brain injury; Study: Bailes, Julian E., and Vimal Patel. "The potential for DHA to mitigate mild traumatic brain injury." Military medicine 179.suppl_11 (2014): 112-116.
[00:35:45] DHA for cognitive function and aging; Study: Weiser, Michael J., Christopher M. Butt, and M. Hasan Mohajeri. "Docosahexaenoic acid and cognition throughout the lifespan." Nutrients 8.2 (2016): 99.
[00:37:20] omega-3s for athletic performance; Review: Gammone, Maria Alessandra, et al. "Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: benefits and endpoints in sport." Nutrients 11.1 (2019): 46.
[00:38:54] omega-3s during pregnancy; Studies: Greenberg, James A., Stacey J. Bell, and Wendy Van Ausdal. "Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy." Reviews in obstetrics and Gynecology 1.4 (2008): 162; 2. Braarud, Hanne Cecilie, et al. "Maternal DHA status during pregnancy has a positive impact on infant problem solving: a Norwegian prospective observation study." Nutrients 10.5 (2018): 529.
[00:39:44] Excess omega-3 consumption during pregnancy could be detrimental to offspring; Study: Church, M. W., et al. "Excess omega-3 fatty acid consumption by mothers during pregnancy and lactation caused shorter life span and abnormal ABRs in old adult offspring." Neurotoxicology and teratology 32.2 (2010): 171-181.
[00:40:12] Testing: The Omega Index test; Framingham Heart Study: Harris, William S., et al. "Erythrocyte long-chain omega-3 fatty acid levels are inversely associated with mortality and with incident cardiovascular disease: The Framingham Heart Study." Journal of clinical lipidology 12.3 (2018): 718-727.
[00:42:34] Bottom line: More may not be better.
[00:43:09] SMASH fish - sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, herring (also black cod), 3-4x/week.
[00:49:30] Schedule a free 15 min call with Megan.