After reading last week’s blog on the importance of Vitamin D, you headed over to your local Whole Foods to pick up a few supplements that you want to incorporate into your daily health regimen. The vitamin aisle at any grocery store can be overwhelming – the shelves are crowded, oftentimes poorly organized, and many of the supplements have confusing names. After all, what is N-Acetyl L-Cysteine? Or L-Theanine? Do you need to be taking it? And how much? To help simplify this process, we will narrow down which supplements we recommend every CEO should take for their overall health. While each person has different individual health needs, this week we will discuss Omega 3 and why it is an important supplement for heart health, brain function, and fighting inflammation; and better yet, this vitamin can be absorbed through both diet and supplementation.
What are Omega 3s? Omega 3s are important fats that play a critical role in many of your body’s functions. What differentiates Omega 3s from other supplements (like Vitamin D) is that Omega 3s cannot be produced naturally within your body. Thus, the only way to obtain Omega 3s is through diet and supplementation. Omega 3s are found in both marine and plant based foods and oils. There are three important types of Omega 3s: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is mostly found in plants, and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which are found in animal foods and algae. DHA is the most important Omega 3 fatty acid in your body – it is a key structural component of your brain, the retina of your eyes, and numerous other body parts. The best way to ensure that you are getting enough Omega 3 into your body is through a combination of diet and supplementation.
Omega 3s are known most commonly for their connection to heart health. Over forty years ago, scientists discovered that Greenlandic Inuit had very high blood levels of Omega 3 and virtually no heart disease. Scientists attributed this to their diets which are rich in fatty fish and seafood. These findings inspired decades of research on the links between Omega 3s and heart health. In fact, for the past 20 years, the American Heart Association has recommended taking Omega 3s to reduce the chances of heart attack and stroke, especially for people with cardiovascular disease. More recently, a study from the National Institute of Health, which tested over 100,000 people from ten different studies, found that Omega 3 supplements lowered the risk for heart attack and death from coronary heart disease. Dr. Rhonda Patrick has also published sufficient research on Omega 3s. Her research discovered that Omega 3s play a big part in the pathways involved in the production of hormones that regulate blood clotting and influence the contraction and relaxation of arteries.
In addition to heart health, Omega 3s are essential to cognitive brain function. The majority of the brain and the neurons within our brains are made of Omega 3 fatty acids. Dr. Hubberman, a neuroscientist and associate professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine, is known for his contributions to the field of brain development, brain plasticity, neural regeneration, and specifically the link between Omega 3s and brain health. In a recent episode of his podcast, Dr. Hubberman stated that the foods that we eat provide the building blocks for the neurons that allow us to think. Most people are getting enough Omega 6s from their diets, but most people are not getting enough omega 3s from their diets. Hubberman notes, “because the composition of our brains are made from Omega 3, you physically cannot make new synapses, regenerate or grow nerve cells without Omega 3.” In addition to brain function, scientists have gone further and found a link between Omega 3s and its capacity to treat psychiatric illness like depression and anxiety.
Beyond heart and brain health, Omega 3 has the capacity to fight inflammation within the body. Inflammation is known to be the root cause of all disease. The food that most people consume from a Western diet is known to be highly inflammatory, which in turn leads to disease and ultimately chronic illness. When Omega 3s are metabolized, their byproducts play a role in managing inflammation by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory molecules. The NIH has published tons of research on the links between Omega 3s and inflammation. A study from 2014 found that Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and, therefore, might be useful in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Another study found that Omega 3s are able to partly inhibit a number of aspects of inflammation including leukocyte chemotaxis, adhesion molecule expression and leukocyte-endothelial adhesive interactions, production of eicosanoids like prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
Because Omega 3s play an essential role in nearly every function within our bodies, how should you incorporate Omega 3s into your overall health regimen? The first place where you should focus on Omega 3 intake is from your diet. You should try and incorporate foods that are rich in Omega 3s like salmon, cod, mackerel, oysters, sardines, anchovies, chia seeds, walnuts, and flax seeds. However, to get the recommended dose of Omega 3s daily, you would need to be eating nearly 4 pounds of fish per day, so we recommend adding a 1000 milligram supplementation with fish oil or Omega 3 capsules. We have linked a few reputable brands below. Stay tuned next week as we dive into the importance of Iodine.