Monday, October 13, 2014

Omega 3 Fats are Essential

One good way to get essential Omega-3 fats.

I don't know about you, but the topic of fats can be downright confusing and difficult to keep straight. Between trying to keep the good and bad fats separated, then adding in omega 3 fats, omega 6 fats, etc., it can be easy to get off track.

One thing I like about my job is that I get to continually research answers to questions that come up regarding various patients.  For example, an endocrinologist I work with sent me a patient with "essential fatty acid deficiency". This is not a common diagnosis, so I was not sure exactly what I needed to for this person. To complicate matters, he had undergone gastrointestinal surgery 5 years ago, which can cause malabsorption of many different nutrients. The doctor checked for nutrient deficiency, along with fatty acids, because this person was complaining of being foggy-brained (at less than 40 years old), among other issues.

After taking a diet history, and a bit of research, we determined that even though he was getting fat in his diet, he was never choosing the essential fatty acids, which are the omega 3 fats. His task for the next two months (when more blood will be drawn) is to eat 10-15 walnut halves daily, salmon at least 1-2 times a week, and add ground flax seed to his yogurt 2 or 3 times a week.  We will see in late November whether adding these good fats will make a difference.

Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that are proving to be especially beneficial to your brain (such as memory and depression).  They also are beneficial for heart health, can ease inflammatory conditions (certain types of arthritis, joint pain and skin flare-ups), and are helpful in pregnancy.

Omega 3 fatty acids come in a few types:
EPA and DHA (found in cold water fatty fish such as salmon, herring mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and are the omega 3 fats that have been studied the most.)
ALA (found in plants, and is considered a less potent from of omega-3 than EPA and DHA; good sources include walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil.)

How much does the average person need? The American Heart Association guidelines recommends 1000 to 3000 milligrams a day of EPA and DHA.  (If you ate one of the salmon patties pictured above, you'd be covered.)

A good guide to help you learn more about various fats is from (Choosing Healthy Fats).

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