EFA Supplements: Choosing the One for You
One of the most common nutritional problems in the U.S. has to do with the fat we eat. We get too much saturated fat, trans fat and polyunsaturated fat. And we don’t get enough of certain essential fatty acids, which play many important roles within the body. Most Americans eat a diet that is particularly lacking in omega-3 fatty acids from sources like fish, green leafy vegetables and certain nuts and seeds.
Many experts agree that wide-spread omega-3 deficiency is a health issue that should be taken very seriously, and many believe that it is fueling health problems ranging from attention deficit disorder to heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. This is because omega-3s have the ability to reduce inflammation in our bodies, and are essential for optimal brain development and function.
Almost everyone can benefit by getting more omega-3s and less of the harmful fats, and the best way to do that is both by dietary changes and by taking EFA (essential fatty acid) supplements. Improve your fat profile by eating less beef and more fish, using low-fat dairy products, reading labels to avoid trans fat, and by using mostly olive oil when you cook.
There are a number of options when it comes to getting your omega-3s from supplements. The options range from fish oil to vegetarian flax seed oil, and each type of EFA supplement offers unique health benefits. Depending on your individual needs, the one that’s right for you may be one or a combination of supplements. We strongly recommend that everyone take a high-quality fish oil supplement, as fish oil is the most concentrated source of some very important omega-3s and has the greatest amount of clinical research backing its efficacy. However, some people, including strict vegetarians, find that other options suit their needs better.
Here is our quick EFA guide to the health benefits of some of the most versatile types of EFA supplements:
1. Fish Oil
Fish oil is extracted from fatty fish, then purified and standardized so it always contains the same amount of each ingredient. It’s the most concentrated source of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), both important anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Our concentrated Omega-T® Fish Oil contains 300 mg of EPA and 200 mg of DHA per gram (1,000 mg).
Fish oil is incredibly well researched and widely accepted clinical studies show a vast array of health benefits. For example, fish oil has been proven to lower triglycerides, slow down the accumulation of plaque in the arteries, reduce blood pressure, inhibit colon cancer cell growth, lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, and reduce risk for dementia.
Fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements world-wide, and leading experts as well as many doctors recommend that just about everyone take a high quality fish oil supplement daily. If you are unsure what essential fatty acid supplement is best for you, taking a fish oil supplement daily is a safe bet and a smart choice.
Dosage: We recommend at that your fish oil supplement contain at least 400 mg of EPA and 250 mg of DHA. Our Omega-T Fish oil contains 420 mg of EPA and 280 mg of DHA and is fortified with CoQ10 for cardiovascular benefits and vitamin E for freshness.
2. Krill Oil
Krill oil is an EFA supplement made from little shrimp-like creatures. It is also purified and standardized so every batch is the same. One gram has only 50 mg EPA and 90 mg DHA, less than half what fish oil contains.
However, krill oil has some unique properties that fish oil lacks. It contains astaxanthins, which are powerful antioxidants. It also contains phospholipids, compounds that are both fat-soluble and water-soluble, making krill oil easier to absorb and utilize in your body. Some of these phospholipids may prove useful against age-related brain damage. Krill oil also provides vitamin E as well as some omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids.
Krill oil is a relatively new product. Research done so far shows it can reduce inflammation and symptoms of arthritis, reduce cholesterol, slow cancer growth and reduce menstrual pain. Krill oil also reduces blood levels of harmful C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation and heart disease and increases detoxifying liver enzymes.
Krill oil might be a good choice for people who have fat malabsorption, or who want to target their brain or liver. Some people alternate fish oil and krill oil, or take a half-dose of both. People with shellfish allergies should not take krill oil.
Dosage: We recommend a minimum of 500 mg to 1,000 mg of krill oil per day. Our extra strength NKO™ Krill Oil features 1,000 mg in just two softgels.
3. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil has been used for centuries for general good health. One gram has 36 mg of EPA and 46 mg of DHA. Unlike fish or krill oil, cod liver oil naturally contains vitamin A and vitamin D in amounts that make it fairly easy to reach toxic level. That’s why most brands have standardized amounts that are lower. Our brand, for instance, has 2,500 IU of vitamin A and 270 IU of vitamin D per dose, well within safe limits.
Cod liver oil offers similar health benefits as fish and krill oil, and additional benefits from A and D, like fighting infections and promoting healthy bones. It is a good choice for people who get a good amount of omega-3s as part of their diet, but need a good source of additional vitamin A and vitamin D. If you do take cod liver oil and other supplements, you should determine exactly how much vitamin A you are getting. We recommend no more than 3,500 IU a day of preformed vitamin A (retinol or retinol palmitate) without medical supervision.
Dosage: We recommend 1,000-1,300 mg of cod liver oil per day. Our ultra pure Cod Liver Oil features1,300 mg in each serving of two softgels.
4. Flax Seed Oil
Flax seed oil has a long history of use for hair, skin and nails. It’s is a great source of balanced omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. It doesn’t contain EPA or DHA, so it’s not a perfect substitute for fish oil, but it contains ALA (alpha linolenic acid), which can be converted to EPA and DHA. Most people convert about 20% of the ALA they consume into EPA and DHA by your body.
Flax seed oil is a good choice for people looking for a vegetarian source of balanced fatty acids, and for people who want to target their skin, hair and nails. It’s beneficial for preventing heart disease and arrhythmia, and reducing inflammation. You may find that taking both flax seed oil and fish oil works best for you.
Dosage: You’ll need to take more flax seed oil daily to get benefits comparable to those offered by marine-based sources of omega-3s. We recommend a minimum of 5,000 mg per day of flax seed oil. Our Organic Flax Seed Oil contains 6,000 mg.
The Anti-Aging Bottom Line: Essential fatty acids are an important part of a healthy diet, and provide many benefits related to living long and well. Many types of fatty acids play unique, important roles within the body. It is especially important, however, to make sure that you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, as most people don’t get the omega-3s they need. EFA supplements are often to only way to get enough omega-3s to get the full health benefits of a diet rich in them. Fish oil contains the highest concentrations of EPA and DHA, and is the supplement of choice for most people. Depending on your diet and health concers however, you may find that other EFA supplements (either taken as an alternative to or along with fish oil) work best for you.
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Article updated on: February 5th, 2009