Workout of the Day:
10 Thrusters (Heavy – challenge yourself)
Supplements: Fish Oil and other Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Written by Mark Riebel
When it comes to cardiovascular health, the latest nutritional buzz word is definitely “omega-3 fatty acids,” and significant amounts of studies show that this is rightfully earned. An early study of Eskimos in Greenland noted that their diet which was high in omega-3 (ω-3) containing fatty fish resulted in a much lower incidence of cardiovascular disease than did Danes or Americans. In the several decades since, ω-3’s have been studied exhaustively, showing improvements ranging from blood chemistry to treatment of macular degeneration. The FDA released an official statement in 2004 substantiating the cardiovascular health benefits of DHA and EPA, though they did not comment on the other supposed benefits. This post is written on the premise that ω-3’s have a legitimate benefit to health.
As Barry Sears explains in Enter the Zone, ω-3 fatty acids work by acting as building blocks for things called eicosanoids (eye-KAH-sah-noids), which are short-lived substances in your body that regulate things such as inflammation and immune response. The “good” eicosanoids derived from ω-3’s have anti-inflammatory properties, and are thought to improve cardiovascular health through increased blood flow. On the other hand, “bad” eicosanoids lead to increased inflammation and thereby decreased heart health. The three ω-3’s that you hear the most about are α-linoleic acid (ALA) which comes from sources such as flax seed, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are most often found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel.
There are multiple ways of getting sufficient ω-3’s from your everyday diet (I feel this is the best option), but if your diet doesn’t happen to include these natural sources of ω-3’s, supplements may be an option. Many choose supplements due to concerns over toxins in fish.
The World Health Organization recommends approximately 0.3-0.5 g/day of EPA+DHA and 0.8-1.1 g/day of ALA, the FDA recommends not exceeding 3 g/day of EPA+DHA with no more than 2 g coming from supplements, while others including CrossFit nutrition guru Robb Wolf say that up to 1-2 g/10 lbs. of body weight/day is perfectly safe and beneficial. If you aren’t a fan of supplements and don’t appreciate fatty fish, know that ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA by the body, but only at an effective amount around 2-15%, so you’re better off with the fish than mega-dosing on the flax seed.