The Omega 3 fatty acids: essential ingredients of a healthy diet

  • Structure and nomenclature

Fats or lipids include compounds of extraordinary importance for the functioning of our body as fat-soluble vitamins, phospholipids, cholesterol and its metabolites hormone. The molecules with several double bonds are called poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). These include the more EPA and DHA, both belonging to the family of Omega 3 for the presence of a double bond in position 3 with respect to the termination omega. The presence and the position of these double bonds affects the shape of the molecule, and consequently its biological role. The double bond tends to or bend, favoring an increase in membrane fluidity.

  • The mistakes of the past

For decades, some nutritionists have promoted in newspapers and on television unbalanced fat diets, demonizing dietary fats, which have been attributed to all the responsibilities of excess weight and cardiovascular disease.

It 'true that 1 gram of fat produces 9 calories, but it is equally true that a balanced diet should provide 20% to 35% of calories through fat.
Dietary fats are not all alike, and to be able to choose the most beneficial one must learn to know them. In particular, we focus our attention to the degree of saturation, which is also listed on food labels.

The SATURATED fatty acids should make up 7-10% of total calories

MONOUNSATURATED fatty acids 15-20% of total calories

The fatty acids POLY-UNSATURATED 4-7% of total calories.

Maintaining this ratio omega-6/omega-3 around 5:1.

It 's misleading suggestion to completely eliminate animal fats from food, as well as demonizing cholesterol.
A proper diet should be normo-fat, balanced and varied.

  • Metabolic functions

Fats are simple molecules (fatty acids, cholesterol) or complex (phospholipids) that play an important role in all metabolic processes.

The phospholipids, for example, are the fundamental building blocks with which they are constituted the membane of all cells. Since cholesterol is instead synthesized sex hormones both male and female.

The lipids are also used as a source of energy (beta-oxidation) and as regulatory molecules of the inflammatory process.

  • Food Sources

Polyunsaturated fatty acids, in particular those belonging to the omega 3 family, are found in fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel, salmon, tuna. And 'the fat of the fish, the more' rich in omega 3, responsible for the characteristic smell of the fish.

Vegetarians or vegans may be a precursor of EPA and DHA in seeds and linseed oil. It is of alpha-linolenic acid, the only essential fatty acid of plant origin.

Although the process of conversion of alpha-linolenic acid to EPA and DHA is inefficient (8-10%), this essential fatty acid should not be missing on our table.
Enough to use even one teaspoon per day of flaxseed oil for salad dressings and our health would improve.

Similarly a diet completely devoid of fish might make an insufficient amount of essential fatty acids of the omega 3 family.

  • RDA and dietary intakes in Europe

Many of us, especially children, very rarely eat fish and farmed fish is very low in Omega 3. The result is that the daily doses of essential fatty acids made by diet alone are not generally consistent with those indicated by the international scientific societies: an intake of EPA + DHA of at least 500 mg per day can be obtained with the consumption of 2 or 3 portions of fish per week. A recent study of over 1,400 Italian family pediatricians showed that children take less than half the recommended weekly servings of fish, thus exposing themselves to the risk of an imbalance of fatty acid profile body.

A study conducted in 2008 in several European countries has estimated that 250 mg / day intake of omega-3 derived from the diet. This is about half of the real requirements.

  • Report Omega 6 / Omega 3

Our diet has changed dramatically over the past 150 years.
In particular have changed the absolute and relative contributions of some macro and micronutrients. The man of the Paleolithic diet had a much more 'varied and rich in magnesium, fiber, and omega 3, and almost no sugar or other refined carbohydrates.

The modern diet, processed foods and pollution have made that magnesium and omega 3 have almost disappeared from our diet.

The ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 is important because it determines the regulation of two important processes: the coagualazione blood and inflammation. An excessive dietary intake of omega-6 promotes inflammation and platelet aggregation.
Many scientists believe that the imbalance of omega 3 in the diet 6/omega favors the onset and progression of chronic degenerative diseases such as type II diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Evidence of clinical effects

More than 25,000 scientific studies on omega 3 have now clearly beyond any possible doubt, the role of these essential fatty acids in maintaining a normal state of health. Were also demonstrated therapeutic effects in hypertriglyceridemia in heart rhythm disorders and cardiovascular disease prevention.

The studies on the therapeutic use of omega-3 ranging from dermatology to rheumatology, ophthalmology.

But what must be taken? For how long?

Clinical studies give very clear answers to these questions. Must distinguish two possible uses of omega 3:

- Integration of the diet for the maintenance of health (500 mg EPA + DHA) and mild deficiency states

- Integrative therapeutic approach in severe deficiency states (from 500 to 2 g / day EPA + DHA)

The dose response curve is linear in the case of hypertriglyceridemia while it is not for the contrast to inflammation.

Doses greater than one gram per day should be suggested only in some patients with heart disease, dyslipidemia or with severe deficiency states, while a dose of 500mg per day is recommended in the rest of the cases.

The duration of the integration with omega 3 is a false problem. We are talking of essential nutrients, which must be integrated until it is re-established an equilibrium condition and a correct dietary intake. There are no contraindications to an integrative approach to long-term, since omega 3 should accompany us throughout our lives.

Omega-3s are especially important in cases of increased demand such as pregnancy and lactation. For many years it has been clarified their role in the proper development of the fetal nervous system and the eye, where the DHA makes up more than 90% of the fatty acids present.
In pregnancy would recommend the consumption of fish and possibly supplementation with DHA alone in the amount of at least 200 mg.
Studies have shown that taking omega 3 in pregnancy has contributed to the health of the unborn, which showed a better pattern sleep / wake and better cognitive function.

Children are particularly susceptible to nutritional imbalances because they tend to avoid or even esclutere completely from their food especially healthy food choices such as fruits, vegetables and fish.

The possible integration of Omega 3 in children should focus on pure oils and an EPA / DHA ratio of at least 1:3 as it is the DHA element functionally more 'important and lacking.

  • Omega 3 and oxidation

The omega 3 fatty acids tend to oxidize thanks to the presence of environmental oxygen, light and heat.
The oxidation, even though it is a natural process, compromises the wholesomeness and the organoleptic qualities of the fatty acids.

Omega 3 oxidized promote atherosclerosis and have the characteristic taste of rancid fish.There are measures that can preserve the state of Omega 3 reduced both in terms of production processes, both at the level of the final consumer:

What can the manufacturer:

- The cold extraction does not produce oxidation;

- The addition of tocopherols (vitamin E) and anti-oxidants has natural protective action;

- The blister protects gellule exposure action oxidant air

What can 'do the consumer:

- Keep the omega 3 in a cool dry place;

- Protect from light and excessive heat;

- Avoid liquid formulations in large containers.

  •  Omega 3, pesticides and heavy metals

Unfortunately our seas are polluted and has become more and more impossible to find fish or fish derivatives absolutely free of contaminants.

Pesticides and heavy metals are frequently found in fish and accumulate in the food chain from small fish, to the large size and then come to us. To reduce the risk of poisoning should be preferred and small fish from the seas not contaminated, but this is not always possible.

About the omega 3 supplements should only be used in purified fish oils that the manufacturer can guarantee the absence of environmental contaminants.

  • Practical advice

  • Adopt a diet rich and varied
  • Take at least 2 servings of fish per week
  • Choose a supplement of omega 3 good quality
  • Take omega 3 on a full stomachIf you take vitamin D along with omega 3 that is absorbed better
  • Get to know the fat and avoid harmful ones such as fat dehydrogenated of margarines and vegetable oils of palm and coconut

Source: Metagenics

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