The Best Way to Get Omega-3 While Avoiding Mercury

Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N

We know that fish is healthy, right? It’s a great source of protein, and some types of fish, salmon for example, contain healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids.



Within the omega-3 family, there are healthful fatty acids, including the “long-chain” omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which have been shown in many studies to be important for good health.1

These long-chain omega-3s are “essential” because the human body does not efficiently derive these important long-chain omega-3 fats from other short-chain fatty acids, which are more common in the diet.2 Therefore, we must get these long-chain omega-3 fats from our diet and omega-3 dietary supplements. EPA and DHA can be synthesized to some extent from alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of fat contained in certain foods such as flax seeds, but due to low conversion efficiency by our bodies, it is recommended to obtain EPA and DHA from additional sources.1

Am I getting enough omega-3 fatty acids from fish?

Fish oil is a supplement that promotes heart and cognitive health, and its one that just about everyone needs to take because we don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids from our diet. Not everyone likes fish, and even if you do, many are not eating fish as frequently as we would need to reach the suggested daily intake. Evidence indicates that most Americans do not have enough omega-3s in their blood relative to the concentration of omega-6 fatty acids, which can contribute to inflammatory processes. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids among people eating typical Western diets often exceeds a 15:1 ratio, whereas a target of 4:1, or even closer to 1:1, appears to be much healthier.3,4

How much EPA and DHA do I need daily?

Life Extension® generally suggests supplementation with about 1,400 mg of EPA and 1,000 mg of DHA per day in order to support healthy omega ratios. However, supplementation should be guided by blood testing to assess your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Consider the in-home test kit called the Omega-3 Index, which is a finger prick blood test that can give you your omega-6:omega-3 ratio and more.

Is it safe to eat fish?

Another factor that makes omega-3 supplementation appealing is that some species of fish, especially large predatory fish, contain varying degrees of methylmercury, whereas quality fish supplements are purified. For this reason, it is suggested to limit eating certain fish to once or twice per week in order to avoid ingesting heavy metals. Avoiding mercury is especially important for children and women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, because mercury can be harmful to brain health and development. Yet, omega-3 fatty acids support brain health. Resources are available to help consumers determine which fish tend to contain more mercury in comparison to other fish (see chart below).5


Do omega-3 fish oil supplements contain mercury?

High quality omega-3 supplements undergo rigorous testing to ensure they are free from contamination with heavy metals and other undesirable compounds. Look for a fish oil product that has earned an IFOS™ 5-Star rating, which is awarded only to those fish oil products of the highest purity and quality. When we hear the term “highly refined” in relation to food, it’s usually not a good thing; however, when it comes to fish oil supplements, a highly refined formula is desirable because it means that it’s free of environmental contaminants such as mercury. Quality formulas, such as Life Extension’s Omega Foundations® family of products, (including our comprehensive Super Omega-3 EPA/DHA with Sesame Lignans & Olive Extract) also pass the rigid testing standards established by USP (United States Pharmacopeia) guidelines for metals including mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium.

So there you have it —avoiding environmental contaminates, including mercury, is among the many reasons to consider supplementing with omega-3 fish oil. Have a question about fish oil? Let us know in the comments or give us a call at 1-800-226-2370 to speak with a Life Extension Wellness Specialist, free of charge.

About the author: Holli (Lapes) Ryan, RD, LD/N is a Social Media Content Specialist at Life Extension®. She is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist residing in the South Florida area. Holli believes that quality dietary supplements are an essential tool that have a variety of applications from maintaining good health to managing chronic disease.


References:
  1. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/essential-fatty-acids
  2. Brenna JT. Efficiency of conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to long chain n-3 fatty acids in man. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. Mar 2002;5(2):127-132.
  3. Simopoulos AP. The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). Jun 2008;233(6):674-688.
  4. Zwilling CE, Talukdar T, Zamroziewicz MK, Barbey AK. Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and fMRI measures of network efficiency in the aging brain. Neuroimage. Dec 7 2018;188:239-251
  5. https://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm393070.htm

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