The health benefits associated with Omega 3 fatty acids have become big news in recent years, and therefore big business too, so much so, that an increasing number of food producers are starting to put it into their products. Scan the shelves of any major supermarket and you will now find examples of everything from bread to orange juice, cereal to butter, cheese to milk and even food for your dog, all proclaiming proudly on their labels that they contain Omega 3, and this trend is set to continue throughout 2007 and beyond.
So what's the big deal?
It wasn't so long ago that most people hadn't even heard of Omega 3, far less the importance of it in the diet. Over the past few decades, countless studies and trials have been conducted and thousands of peer reviewed reports have appeared in scientific journals, all highlighting the positive impact that Omega 3 fatty acids can have on just about every area of our physical and mental wellbeing, and even on our behaviour. The fact is, there has been so much publicity surrounding Omega 3 in recent years that now, everyone wants it.
Numerous advertising and marketing campaigns means that we all know it's good for our health, and particularly for our heart and brain function. We all know we need it, and yet according to health professionals across the world, most of us don't get anywhere near enough in our regular diets and this is putting us at an increased risk of developing heart disease, inflammatory conditions, skin problems and even depression.
Producers of course, will look at anything that will give their particular brand a market edge so in order to get those extra sales in what is a highly competitive market we are seeing more and more products containing Omega 3 on the shelves. This would appear to be a good thing as we can increase our consumption of Omega 3 by buying everyday products we would use anyway like spreads, milk, eggs and bread, but is this enough?
According to the results of a survey carried out on behalf of the International Cod Liver Omega 3 Foundation released in 2006, 80% of consumers are unaware of how much Omega 3 they actually need in their diet, and 60% of shoppers think that the products they can buy off the supermarket shelves have enough Omega 3 in them to make a difference to their health. This simply isn't the case.
The truth is that the amount of omega 3 fatty acids in a lot of these products is very small and nowhere near enough to have an impact on our health. Most of it is in the form of alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, a plant based form of Omega 3 that can be found in vegetable oils such as flax seed, rapeseed, linseed and walnut oil. However, the body cannot easily convert ALA into the more beneficial Eicosapentaenoic acid, (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two fatty acids can only be found in any real quantities in oily fish like Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Herring and Anchovies, to name but a few.
So, we could eat a lot of oily fish to get enough Omega 3 but the official line from health authorities is to continue eating fish, but not too much. In fact, no more than 1 to 2 portions of oily fish a week because of the high levels of pollutants in our oceans, and of course, the toxins in the sea end up in our fish. So what's the solution?
Fish oil Capsules
There is another way to get enough Omega 3 in the diet, and that is by taking fish oil supplements. However a word of caution here, its not that advisable to just pop down to the local supermarket and buy the cheapest fish oil you can find as the level of Omega 3 in these standard fish oils is often fairly low meaning you would have to take many capsules a day just to get enough of it, which isn't really cost effective.
If you choose to take fish oil, it is worth shopping around to find a good one, one that has been through processes to remove the impurities and one that has a high concentration of fatty acids. In this way, you can get enough of the all important Omega 3 fatty acids in one or two capsules instead of five or six and boost your health and your brain power into the bargain.
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid; it is called essential because you need it for your body to function properly. Without omega 3 in your diet your body would become unbalanced and you would start displaying signs of an omega 3 deficiency, to correct this imbalance by purchasing foods from your supermarket that contain omega 3 is almost impossible as the quantities of omega 3 used are very low, You should look to gain your omega 3 intake from other food sources or supplements.
Dave McEvoy is an expert in omega 3 fish oil EPA with over 20 years experience; for more information about fish oil and how it can help come and visit: http://www.mind1st.co.uk .