Most people now know that Fish Oil is a “good fat” and that you should probably be taking it. However, most don’t realize that not all Omega-3s are created equal OR that there are certain brands that are better than others. In this blog, I want to introduce a little chemistry so you can truly understand why Omega-3 fatty acids are important for EVERY FUNCTION in your body.
When it comes to Omega-3’s, there are two main ones that get all the attention: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). They are both found in oily fish (like salmon and mackerel) and seafood but the body absorbs and utilizes them in different ways. We can use this to our advantage with respect to health goals. EPA is known to have anti-inflammatory properties, while DHA is essential for brain health. If you are a vegetarian, no worries, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in walnuts and flax seeds and is converted to EPA and DHA by the body. Keep in mind that pre-diabetes as well as consumption of foods high in omega-6 like chips, fried foods, and processed foods can affect this conversion.
Most fish oil you buy in the store has a 1:1 ratio of EPA to DHA. If you want to prevent inflammation or help with aches, pain and swelling, you probably want fish oil with more EPA. DHA comes in handy for brain health. During development, DHA is needed for healthy development for the brain, central nervous system and retina, so fish oil with more DHA is a consideration for pregnant mothers.
After the age of 5, the body’s need for DHA reduces as development of the brain and nervous system slows down. However, studies have shown that EPA can help with childhood behavior and academic performance as well as attention, focus, and aggression reduction. As we age, low EPA levels have been correlated with developmental and mental health issues like depression, joint and bone problems, and neurodegenerative diseases like MS and Parkinson’s. EPA can help lower the risk of developing and worsening Alzheimers and dementia, although, if a diagnosis has already been given, DHA can give structural support to a damaged brain and prevent further loss of brain tissue.
In our office, we focus on structural correction of the spine. This cannot occur if your body is in a constant state of inflammation. Similarly, if the brain and nervous system aren’t being nourished with EPA and DHA, then any correction we actually do will be wasted on a nervous system that isn’t healthy enough to fully utilize the adjustment. We can always recommend a good, quality fish oil supplement as well as discuss the risk if you are on any blood-thinning medication.