Frank Salvatore
Health and Lifestyle

Omega-3s and Heart Health

September 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Whether it is due to lack of sleep, excess stress, or some unexplained reason, we all have off days sometimes. These are the days that you just want to sit at home and do not feel motivated to be productive or energetic. This is natural and everyone goes through high and low periods of motivation, with some days running very smoothly and others not going by so easily. Despite this, we are still expected to perform our duties at work or at home. Here are some tips to put some pep back in your step during your off days and find your motivation.

Omega-3 fats, which are available through marine animal and plant sources, are very heart healthy. However, the omega-3 fats that are found specifically in marine animals contain much higher levels of DHA, which is associated more strongly with heart health.

Heart Health and DHA

Research has shown that eating fatty, omega-3 rich fish may lower your risk of a fatal heart attack by 10 percent. Additionally, if omega-3 fats are ingested after a heart attack, the odds of survival increase.

One study showed that heart attack survivors who began taking 1 gram of omega-3 fat every day for three years cut their change of sudden cardiac death in half. A placebo controlled study found that high doses of omega-3 actually result in a reduction of scarring in undamaged heart muscles, allowing the hearts to pump blood more efficiently than the placebo group.

Animal-Based Omega-3 Especially Benefits Heart Health

Animal-based omega-3 fats, which include DHA, benefit your heart health in several ways, including lowering blood pressure, preventing cardiac arrhythmia, decreasing inflammation, and preventing fibrosis of the inner layer of your arteries.

In addition to benefiting the heart, omega-3s also aid in digestion, blood clotting, muscle activity, visual acuity, basic cell division, memory and learning, and cell receptor function.

The Differences Between Animal- and Plant-Based Omega-3s

Animal-based omega-3s come from sources like salmon, herring, anchovies, and sardines, while plant-based omega-3s comes from flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and leafy greens. The omega-3s that are found in these marine animals contain DHA and EPA, which are long-chained polyunsaturated fatty acids that have 22 and 20 carbons, which the body can use right away. However, in plant-based omega-3s, there is essentially no EPA or DHA.

DHA and EPA have many biological effects, mainly anti-inflammatory properties. DHA is a part of every cell in the body, so it is especially important. Over 90% of the omega-3 fat that is found in brain tissue is DHA, with the other omega-3 fats found only in trace amounts.

This shows that EPA and DHA are structural necessities to the body, while ALA, found in plant-based omega-3 is really just an energy source. EPA and DHA are densely distributed throughout the body, including the heart and brain, which makes deficiency detrimental.

Krill Oil vs. Fish Oil

Fish oil is a great source for animal-based omega-3s. Krill oil is a new source that has been shown to have a number of benefits over fish oil. While fish oil is bound to methyl esters, krill oil is bound to phospholipids. Because esters are not absorbed well, krill oil is more bioavailable.

Phospholipids are one of the principal compounds in healthy cholesterol, and by allowing the cells maintain their structural integrity, phospholipids help the cells properly function. Krill oil can also cross the blood-brain barrier to help important structures in the brain. Krill oil also contains phosphatidyl choline, which makes it especially bioavailable.

Fish oil, however, must be broken down in order to get the benefits from the omega-3s. During this time, up to 85% is eliminated in the intestines. Your liver has to attach fish oil to phosphatidyl choline for it to be used in the body. This can be bypassed by taking krill oil directly, because the phosphatidyl choline is already present.

Krill oil is also more potent than fish oil, meaning you need to consume less of it in order to receive the same benefit. Fish oil may also promote the formation of free radicals in the body, while krill oil resists them. Fish oil is low in antioxidants, but krill oil contains a potent antioxidant, which makes krill oil stable and resistant to oxidation. Finally, krill are not prone to the water pollution and contamination that fish are in our waters.

Dosing Suggestions

Omega-3s actually work to fight against omega-6s, which are not so healthy. Omega-6 oils contribute to our epidemics of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

The best way to determine your dosage of omega-3 to find your level of omega-3s currently in your red blood cells. Ideally, your index should be above 8%. In order to customize your dosage, measure your level and adjust your dosage as needed with trial and error. The general recommendation is to take 2 grams of krill oil each day. If you are opting to eat fatty fish, 2-3 servings each week is likely to be enough. Keep in mind that only fatty fish that are caught in cold waters have omega-3 fats.

It is crucial to realize the difference between animal-based omega-3 and plant-based omega-3. If you are a vegetarian, refusing to eat fish or krill, you may be able to obtain EPA and DHA from eating algae, however, it is questionable whether or not this is a clean source.

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Frank Salvatore