omega-3 oils: new research

8 Feb

So, studies have shown that most supplements are…well…pointless. But the research I’ve been seeing about omega-3 supplements has been very promising. Some of the recent studies on this supplement have demonstrated that it is very effective as a treatment for depression. This recent article argues that major depressive disorder is linked to a low omega-3 index (that is, having too few omega-3s in the body).

PCOS patients may also find this recent study of interest. It showed a drop in bioavailable, or “free,” testosterone in women who took an omega-3 supplement. Since testosterone–especially the “free” testosterone–causes hirsutism, acne, and hair loss, this is an important discovery for PCOS sufferers.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are a big deal in recent nutritional and medical research, are found in fish and other marine life. (They’re also found in flaxseed, but as I understand it, it’s harder for your body to use them in the form found in flaxseed, so that is less preferred.) You can certainly increase your intake by eating more fish, but especially considering the concern about getting too much mercury, you may want to consider a supplement. (It’s also really difficult to get the higher dose that is recommended from food alone.)

Here’s how it works: you need both omega-3 and omega-6 oils. The standard American diet, however, contains FAR more omega-6 than you need, and much less omega-3. The ratio of the two in Western diets is often 10-1 in favor of omega-6; in fact, sometimes it is as high as 30-1. The optimal ratio, scientists think, is somewhere closer to 4-1. That means you need MORE omega-3, but less omega-6. In part, this disrupted ratio is due to the predominance of soybean, sunflower, corn, and canola oils in our diets–all of these oils are high in omega-6.

On an episode of the Kojo Nnamdi show on NPR, an expert recommended a fairly high dose of omega-3s per day. (The show, by the way, is worth a listen if you are interested in the effects of omega-3s on depression.) The consensus seems to be that you should get at least a gram–possible 2 or 3 grams–of omega-3 per day. Don’t be confused by the dosage of “fish oil” on the bottle; it should also list the dosage of “omega-3.” This will probably be divided into DHA and EPA.

It’s also important to get a high-quality supplement, to avoid possible mercury contamination. The bottle should say “molecularly distilled.” You don’t have to pay a fortune to get that, though. I get mine at Costco. If you try omega-3s and see a difference in your mood or PCOS symptoms, please report back! I’d love to hear your results.

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