By Dr Meghan van Drimmelen, ND
Have you ever wondered why fish is commonly called “brain food”?
You might be surprised to learn that it isn’t just something that your parents invented, in an attempt to convince you to finish your dinner as a child.
In fact, most fish and seafood is chalk full of omega-3s, which contains the crucial fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The human brain is mostly made up of fat; 60% of the dry weight of the brain is primarily the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. As such, consuming adequate amounts of omega-3s is crucial for brain development, integrity, function, and maintenance.
Omega-3 health benefits reach far beyond the brain.
So your parents really should have been referring to fish “body, mind and spirit food”. Along with having positive impacts on mental health, including Alzheimer's, attention deficit disorder and depression, omega-3s can prevent or reduce symptoms of various autoimmune and inflammatory diseases including arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus, MS, and migraine headaches. Omega-3s can also help with prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Why are omega-3 deficiencies so common?
Now here’s the rub: over the past century, with the rise of Western mass-food production and consumption, we have been trending away from the inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids in our diets, and trending towards foods containing omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are commonly found in much of today’s processed foods, vegetable oils and grains. While omega-6 fatty acids are not bad in and of themselves (they are considered one of the “good fats” after all), the problem lies in the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that we consume.
A Naturopathic Doctor will typically advocate for an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 2:1. Unfortunately, most of today’s processed food rich diets, containins high levels of refined oils and not enough fruits and vegetables, supplies an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 15:1 to 17:1. This ratio is dangerous, and can lead to increased levels of inflammation, which can in turn lead to the diseases discussed above. Omega-3 supplementation can help restore the balance of essential fatty acids in the body.
What would a Naturopath recommend for omega-3 supplementation?
In order to begin restoring the balance of fatty acids in your body, a Naturopathic Doctor will recommend diets containing foods rich in omega-3s, for example fish, flaxseed and walnuts. If, however, you have dietary restrictions that preclude you from eating these kinds of foods, don’t have the time or capacity to access these foods, or otherwise don't think you're getting enough omega-3s, supplements are an excellent alternative. Omega-3 fish oil supplements are easily consumable (they generally come in liquid or gelcap form), and are readily available at most Naturopathic dispensaries and health food stores.
For more information on the many health benefits of omega-3 fish oil, and to see if omega-3 fish oil supplements can help you, please consult your local naturopathic doctor.
Also, please feel free to take the time call your parents and apologize, because they were right all along ;)
To book an appointment with a Naturopath at Juniper Family Health please call 778-265-8340 or book online here.