Are You Getting Enough Omegas?

Monday December 21, 2015

Despite our current understanding of the myriad of benefits from increasing our daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids, researchers continue to dig deeper into the health benefits of this family of oils and the reach of their impact continues to grow.  Omega-3 fats fall under the umbrella term “Essential fatty acids (EFAs)”, deemed essential because they are absolutely necessary for good health and because the human body cannot make them.  They must be consumed and are therefore an essential part of every diet.  Omega-6 fatty acids are also EFAs, but are present in a much wider collection of foods in the modern diet meaning that most of us are getting plenty of omega-6 EFAs but need to be more conscious of consuming sufficient levels of omega-3 EFAs.


To date, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help with regulating inflammation in the body, supporting healthy heart and lung function, improving insulin sensitivity (with implications therefore for support in diabetes), reducing the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fibromyalgia, as well as supporting immune function, brain function, and mood regulation.  Not bad! 

Omega-3 fats have even more implications in women’s health and since this is the month that we honour mothers let the list of benefits continue.  Omega-3 EFAs are necessary for brain, eye, and nerve development of the growing fetus, and have been shown to reduce risk of post-partum depression in new mothers.  They have been shown to be a factor in maintaining good bone density and therefore are part of osteoporosis prevention and treatment.  Omega-3’s are also a factor in “anti-aging” through healthy cell division, and improved muscle mass in older adults.  In fetal development, infancy and childhood these wonderful EFAs help to regulate a developing immune system and higher levels have been associated with fewer allergic symptoms in infants and children and reduced incidence of ADD/ADHD.

So clearly omega-3 fatty acids are on the short list of nutrients to be taking daily.  With the majority of nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils having higher omega-6:omega-3 ratios, and meat fed or fattened on grains instead of grass, most people are getting more than enough omega-6 fats in their diets already.  It’s still important to consume them but when the goal is to improve the ratio of these two EFAs in the body it’s omega-3 that generally needs to be supplemented.  Flax oil is a good source of ALA (alpha-linoleic acid, an omega-3 EFA) but plants are limited in their ability to create long chain fats.  We can elongate ALA ourselves to create EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) which are the two omega 3 fats that have been studied the most extensively and that tout the longest list of known benefits.  While we can create EPA and DHA from the parent molecule of ALA, taking them in directly through our diet makes them immediately available for use by the body.  Not all ALA is converted into EPA or DHA.

The old expression is that “You are what you eat” and while the premise remains sound, it is more accurate to say that “You are what you absorb”.  The absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients is dependent upon a number of factors.  Because oil and water don’t mix the liver produces bile to surround oil particles in the diet so that they can be transported in the watery digestive juices.  These smaller oil droplets are now able to get close enough to the cells lining the small intestine that they can be absorbed into the body.  The process by which bile salts surround droplets of oil and make them able to move through water is called emulsification.  The same process takes place when an egg yolk is added to an oil and vinegar mixture to create an aioli or mayonnaise:  tiny droplets of the oil is suspended in the vinegar and held in place by emulsifying agents (in this case from the egg).

Some people complain about taking fish oil capsules because they end up with “fish burps”.  This reaction makes it more difficult for them to be compliant with taking good omega-3 fatty acids daily as a supplement.  These “fish burps” are the result of poor digestive function in which a large globule of oil is trying to move through the digestive tract without enough bile to escort it to the cells that absorb the oils and bring them into the body.  Historically we rarely consumed oil separate from other foods.  Nuts, seeds, meat, fish, and fruits such as olives and avocados all contain good levels of healthy fats but they also contain varying degrees of protein and carbohydrates that are absorbed at the same time.  The presence of oil on the tongue signals the gall bladder that bile is needed for the incoming food, but oil in a capsule bypasses that particular signal down the digestive tract.  And this in turn can lead to those yucky fish burps.

Omegalicious oils are emulsified which serves a number of useful purposes.  The patented emulsification process helps the oils to be absorbed more effectively than non-emulsified fish oil taken by spoon or capsule.  This improved absorption is essentially because the first stage of fat digestion – suspending small droplets of fat in water in order to increase the surface area of the oils – is done before the oil is even taken into the body.  The emulsification also creates a smoothie texture that is more appealing to many than swallowing pure oil.

Omegalicous makes it easy for every member for every member of the family to benefit from the advantages of adequate levels of omega 3 fatty acids.  Because Omegalicious oils are emulsified they are well digested and absorbed, even in those with poor digestive function, and because they are delicious they are easy to integrate into a balanced diet.  They are safe for diabetics or those avoiding sugar as part of a cleanse, yet they appease the desire for sweets making many choose to take them after a meal as “dessert”.  Omegalicious oils may be taken directly off of a spoon or the flavor sensation can be prolonged by serving them in/on yogurt, apple sauce, or chia pudding.  Have you had your Omegalicious today?