When it comes to the heart, February is more than Valentine's Day. It's also American Heart Month!
The bad news from health.gov: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The good news: You can take steps today to lower your risk of heart disease such as:
Stay at a healthy weight.
Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
Drink alcohol only in moderation.
Our friends at Microbiome Labs remind us that a great time to give your cardiovascular health some added love with Omega-3 supplements.
Hello Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are well-known for their supportive properties in the heart health category, according to hundreds of studies. For the heart specifically, omega-3s can help:
Support health blood vessel function
Maintain proper balance of triglycerides in the blood
Support stable blood flow in and around the heart
With so many fish oil products and supplements on the market, it might seem overwhelming to find a comprehensive, full-spectrum fish oil scientifically formulated to support heart health, immune function, and gut barrier function with the proper ratio of EPA, DHA, and DPA.
What to Look For in the Supplement's Label
Which types of omega-3s are included? The primary omega-3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) – each with unique health benefits to the host. EPA can support intestinal mucosa and goblet cell differentiation. DHA can support healthy signal conduction as well as neurons in the brain and the GI tract. DPA can support tissue status of EPA and DHA, but it also supports a healthy gut, cells, and tissues. Most supplements contain some EPA and DHA, but DPA is known as the “forgotten fatty acid,” so you want to look for a supplement with all three.
How much omega-3 is in the supplement? Labels can be tricky. One product might say that it contains a certain amount of total fish oil per serving on the front, but upon consulting the Supplement Facts panel on the back, the amount of EPA and DHA is actually lower. This is because some formulations fill in plant-based omega-3 sources, like chia, flaxseed, or algae, which instead contain alpha-linolenic acid. These are not as immediately bioavailable in the human body because they require an additional conversion to EPA and DHA in order to reap the health benefits. Research studies show omega-3 benefits are EPA- and DHA-dose-dependent, so pay close attention to the per-serving amounts on the label.
What are the most beneficial ratios of EPA to DHA? According to research studies, a 2:1 ratio of EPA:DHA has proven to be the most beneficial for supporting overall health. In addition, supplementing with DPA can enhance the absorption of EPA and DHA (thus increasing the bioavailability of these omega-3s). You’ll want to look for EPA amounts that are roughly double the amount of DHA.
What is the variety and sourcing of the fish? Aim for supplements that contain wild-caught, not farm-raised fish. Wild fish are more likely to have access to high amounts of algae for their consumption, which is also high in omega-3. Labels should also indicate the types of fish used in the oil. Salmon, anchovy, squid, sardine, herring, and mackerel are the best choices here. Fish caught off the shores of South America, Iceland, or Norway are preferable for quality. According to Consumer Reports, swordfish and king mackerel are among the highest tested mercury levels (especially when sourced from the Gulf of Mexico), so you’ll want to avoid fish oils that contain these.
Is it formulated for gut health? We already know omega-3s are wonderful to support cardiovascular health. Some fish oil products claim to benefit the gut microbiome, but are actually formulated more for brain health based on their omega-3 ratios. Fish oil has been severely underutilized for digestive and intestinal health. A recent experimental study published in The Journal of Scientific Reports found that omega-3 supplementation increases microbial diversity, specifically Bifidobacterium, Akkermansia muciniphila, and Lactobacillus, and supports the production of intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) which supports a balanced gut microbiota.
Does it contain PRMs? PRMs are pre-resolving mediators. They serve to support immune cells and tissues in the body. Humans do produce PRMs naturally (from essential omega-3 fatty acids), but likely we do not produce enough. Variables such as excess body weight, stress, genetics, and lifestyle can significantly lessen one’s endogenous production. Added PRMs will help support cellular and biological functions in the body.
Is there a certificate of analysis for each batch? These certificates, issued by Quality Assurance, help you feel confident that the product contains what it claims to contain on the label—and in the amounts listed. Testing for potential contaminants, like heavy metals and dioxins, is also an important quality assurance consideration when selecting your omega-3 supplement. Companies that have a certificate of analysis value transparency and stand behind the caliber of their product.
What are the additional filler ingredients? As with any supplement, check the extra filler ingredients on the label. You could see things like artificial color, artificial flavor, flaxseed, or mixed tocopherols. Tocopherols are added to the formulation to help support oxidative stability, and often necessary. If the product contains tocopherols, inquire if they are derived from soy or sunflower (the latter is preferable). Essential oils can be used to mask the fishy flavor, but taking your omega-3 supplement with a meal can help mitigate any unpleasant taste.
Still a little overwhelmed? Don't stress it, contact us and let's chat.