The body needs fatty acids to survive and two fatty acids MUST be supplied by the diet: linoleic acid (LA), in the omega-6 family (supplied by olive oil), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in the omega-3 family (supplied by fish oil). LA and ALA are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs).
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in coldwater fish (and fish oil), perilla and flaxseed oils, are essential elements of a healthy diet.
Almost always deficient in the American diet (97), Omega-3 oil contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Actually both EPA and DHA can be synthesized in the body from ALA, but this synthesis is almost always lacking with Americans.
When it comes to fat, most Americans consume far too much omega-6 and far too little omega-3, by a ratio of 20 parts of omega-6 to only one part of omega-3 for some. However, ideally, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids should be between 1:1 and 4:1 (100).
Lifespan and heart health has been shown to increase (101-109) with the Mediterranean diet (rich in omega-3 fatty acids, olive oil, vegetables, and herbs). Omega-3’s benefit to heart and blood vessel health is well noted (110-112).
When it comes to health, the benefits of olive oil and omega-3 are well described in the literature (113-121).
Thankfully, most modern day omega 3 supplement preparations are produced from sustainable species, the oil is purified and concentrated with just a few softgells providing the equivalent of 4 to 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
Unfortunately, less scrupulous promoters of nutritional supplements may insinuate that taking a particular supplement is a good “insurance policy” for a (wink, wink) poor diet. Keep in mind that these same supplement zealots are often in some way benefitting from your faithful and ongoing use of their product(s).
Reducing body inflammation is a prime example because a healthy diet which normalizes blood sugars and fasting insulin levels (for example), is an absolute powerhouse for reducing systemic inflammation.
In the face of a poor diet, supplements are almost are impotent at best to fully optimize the amazing health restoring benefits of a well designed diet.
Actually when it comes to systemic inflammation, carrying excess weight (fat) is thought to most dramatically increase inflammation because adiopocytes (fat cells) produce inflammation, which then effects the entire body.
Many would benefit from less systemic inflammation, a fact easily realized when pain relief occurs with the use of Ibuprofen (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), for example. Reducing some inflammation often allows for a degree of relief.
However, when we read the label of Ibuprofen and other similar drugs, the truth is apparent in warnings not to use the product beyond a certain number of DAYS without consulting with a physician. The truth is that prolonged (beyond a few days) or excessive use of the product is known to often be harmful.
Not so with omega 3, for example. Assuming an individual does not have a contraindication to the substance and that the proper dose and purity of product is being used, little risk is present, along with a lot of potential benefit.
Nevertheless, to take omega 3 or any other supplement, in the hopes of compensating for eating a diet void of a foundation of nutrient dense healthy foods, is wishful hoping at best.