Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Clients attending our clinics often have questions regarding the use of natural vitamins or minerals that may assist in the healing of injuries or conditions they are experiencing. Unfortunately, high level research regarding the use of natural remedies is limited, however one area that has shown promising results so far has been the use of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Most clinical trials assessing the effects of Omega-3 have been completed in the areas of cardiology and cardiac health. However the research has shown benefits to musculoskeletal pain conditions and joint health when using high doses of Omega-3. This includes conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and other inflammatory pain conditions. Using an Omega-3 supplement is something that should be discussed with your GP as different doses are required for different conditions. Omega-3 supplements can have a negative effect if you are being treated with blood thinning or diabetic medications. A review with a medical practitioner who is aware of your entire medical background and the positive and negative effects that Omega-3 may have on a variety of conditions is important.

What is Omega-3?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for human health but they are not made by your body. Therefore we need to have them in our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish (salmon, tuna, trout and sardines), krill, calamari and algae as well as olive oil and some plants and nuts. They play an important role in brain function (memory), pregnancy, growth and development. They may assist in reducing inflammation and in the correct doses, reduce the risk of heart disease. Recent research has shown a positive link between Omega-3 dosages and preventing depression and other mood disorders and in some cases mental illness such as schizophrenia.

How does it help?

Clinical evidence has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce the level of triglycerides in the bloodstream and increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL). Several clinical studies also suggest that diets rich in Omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. Several small studies have shown that Omega-3 supplements help reduce symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, including joint pain and morning stiffness. There is some suggestion that they may also assist in reducing joint pain and stiffness, and increase grip strength in other arthritis related conditions. Recent evidence from Adelaide suggests that osteoarthritis may benefit more from Omega-6 (found in canola oil) than from Omega-3, however this is still under investigation. There are many other claims of potential benefits from Omega-3 fatty acids, however few have good evidence behind them and often studies are funded by the companies who produce Omega-3 supplements and are open to bias in their interpretation. Take care when researching the use of Omega-3 on the internet as there are a lot of unsubstantiated claims.

What do I take - Fish Oil, Krill Oil or Calamari Oil?

The research has shown that the source of Omega-3 (fish, krill, calamari etc) is not important at all. The benefit of Omega-3 actually comes from a component of the bacteria that exist within the algae eaten by these marine animals. Therefore paying large amounts of money for a specific type of Omega-3 is not really beneficial. It is the concentrate of EPA/DHA that is important. The milligrams/dose of EPA/DHA present per capsule/teaspoon is what makes a difference to the potential effect.

Talk to your GP or pharmacist about how to get the best dose of EPA/DHA for your money and the correct dose required to assist with your condition. And remember that a well balanced diet with 2 serves of oily fish a week will help naturally maintain a healthy level of Omega-3 fatty acids. You may not need further supplementation if you are eating this regularly.