Fish Oils and Omega-3

Why take fish oil?

Humans evolved on a diet with about a 2:1 ration of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.  Today the average ratio is 10:1. We get a tremendous amount of omega-6 in our diet because it is prevalent in the vegetable oils used in so many of our processed foods.  The oils with the highest ratios are safflower and peanut, but others used extensively by the food industry include soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, sesame and corn oils.   Oils high in omega-6 have been shown to be harmful to our health because it promotes the development of heart disease, skin cancer, and diabetes and it contributes to inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma. Omega-6 also prolong and contribute to the muscle and tendon inflammations prevalent in athletics.

Omega-3 fatty acid, on the other hand, counteracts the negative health consequences of omega-6.  For the athlete, the benefits are a greater release of growth hormone during sleep as well as improved aerobic metabolism.  Omega-3 also reduces muscle soreness and speeds recovery.

Both plant and animal foods contain omega-3 fatty acids.  The amount in plants is small and must be chemically altered by the liver to make it usable.  Animal foods however provide a more readily available source of omega-3, because it’s structure need no further modification in the human body.

The active ingredients in omega-3 that are responsible for it’s beneficial effects are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).  Check your labels and make sure that your fish oil contains these two ingredients.

-adapted from “The Paleo Diet for Athletes”, Loren Cordain, PhD