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Fish Oil: Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Inflammation

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Chronic inflammation is now accepted as the root or driver of most, if not all chronic disease. Stress, genetic predisposition, and exposure to toxins (like secondhand tobacco smoke) can all contribute to such chronic inflammation, but dietary choices and lack of exercise are the most important determining factors.

The Pro-Inflammatory Diet

Most people eat a diet that is “pro-inflammatory.” Breads, baked goods, sugar, candy, boxed cereals, cornstarch, fast foods, fried foods, grains, grain flour, margarine, meat from grain fed cows, meat from grain fed chicken, rice, ice cream, frozen yogurt, jams/jellies, pizza, corn products, peanut butter, and soda all cause inflammation in our bodies. These foods slow the healing process in our bodies and cause unnecessary pain.

Inflammation plays a role not only in pain and injury, but also in heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Doesn't it seem futile to eat fats that ramp up inflammation, only to take drugs to combat the effects of our diet -- and then have to take other drugs to combat the short-term and long-term effects and diseases those anti-inflammatory drugs cause?

Omega 6 to Omega 3 Ratio

Humans are supposed to consume a balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. Unfortunately, we consume a diet of as much as 20:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3. Anything above 4:1 is thought to be pro-inflammatory. This excess causes the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body. You need to know that correcting these imbalances is not something a doctor can do for you. Only you can reduce your consumption of Omega 6 and increase Omega 3’s, and this requires a disciplined approach to diet and supplementation. Excess omega 6 fatty acids come from the following sources:
  1. Grain/corn fed land animals. Beef is the most obvious, but do not forget about chicken. Also, remember, eggs from grain/corn fed chickens are no good as well.
  2. Oils like soybean, peanut, corn, sunflower, safflower, and conttonseed oils. This includes most packaged and processed foods
  3. Read your labels, e.g. potato chips! These oils have Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratios that range from 70:1 to over 100:1.
  4. Cereals, Grains, grain flours, peanuts, and seeds have ratios of 20:1 or greater. Soy has a ratio of 7:1.
  5. Farm raised tilapia and catfish.
What should we eat and why should we eat it?

Meat, chicken, and eggs from grass fed animals (lean meat), wild game, most fish, vegetables, fruit, and seeds such as chia, hemp, and flax. “Maintaining a proper balance between the various families of dietary fats may be one of the most important preventative measures a person can take to reduce the likelihood of developing one of the chronic diseases of modern civilization, such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, irritable bowel syndrome, and autoimmune disease.”

How effective are Omega 3 fatty acids at removing inflammation?

The researchers in a University of Pittsburgh study published in 2005 using an Omega 3 fatty acid supplement for chronic pain said, “their findings suggest that this could be the answer to the adverse effects seen with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 inhibitors, which have been associated with potentially catastrophic adverse effects.”

After 75 days of taking high doses of omega-3s, 59% had stopped taking prescription drugs fro their pain. “88% said they were pleased enough with the outcomes that they planned to continue using the fish oils.” “No significant adverse effects were reported.”

Toxic Fat

In his book, Toxic Fat, Barry Sears states, “Classic inflammation hurts; silent inflammation slowly kills.” This toxic fat comes from increased consumption of processed food and increased Omega 6 fatty acids. “The underlying cause of chronic disease comes from increased production of a natural fatty acid called arachidonic acid (AA), which can be incredibly toxic at high concentrations. This is the toxic fat that is key to not only understanding our obesity epidemic but also providing the linkage between obesity and chronic disease.”

Take a look at your blood work from your most recent physical examination. Look for two items: your HDL level and your triglyceride level. If the triglyceride /HDL ratio is greater than 4, you probably have Toxic Fat Syndrome because it means you have insulin resistance.

Why do you need a good fish oil supplement?

A good fish oil supplement can help you get both ratios (the TG/HDL and the Omega 6 to Omega 3) back on track. After trying dozens of fish oil supplements over the years, I have found one I take, my wife takes and my son takes: Liquid OM-3. This has 2250 mg of DHA and EPA per teaspoon. The recommended daily dose is ½ teaspoon (1125 mg) per day.