Omega-3 oils were discovered when it was observed that Eskimos had fewer heart attacks than other populations in the world. This was boiled down through scientific research to two types of oils found in cold water fish, collectively known as Omega-3.
Since this discovery, a number of studies have shown that these oils may be good for a range of things from schizophrenia to rheumatoid arthritis. It has become a bit of a fad among nutrition websites to encourage you to dose up on it as a result. Not all the science however is conclusive.
What the oils can do
The UK’s NHS Choices website looked at what Omega-3 oils can and cannot do through an analysis of a large number of studies into the nutritional benefits of Omega-3. It concluded that, “Studies have found eating oily fish can lower blood pressure and reduce fat build-up in the arteries. The evidence is strong enough to warrant a government recommendation that we eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily.”
What it can’t do
NHS Choices also critically analysed a number of other fields of research to do with Omega-3. It found that research was inconclusive in dementia, schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer and macular degeneration. Though it is good for the heart, that’s about it.
Oily fish can be dangerous for pregnant women!
Another article on the NHS Choices website said that due to the mercury levels in certain fish, it can actually damage the unborn baby in the womb! The article stated, “Shark, swordfish and marlin: do not eat these if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. All other adults, including breastfeeding women, should eat no more than one portion per week. This is because these fish can contain more mercury than other types of fish, and can damage a developing baby’s nervous system.”
Other sources of Omega-3
There are other ways of consuming Omega-3 that won’t cause the same problems as fish can. According to one website, “A number of certified nutritionists are in favor of a diet which substitutes fish for meats, such as beef, pork and chicken.”
Another way to raise Omega-3 levels in your blood is by reducing the amount of Omega-6 oils in your body, perhaps by eating meat as a condiment in your meal rather than as a centrepiece. All natural beef jerky is an interesting side dish to be eaten with a meal rich in pulses, vegetables and beneficial carbs.
The best advice?
Overall, with heart disease being one of the biggest single killers in the developed world, you should try to get some Omega-3 in your diet at least once a week. Whether through nutritious snacks, a centrepiece of a meal or through pills you buy from your local health foods store, you can consume enough Omega-3 to be sensible without going overboard on it.
It isn’t a cure all, but with a diet that is high in cholesterol risking a heart attack, wouldn’t it help just to have enough Omega-3 in your diet to keep the risk at bay?