By Dr. Xin of Evergreen Acupuncture
Fish oil is one of the most popular nutritional supplements. Most people take it for heart health but a lesser-known benefit of fish oil is a healthy, happier brain. This study has shown that Omega-3 essential fatty acids are essential for good mental and physical health. Healthy brain cells are our first line of defense against depression and mood disorders.
Our brain needs plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, the kind found in fish oil, to function at its best and to create healthy brain cells. The quality of our brain cells depends on the availability of omega-3s, as they are integral structural components of brain cell membranes and nerve cells. Low levels of omega-3s are an underlying cause for the significant increase in brain and mood disorders over the past several decades. That means our typical diet is largely missing the omega-3s the brain needs. Precisely, studies estimate that 70% of the population do not consume enough omega-3s.
Omega-3s also have anti-inflammatory properties which are important for our brain’s health. Brain inflammation contributes to depression, anxiety, brain fog, ADHD, and even serious degenerative disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Some experts believe it is brain inflammation, rather than an imbalance in brain chemicals, that is the root cause of depression.
Because it has a longer shelf life, the food we buy, even from health food stores, is high in omega-6 fatty acids but short in omega-3s. Unfortunately, omega-6s increase inflammation and should not be consumed in excess. The statistics have shown the average American eats 20 times more inflammatory omega-6s than anti-inflammatory omega-3s. The best source of animal-derived omega-3s is wild-caught, cold water oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Flax-seed also can produce some plant-based omega-3, but our body uses them not as efficiently as those from fish.
The main source of inflammatory omega-6s is vegetable oils like canola, safflower, and soy oils. These oils are not healthy as we’ve been led to believe and are found in virtually all processed foods.
It seems in order to consume enough omega-3s, we either need to eat more cold water oily fish or supplement fish oil to satisfy our body’s demands.