Monday, February 28, 2011

A matter of the heart...

What is the number one selling nutritional supplement in the United States? If you were like the majority of Americans who guessed a multi-vitamin, don’t feel bad – but you’re wrong. In fact, the number one selling nutritional supplement is an omega-3 supplement from fish oil.

What are omega-3 fatty acids and in what foods can they be found? Omega-3 fatty acids or n-3 fatty acids are part of a class of chemicals called polyunsaturated fats. Their name is due to the presence of the first carbon-carbon double bond at the third carbon from the methyl end of the fatty acid. Omega-3 or n-3 fatty acids are found in fish, like salmon, mackerel, sardines and krill. Marine-based sources of n-3 fatty acids, like OmegaLife-3, are particularly rich in two specific types of n-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA).

Another frequently asked question is, "What the big deal about n-3 fatty acids? The Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine recently answered this question (see here and here). It's also helpful to go through a short history lesson to learn about the importance of n-3 fatty acids. In the early 1970’s a group of Danish scientists traveled to Greenland and by dogsled went to visit the Inuit or Eskimo population. They were investigating why this group of people had very low incidences of cardiovascular disease with a primary diet that consisted of mainly fish and seal. After repeated expeditions and drawing many blood samples, these scientists discovered that it was the n-3 fatty acids from the fish, particularly EPA and DHA that reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease in the Inuit population. (As an aside - we had the pleasure of having Dr. Dyerberg visit the office. He has a great mind but more importantly, is a terrific person.) Since that time, further research has confirmed the benefits of n-3 fatty acids, again primarily, EPA and DHA, on the following:

· Reduces triglyceride levels

· Lowers blood pressure

· Inhibits platelet aggregation

· Reduced inflammation

The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week (see here). A very simple, cost-effective way to improve your cardiovascular health is to supplement with an omega-3 product. Look to OmegaLife-3 or Salmon Omega as your sources of n-3 fatty acids.

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