There is no longer any doubt as to the vital role of this polyunsaturated fatty acid in reducing cardiovascular disease risk. Not only has it been firmly documented to stabilize the myocardium electrically, resulting in reduced ventricular arrhythmias and sudden death but also it has been found to have potent anti-inflammatory effects quite comparable to those of the statin drugs.
Omega 3's are fatty acids that our body derives from food. Studies have discovered that Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effect due to their ability to convert into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids can decrease the production of inflammatory prostaglandins by Omega 6, resulting in a greater decrease in inflammation.
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, vital for human health. There are two families of essential fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. They are termed "essential" because they cannot be produced by the body, and must therefore be obtained from the diet.
The typical Western diet has evolved to be high in Omega-6 and relatively low in Omega-3 fatty acids. While Omega-6 fatty acids are not necessarily bad, a skewed ratio in favor of too much Omega-6 can be detrimental to one's health by allowing the production of excess inflammatory prostaglandins. A balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids is essential for proper health. Research is still underway to define the precise mechanism by which Omega 3 exerts its beneficial effect on reduction of cardiovascular disease risk.
The most important established truth is that the ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 in our diet has been falling for decades, closely paralleling the rise in heart disease during the same time period. The recommended dose of Omega-3 is quite variable, for there is no established upper limit to this vital yet essentially harmless food substance.
A 1999 NIH sponsored workshop for the Omegas recommended an average intake of AT LEAST three grams daily for Omega 3, especially from foods like flaxseed, fish oil or the new product on the market, Krill oil, vastly superior to standard fish oil. The anti-oxidant potency of Krill oil exceeds even that of vitamin A and E. It is truly a remarkable step forward in meeting our nutrition needs in Omega 3.
In addition please note that some forward thinking egg producers have created eggs having as much as 660 mg of Omega 3 per egg, nearly equaling the Omega 3 content of a small serving of salmon. Look for more foods to be specifically enhanced in Omega 3 and support this trend as much as you can for the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefit of Omega 3 is quite extraordinary.
Duane Graveline MD MPH
Former USAF Flight Surgeon
Former NASA Astronaut
Retired Family Doctor