Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Healthy Eating Benefits of EPA and DHA

In a previous article that you might have read (Eating Right With EFAs), we talked about the positive results of adding EFAs (essential fatty acids) to healthy diets. Now, we'll expand on the benefits of 2 specific omega-3 fats - EPA and DHA - and the best sources of this good nutrition.

EPA and DHA positively impact several different areas of health. From the heart to blood sugar to arthritis, healthy eating with these fatty acids is a must whether your goal is healthy weight loss or improved overall health.

No matter who you are, you probably value your brain. That's why it is so important to know that there is a brain diet food out there accessible to everyone. The brain is rich in fats, so omega-3s play an important role. With a brain that lacks DHA, a person is more prone to developing depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Insufficient amounts of EPA and DHA, coupled with excess omega-6 fats, is connected to ADHD (attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder). When used as treatment, EPA and DHA can reduce symptoms of depression and improve the cognitive scores of people with mild Alzheimer's.

A healthy brain is definitely something to strive for, but how can EPA and DHA enhance healthy meals in order to create better body composition? The answer is found in a study that had overweight men and women follow a moderate exercise plan and take 6g of tuna oil (which contained about 1.9g of omega-3s) per day for 12 weeks. The end result was an average loss of 3.3lb of fat. Another example of how to eat healthy with omega-3s is to replace 6g of some dietary fat that is already included in your daily diet plans with 6g of fish oil. Participants who did this in a study lost about 2lb of fat after only 3 weeks as a result of increased lipid oxidation (also known as fat-burning). The possible reason behind the healthy weight loss tendencies of EPA and DHA could be one or both of the following explanations: they are preferentially incorporated into cell membranes and they induce anti-inflammatory processes. Either way, the use of EPA and DHA does not include body fat storage, so healthy eating plans for fat loss are being supported by the fatty acids.

Speaking of anti-inflammatory processes, rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can be relieved by taking marine-based omega-3 EFA supplements. Two recent scientific studies indicated reduced pain intensity, improved morning stiffness, less affected joints, better physical performance, and decreased pain medication needed to alleviate symptoms.

So far, we have discussed the advantages of incorporating EPA and DHA into healthy diets, but there is another omega-3 fatty acid that offers good nutrition and is even more readily available in diet food that many people already eat. In fact, ALA is the major omega-3 consumed in a typical North American diet, yet it has been left out of many studies. Limited research has shown us the ability of flaxseed (30g per day) to reduce PSA levels, which translate into prostate cancer markers, in men and increase apoptosis. For women, higher ALA intake has been linked to a significant reduction in breast cancer risk. Also, incidences of inflammation, arterial stiffness, and cardiovascular disease are all minimized when people are eating right for higher ALA intake.

ALA sources are plant-based. EPA and DHA come from the sea. The most potent of beneficial effects have been observed when fish, shellfish, and algae are the sources of omega-3 EPA and DHA. Because of this, the most popular way to work marine-based omega-3 fats into healthy meals and diets has traditionally been fish oil supplements. However, another option is available, and this one avoids the "fish burps" that so many people are unfortunately familiar with. It also seems to offer more effective fatty acids, so less of it is needed for the same amount of good nutrition. This highly effective, marine-based, EPA and DHA goldmine is krill oil.

Are you wondering how to eat healthy doses of a living thing that you're not even familiar with? Let's start with an explanation of krill. Krill are 2-inch long crustaceans, like shrimp, that are abundant in the coldest seas of the world. Because their cell membranes have high EPA and DHA contents and they lack toxic build-up, they are a safer and more significant source of omega-3s than fish oil. To add even more good nutrition to healthy diets, krill naturally contain antioxidants like astaxanthin.

Some research has been done to compare the effectiveness of krill oil and fish oil. One study involved the issue of PMS, by using female participants who were diagnosed with the condition. Some were treated with krill oil and some with fish oil. Both treatments provided 600mg of EPA and DHA, but the difference was that the participants taking krill oil also enjoyed the benefits of the naturally occurring phospholipids. Results were similar in that abdominal discomfort and swelling were reduced. However, krill oil outperformed fish oil, dose for dose, in minimizing irritability, stress, depression, joint pain, and bloating.

An issue that affects both women and men is heart disease, which follows such risk factors as high LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol. In a double-blind trial, male and female participants received 1 of 4 treatment options: 1-1.5 grams of krill oil, 2-3 grams of krill oil, 3 grams of fish oil, or a placebo. The 90-day study concluded with significantly lowered LDL cholesterol and increased HDL in those taking the lowest dose of krill oil. The 2-gram dose also reduced triglyceride levels, while the highest dose did not provide any extra benefits. The fish oil treatment made marginal improvements in cholesterol but did not lower triglycerides.

Those two studies compared the performance of krill oil with fish oil, but krill oil produces amazing effects even without being compared to anything else. This study used 90 participants who had high CRP, which is a systemic marker of inflammation, and either rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or heart disease. After a mere 7 days of ingesting 300 milligrams of krill oil, CRP levels were reduced by 19% in all subjects. Then, after 30 days, the reduction was 30%.

While it might seem natural to think that similar health outcomes can be achieved from any good source of omega-3 EPA and DHA, this is simply not true when it comes to krill oil. This diet food adds astaxanthin, phospholipids, and other vitamins and minerals to its omega-3 fatty acids to produce more potent effects. If you're eating right, you won't have to take in as much krill as you would fish oil. Astaxanthin, an antioxidant, really boosts the healthy eating quotient of krill oil. Studies on humans have shown that it protects DNA from damage and increases immune response.

If you're looking for more fad diets to add to your repertoire of up-and-down weight loss and inconsistently healthy lifestyles, omega-3 EPA and DHA supplementation is not for you. Specific, yet simple, guidelines should be followed in order to take advantage of this good nutrition most effectively. First, as we have discussed, choose marine sources of these fatty acids. Second, concentrate on making healthy meals part of an all-encompassing eating plan. Finally, keep naturally-occurring omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, by eating salmon, trout, sardines, hemp foods, chia seeds, flax oil, and pumpkin seeds. Taking krill oil will ensure the proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and optimize your health in so many other ways.

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