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Fish Oils: good for practically everything!



You’ve probably heard of essential fatty acids (EFAs).  If you’ve listened to our course on Long Covid or the Liver Masterclass, you will have noticed that they are mentioned frequently because they benefit so many different systems. They are called “essential” because they really are essential to human life, in just the same way that vitamins were originally called “vital amines” because they are vital for life and health. We can’t make EFAs or vitamins from other foods, so we have to consume them in our diet.


Essential fatty acids come in 3 different molecular forms: omega 3s, omega 6s and omega 9s. (For the chemists out there, they are named after the first double bond from the end of the molecule.)


The essential fatty acids that we absolutely cannot make from any other foods are the omega 3 fatty acids, and these are most readily available from ocean fish, hence the name “fish oils”. Historically people often lived by an ocean or river, so fish would have been a big part of their diet. In the modern world, eating fish once or twice a week isn’t enough to give us the omega 3s we need for optimal health.

 

What’s so special about fish oils?

 

Omega 3 fatty acids help every cell in your body to work better. Cell membranes are primarily made up of fats, so healthy fats make healthy membranes. Good omega 3 fats are U-shaped molecules, which work really well in cell membranes, by making them more fluid. This makes them great gatekeepers for what enters and leaves our cells: nutrients in and toxins out.


Our cell membranes contain receptors for chemical signals to tell the cells what to do. These receptors can work better in a more fluid cell membrane.

 

Omega 3s have been found to have a broad spectrum of beneficial effects on our health. They have anti-inflammatory properties, and given the stress and toxins in the modern world that promote inflammation, we all need more of these than our ancestors did.

This is why we recommend a teaspoon or two of good quality, pure fish oil as part of a daily supplement regime. These fats are good for your skin, your heart and blood vessels, your brain, and more. They have proven anti-inflammatory effects, and so are often recommended for conditions like arthritis, eczema, and asthma.


Fish oils vary in potency. We prefer those that list the components called EPA and DHA on the label, in order to be sure they have these important anti-inflammatory properties.

The omega 3 fat called DHA is rich in breast milk, and is an important nutrient for babies’ rapidly growing brains. EPA has been shown to help with mood disorders. Fish oil is often at the top of the list for people with ADHD. 


Do you have trouble taking fish oil? The cod liver oil you may have been given in childhood is not as purified, tastes fishier, and is used mainly as a source of Vitamin A and D, rather than as a rich source of omega 3 fats.


A good quality, high EPA / DHA, pure fish oil should not have more than the slightest whiff of fishiness. Often a natural flavour is added to make it more palatable. Some people prefer fish oils in capsules, which are often rather big pills, but more convenient when traveling. Always take fish oil with food, to digest it better and reduce the chance of burping up a fishy taste.


Because fish oil is chemically reactive, keep it in your fridge, and try to buy it in a quantity you can use within a month. Certainly do not use it if it has been open for more than three months, or if it smells or tastes rancid.


You may have noticed that fish oil products can vary greatly in price. This reflects their quality, purity, and concentration. In the case of fish oil, we feel it is worth paying more to get a better quality supplement.


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