SPRINGFIELD, M0. — The sales of dietary supplements continue to grow annually and are now estimated to be more than $28 billion in the U.S. It is difficult to sort through the astounding claims with these products according to Pam Duitsman, a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
“I’m not here to tell you there’s a magic pill out there that will get rid of all your health woes. But there may be good reasons to consider one very popular dietary supplement,” said Duitsman.
In 2010, ConsumerLab.com reported that omega-3/fish oil supplements were the most popular dietary supplement, even topping multi-vitamins. Lots of studies have continued to confirm extraordinary properties of omega-3 fats — meaning that fish oil supplements could be the closest thing out there to a “magic pill” according to Duitsman.
“Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids – meaning our bodies need them, but can’t make them from scratch. Instead, we must eat them.
Foods eaten by the typical American contain very little of this type of fat. Instead, we’re taking in lots of animal fat, trans fat and omega-6 fats,” said Duitsman.
Omega-3s are needed for many important functions in the body — such as cell membrane and normal brain function. They provide the starting point for making critical hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls and inflammation.
“A large body of scientific research suggests that increasing the consumption of omega-3s may have a number of health benefits,” said Duitsman.
For instance, higher intakes of omega-3s are associated with prevention of heart attack and stroke. This has led the American Heart Association to recommends that all adults eat fish — particularly oily fish — at least twice weekly.
“The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold water fish such as Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and black cod,” said Duitsman.
The omega-3 fatty acids that are most important in fish oil are known by their nicknames: EPA and DHA. If fish is not a favorite, chose from many high-quality fish oil supplements that contain both EPA and DHA. Check with your doctor first.
What are the benefits of increasing omega-3s? Besides a reduction in all-cause mortality from coronary heart disease, there is also supporting evidence for a decrease in sudden death from heart attack, stabilization of heart rhythm, a positive effect on blood pressure and reduction in circulating blood triglycerides.
“Research also supports a role for Omega-3s to reduce chronic inflammation, which is an underlying cause of many chronic diseases such as asthma, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, insulin resistance and diabetes,” said Duitsman.