Flashback Friday: Should We Take EPA and DHA Omega 3 For Our Heart?

Flashback Friday: Should We Take EPA and DHA Omega 3 For Our Heart?

August 19, 2019 48 By William Morgan


“Should We Take EPA and DHA
Omega-3 For Our Heart?” According to two of perhaps the most
credible nutrition authorities, the World Health Organization and
the European Food Safety Authority, we should get at least a half
a percent of our calories from the essential short chain
omega 3 ALA, which is easy, just like a tablespoon a day of chia seeds or
ground flax seeds and you’re all set. Our body can then take the
short chain ALA from our diet and elongate it into the long
chain omega 3’s, EPA and DHA. But the question has long been can our
bodies make enough for optimal health? Well, how would you determine that?
Take fiber for example. A convincing body of literature showed
an increased heart disease risk when diets were low in fiber. So
the Institute of Medicine came up with a recommendation for about
30 grams a day, which is an intake observed to protect against coronary
heart disease and reduce constipation. Thus, just as cardiovascular
disease was used to help establish an adequate
intake for dietary fiber, it was used as a way to develop
a recommendation for EPA and DHA. So with reviews published as late as
2009 suggesting fish oil capsules may help with heart disease,
nutrition authorities recommended an additional 250 mg a day of preformed
EPA and DHA, since evidently we were not making enough on
our own if taking more helped. So in addition to the one or two grams
of ALA, 250 mg of preformed DHA, EPA, which can be gotten
from fish or algae. Fish is a toughie because on one hand,
fish has the preformed DHA and EPA, but on the other hand, our oceans
have become so polluted that fish may contain various
pollutants, including dioxins, PCBs, pesticides like DDT,
flame retardant chemicals and heavy metals, including
mercury, lead, and cadmium that can negatively
affect human health. This was an editorial comment
on a recent study on women that found that dietary exposure to
PCBs was associated with increased risk of stroke, and almost three times
higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Unless you live next to a toxic waste dump, the main source of exposure to PCBs is fish consumption, of which
perhaps salmon is the worst, though PCBs can also be found in lesser quantities
in other meat sources as well. This may explain why studies
in the U.S. have shown that just a single serving of fish a week
may significantly increase one’s risk of diabetes, emphasizing that
even levels of these pollutants, once considered safe, may completely
counteract the potential benefits of the omega 3’s and other nutrients
present in fish, leading to the type of metabolic disturbances that
often precede type 2 diabetes. Now one could get their 250 mg
a day from algae oil rather than fish oil, which is free from toxic contaminants because it never comes in contact
with anything from the ocean. Then one could get
the best of both worlds, the beneficial nutrients without
the harmful contaminants. But recently it was demonstrated that
these long-chain omega 3’s don’t seem to help with preventing
or treating heart disease after all. And since that’s the main reason
we thought people should get that extra 250 mg of
preformed EPA and DHA, why do I still recommend
following the guidelines? Because the recommendations
were not just based on heart health, but brain health as well. To be continued . . .