How much omega-3’s do you really need?
A new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at biomarkers of chronic disease among people who routinely consume a lot more fish oil than we do: the Yup’ik Eskimos.
Based on this study, it appears we could use a heck of a lot more omega-3’s than we’re currently getting. Read on to see why.
The researchers tested the blood of 357 Yup’ik Eskimos and measured the amount of EPA and DHA- the two omega-3’s found in fish—in their red blood cells. The results were unequivocal. Higher levels of EPA and DHA were associated with lower levels of triglycerides– a huge risk factor for heart disease. In addition, higher levels of EPA and DHA were associated with higher levels of HDL cholesterol (the so-called “good” cholesterol) as well as higher levels of apolipoprotein A-1 (the main protein component of “good” cholesterol).
High levels of EPA and DHA were also associated with significantly lower levels of C-reactive protein, one of the main inflammatory markers in the body.
I’ve written extensively about inflammation, most recently in my book, “The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer” . Inflammation is a factor in virtually every major degenerative disease we know of, from diabetes to Alzheimer’s, from heart disease to obesity. Omega-3’s are among the most anti-inflammatory compound on the planet, so it’s no wonder that a marker of inflammation like C-Reactive protein goes down in the presence of high levels of omega-3’s in the blood.
In this study, scientists examined the levels of EPA and DHA as a percentage of total fatty acids in the red blood cells. EPA and DHA comprised an average of 2.8% and 6.8% respectively in the red blood cells of the subjects.
The authors of the study conclude that “increasing EPA and DHA intakes to amounts well above those consumed by the general US population may have strong beneficial effects on chronic disease risk”.
Worth mentioning: I’m frequently asked what’s the “right” amount of omega-3 to consume on a daily basis. My answer is “it depends on what you’re after”. While ½ a gram will probably give you some measure of protection (and put you way above average compared to the rest of the country) the truth- as shown by this study- is that you can use a whole lot more.
Personally, I take two tablespoons of fish oil a day (plus flaxseed oil on my salads and flaxmeal sprinkled on just about everything). There’s no downside, and the benefits- as this study shows- are enormous.