Copyright 2006 Frank Mangano
According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, 910,000 people will die this year from some form of cardiovascular disease. That’s a staggering forty percent of all annual deaths! The great irony is that cardiovascular disease is largely preventable. Have you taken the necessary steps to heart attack-proof yourself?
There’s a simple, proven and easy way to reduce the chance of you becoming part of these grim statistics, and that is to increase your intake of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
The research has continued to pour in from countless sources about the amazing benefits of the omega-3’s. In fact, scientists and medical professionals alike now agree that the omega-3 fats can prevent – and even reverse – the deadly effects of cardiovascular disease and stroke (the first and third leading causes of death, respectively).
Omega-3 fats have gotten so much good press lately that you’re probably already aware that you can get your omega-3 fatty acids from all types of seafood, particularly the oily fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines. Studies have shown that people who consume high amounts of fish improve their overall health and well being in too many ways to list.
A 17-year study of men with no history of heart disease, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that those with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids were more than 80 percent less likely to die suddenly from heart disease. And the benefits apply to women as well. A 16-year study of almost 85,000 women found that those who ate fish two to four times weekly cut their risk of heart disease by 30 percent, compared with women who rarely ate fish.
A 1999 study called “Food intake patterns and 25 year mortality from coronary heart disease,” revealed some very interesting findings about omega-3 fatty acids by comparing the diet of people from America to other regions of the world. The results of this study showed that in countries like Japan, where seafood consumption is high, the prevalence of death from heart attacks is much lower than in America.
Scientists believe that this is due to the fact that Asians eat far more seafood than Americans, and 85 percent of Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. The same findings were uncovered with the Eskimos from Greenland, who also consume large amounts of seafood. The 1970 study found that despite eating a high fat diet, the Inuit had significantly lower incidence of heart disease.
So what is it about omega-3 fatty acids that make them so great for your heart? It boils down to the chemical composition of the fatty acids. If you looked at them under a microscope, you would see that omega-3 fatty acids are long strands of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These polyunsaturates – alpha linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – lead to significant reduction in cardiovascular disease risk and other health benefits.
Studies show that consuming these fatty acids over an extended period of time can decrease blood cholesterol levels, cause regression of coronary heart ailments and even help in preventing the progression of colon cancer.
But despite the average American diet being low in omega-3 fatty acid consumption, there is a limit to how much you can consume safely. The recommended daily intake of EPA and DHA is approximately 650mg per day. That figure is even higher for pregnant women who should consume 1000mg of EPA and DHA per day. Because of the high amounts of mercury found in fish, however, it can be dangerous to consume the amount of seafood you would need in order to reach the optimal intake. That’s why fish oil supplements are a great way to obtain your essential fats.
Personally, I use Carlson’s Fish and Cod Liver Oil. I receive no payment for endorsing this brand, I recommend it simply because I believe it’s the best on the market. This is due to the optimal amounts of EPA and DHA, the strict guidelines they follow for purity (keeping their oil free of chemical modification and contaminants like mercury or lead) and the addition of extra vitamin E to protect the freshness and potency of the oil.
Carlson’s test their fish oil regularly for potency and purity by an independent, FDA registered laboratory and found them to be free of detectable levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, PCB’s and 28 other contaminants. These are all important considerations because there is no doubt that all brands of fish oil are not the same and you really do get what you pay for.
What about flaxseed oil? You may have heard that flaxseed is a rich source of omega 3 fats. This is true. However, flaxseed oil supplements may be less effective than fish oil and here’s why: Flaxseed has high amounts of alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which your body must convert into EPA and DHA. However, the EPA and DHA found in fish oils are broken down more rapidly and far more effectively than ALA. Furthermore, because the average American already consumes high amounts of ALA already, supplementing with more ALA isn’t always optimal.
Bottom line: It’s not often that a nutritional supplement comes along that gets unanimous thumbs up from the scientific community as well as the natural health community, but fish oil is certainly one supplement you cannot go wrong with in your quest to improve your health and protect yourself from heart disease naturally.
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