Fish Oil & Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Most nutrients, when introduced into the body in proper and balanced amounts, can have benefits in promoting and maintaining health. Omega-3 fatty acids are good examples of such nutrients. The body uses Omega-3 fatty acids as structural building blocks to all of your body’s cells, such as your red and white blood cells, nerve cells, eye and brain cells. Omega-3 fatty acids are also used to promote better cell to cell communication, serving as precursors to building certain anti-inflammatory hormones known as prostaglandins and eicosanoids, thus helping to modulate healthy immune and inflammation responses within the body.
One of the richest and most common sources of Omega -3 fatty acids come in the form of fish oil supplements. Over the last couple of decades there have been a number of studies documented in medical journals on the health effects of fish oil supplementation. Most of the science shows positive results in promoting heart and brain health while improving immune function and reducing the risks of certain types of cancer. Some of the main reasons why fish oils may be helpful in reducing the risks of certain cardiovascular diseases and cancers while helping to support brain and nerve health is through serving as anti-inflammatory precursors, thereby helping to control and reduce the level of inflammatory compounds such as Cross-reactive Protein (CRP), Arachidonic Acid, Fibrinogen, Leukotrienes, Thromboxanes, Prostaglandin E2, IL1, IL6, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, and Nuclear Factor-Kappa B. Through helping to modulate and reduce the level of such powerful inflammatory compounds, fish oils can reduce the number of free radicals generated within the body, hence reducing the level of damaged inflicted upon the body’s cells. The super-unsaturated Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils also improve immune function by becoming incorporated into the body’s white blood cells and allowing them to become more fluid-like in structure and helping them to squeeze between the tight gaps of cells and vessel walls effectively while roaming throughout the body.
Fish oils supplements are often derived from a select few types of fish (i.e. anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon and sardines), with most fish harvested from the Pacific Ocean near Peru and Chile. With the Earth’s oceans are becoming more polluted with environmental contaminants such as heavy metals, PCB’s, BPA, and other pollutants that can bio-accumulate and concentrate in the tissues of living organisms such as fish, it is important to choose fish oils that have either utilized effective distillation or refining techniques to remove a large portion of these “impurities” while protecting the fragile omega-3 fatty acids from molecular damage. Most companies utilize a process known as molecular distillation. Regardless of the techniques implemented to remove impurities from the fish oils, when all is said and done, the results from a third-party, independent laboratory should reveal that the level of certain omega-3 fatty acids meet the level that is claimed to be delivered per serving, and the levels of the heavy metals (such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic) and other contaminants (PCB’s, etc.), as well as the levels of oxidation markers should be well below the safety levels established by such organizations as the World Health Organization, The Global Organization on EPA and DHA and the Council for Responsible Nutrition. One such third-party testing and certification program, known as the IFOS, has established international fish oils standards based upon the aforementioned organizations. On their website one can view the results from the consumer reports on the various companies who have sent in their supplements for testing and certification. Some companies which have sent in their products and have been awarded the 5-star rating (from a scale of 1-5 stars) are Nordic Naturals, Carlson and Life Extension.