Omega-3 Revisited

We’ve written before about Omega-3’s, why they are so important, the benefits, the various sources, etc. But still we have only broken the surface on the topic and the topic certainly deserves both a recap and further exploration.

Omega-3 is often touted as one of the most, if not the most beneficial nutrition supplement, you can take.

So first, what is an Omega-3? It’s an essential fatty acid. Okay, what’s that? Fatty acid molecules combine with glycerol to create fat, and there are fatty acids necessary for bodily functions (i.e.: they're essential). Omega-3 fatty acids derive their name from the three double bonds in their chemical makeup. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be synthesized by our bodies, unlike other types of fatty acids. So we need to acquire Omega-3s from our diet or supplementation, and it is difficult to acquire optimal amounts of Omega-3s from diet unless you are very diligent about it.

There are three Omega-3s to discuss: ALA, DHA, and EPA. ALA comes from flax oil and other plant sources. While ALA is very beneficial from a health perspective, DHA and EPA are much more effective and beneficial. That’s because your body converts ALA into EPA and DHA, but it does so inefficiently. Some studies say the efficiency ranges between 8-20%, some say as low as 2-3%. DHA and EPA come from marine animals. The most common source is fish oil, but krill oil is another rich source. Krill Oil is more bioavailable than fish oil, which is why it has become so popular and typically costs more than fish oil. Furthermore, krill oil doesn’t have the fishy aftertaste or burps associated with most fish oil supplements. 

What are Krill? They are essentially tiny shrimp. Prior to becoming a popular supplement, they were best known as the food source of baleen whales. Krill are found in the North Pacific Ocean and the Arctic. The particular krill oil that Made Man sources comes from the North Pacific, hence the name Made Man Pacific Krill Oil.

Omega-3 quality: The thing to look for with an Omega-3 supplement, fish or krill-derived, is the DHA/EPA potency. A quality Omega-3 supplement is at least 40% EPA and DHA. So, for example, if you take a 1,000 mg supplement, look for something that has at least 400mg combined of EPA and DHA in it. Made Man Pacific Krill Oil contains 540 mg EPA/DHA per 1,000 mg (54% EPA and DHA). Made Man 360 contains 835 mg EPA/DHA in a 1,430 mg serving (58% EPA and DHA). Also, keep in mind the enhanced bioavailability of krill oil. It depends on the particular fish oil, but krill oil can be up to 40% more bioavailable than fish oil. Not all of the EPA and DHA from any source are going to be 100% available for use, as a result of the digestive process. Say you take a fish oil supplement and you derive 300 mg of usable EPA and DHA from it. If it had been a krill oil supplement, it is likely that there would have been more than 400 mg available for use.

Benefits of Omega-3 and Krill Oil: DHA and EPA offer powerful anti-oxidation and anti-inflammatory benefits. Oxidation and inflammation are two of the worst things for your body. They are the precursors of pain and disease. Omega-3 isn’t the cure for cancer and chronic disease, but Omega-3 consumption over the long haul can definitely lead to a healthier and higher quality of life. There are other benefits to Omega-3 supplementation, including improved insulin uptake and muscle protein synthesis, which could equate to less body fat and more muscle. For many years Omega-3 consumption has also been linked to lower risk of heart attack and stroke, two of the biggest causes of death in the western world. Further research needs to be done to determine the exact linkage and what quantities are truly necessary to elicit them, but Omega-3 supplementation does seem to benefit lower triglyceride levels and improved blood circulation, which could help fight atherosclerotic plaque build (aka clogged arteries). DHA is very important to brain health as well. Namely, your brain is 58% DHA by weight!

Another thing to consider when looking at your diet and nutrient consumption is how a particular nutrient effects, enhances or detracts from the absorption of usage of other nutrients. For example, adequate K2 consumption improves Vitamin D3 absorption rates. In regard to Omega-3, the balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 levels is a key metric of nutrition and health. It is a complex topic, but at its core, we should strive to maintain at least a 1:4 balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is our diets. Many argue that a 1:1 ratio is optimal. Omega-6 fatty acids are also essential fatty acids required for a variety of bodily functions. They are a crucial part of a healthy diet. The problem is that the modern diet contains an excess of Omega-6 and a scarcity of Omega-3. Research indicates that the typical Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio is way out of balance, as much as 1:25… nowhere near the 1:4 or 1:1 benchmarks. The consequences of this imbalance include excessive inflammation (a primary cause of pain and disease).

A BIG reason for the Omega-3 to Omega-6 imbalance is the consumption of processed vegetable oils. They seem to be in everything. For those of us old enough to remember, polyunsaturated fats/vegetable oils were touted in the 1980s and 90s as a way to avoid saturated fat and reduce cholesterol. Oils like canola oil were incorrectly promoted as “heart healthy”. Unfortunately, many people still consider these oils as the healthiest option, when in reality there are health benefits to consuming certain saturated fats, and the real dietary enemy we should have been targeting all along is sugar consumption. But I digress. The point is that there are two things you can do to improve your Omega-3 to Omega-6 balance:

  1. Increase your Omega-3 consumption through both diet and supplementation.
  2. Decrease your consumption of Omega-6 foods, namely vegetable oils like canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, etc.

In closing, I believe if there is one change you make in your nutrient consumption, it should be to increase your consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids, namely DHA and EPA.