When the word “fat” is spoken, the first thing that comes to mind is most likely not “healthy”. For a long time, the health industry was plagued with the misconception that all fat is created equal. Therefore, all fat must be bad for you. Fortunately, this myth has been proven wrong and nutritionists and health professionals are advocating eating habits that incorporates a healthy dose high-quality fat. Actually, omega-3s are essential for cognitive health and vision.
Good Fat Versus Bad Fat
So, what differs good fat from bad fat? And how can you tell the difference between something you should be eating every day versus something you should stay away from as often as possible?
Bad fat sources should be intuitive by now; think greasy fast-food cheeseburgers, French fries, packaged baked goods, and chips. These types of food are high in trans fats or saturated fats which have been associated with increased levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) which is a strong indicator of heart disease and other cardiovascular illnesses.
Good fat sources include fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and avocados. These foods are comprised of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that have the counter effect of bad fats and fight to lower LDL in the bloodstream and raise HDL (good cholesterol).
Why do you Need Good Fats?
Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) are essential to maintain a healthy diet. Omega-3s are vital for stopping plaque buildup inside of blood vessels, a major factor in heart disease and other conditions such as strokes or type II diabetes. Studies have shown that omega-3 can act as a lubricate for joints and help reduce pain in overused joints like knees, elbows, wrists, and help individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.1 But there’s more to it. DHA also plays a tremendous role in our brain and in how you see the world every day.
Let’s Talk About Your Eyes
Omega-3s have long been revered for their role in heart and brain health. What many do not realize is the importance of DHA in our eyes as well. As you grow older your vision starts to deteriorate due to age, but you also become more susceptible to disease that can hinder your vision or even cause permeant blindness such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and dry eye syndrome. Among the European population, about 20% suffer from dry eyes.
Your retina naturally contains a high percentage of DHA, but over time it begins to decrease. However, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids will help delay the onset of retina degradation. Several studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids may help protect adult eyes from MAC (macular degeneration) and dry eye syndrome which is becoming more common as we tend to spend more time in front of the computer. Essential fatty acids may also help proper drainage of intraocular fluid from the eyes which might decrease the risk of high eye pressure and glaucoma.2
The Difference Between Omega-3s
Now, with this knowledge about omega-3, few of us will probably miss out on the weekly dose of fresh, wild salmon, mackerel or the daily omega-3 supplement, right? Well, there is more to it, a lot more. There is a huge, if not gigantic, difference among supplements regarding potency and quality.
First of all, it’s about numbers. You want an as high concentration of DHA and EPA per gram of fish oil, that’s a no-brainer. Higher content equals higher potency equals higher rates of the good stuff. But there’s a problem the industry tends to avoid talking about. Just like fresh seafood, fresh fish oil has no taste or smell. If it does, it has started to oxidize and go rancid.
Oxidation Ruins Our Precious Omega-3s
All oils are susceptible to oxidation, but fish oil is particularly susceptible. DHA and EPA are polyunsaturated fatty acids, which means they have multiple double bonds between the carbon atoms in the fatty acid chains. This makes them very unstable, as the double bonds easily react with oxygen and this is where the unpleasant fishy odors and flavors are created.
Besides smelling and tasting bad, rancid fish oil is likely unhealthy. In animal studies, rancid fish oil has been linked to organ damage and atherosclerosis.3 Other researchers found it might even increase certain risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.4 So, do you think those fish burps are annoying but a part of being healthy? Then think again, avoiding it might be even healthier.
Rancid fish oil is a common industry problem and this is due to a couple of factors. First of all, the polyunsaturated, long fatty acid chains are susceptible to oxidation. On top of that, the process from the ocean to the capsule is complex with a lot of processing steps including heating among other things bad for the sensitive fish oil.5
The Boring But Yet So Important Part
The industry has set limits for oxidation levels of omega-3s, measured in primary and secondary oxidation. The first level is peroxide value (PV) and the second level measures anisidine levels (AV). By measuring both PV and AV, primary and secondary oxidation can be characterized, enabling an overall assessment of the degree of oxidation. This is reflected in the TOTOX value. A number of authorities have published maximum limits of oxidation in fish oils, including the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), a trade organization. The maximum recommended limits are:
- Peroxide value (PV): 5 mEq/kg
- Anisidine (AV): 20 meq/kg
- Totox: 26
But, do not let those numbers fool you! Even if there are industry standards, they are set by, yes, the industry. A typical high-quality omega-3 has a PV value of a maximum of 2, which is far below the limits. So, when you are looking into buying your next omega-3 supplement, make sure you get a hold of those numbers. And a transparent brand is a reliable brand so if you can’t get those numbers easily, you should think of the reasons why.
Let’s Sum It Up
Omega-3s are important to maintain good health and promote eyes, brain, heart and immune system. Especially DHA has some interesting properties and due to its long-chained fatty acids, which makes it flexible, it is especially abundant in the brain and eyes. If you find yourself having a hard time to get a couple of steady fish meals a week, a high-quality omega-3 supplement is a handy way to fill up with some healthy DHA and EPA, and your body will thank you in the long run. When we look for ingredients or supplements, we usually look for branded products with patented or advanced production processes.
A branded product means the producer has put a lot of pride in the product, a strong indicator of high quality. Also, when looking for good omega-3 supplements, ensure the product has a proper certification like Friends of the Sea (FOS), Orivo, IFFO RS, International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) and Dolphin-Safe. By the way, did you know that fish oil is a byproduct of the fishing industry? That means better resource utilization since no part of the fish goes to waste.
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Braingineers develop innovative and effective high-quality supplements for primarily cognitive health. Our attitude is that the body has an innate ability to regulate our functions that can be supported, restored, and optimized.
Our products are designed to help the body regulate its biochemistry and achieve balance. Our goal is to support the integrity of the internal processes to make them more robust and better functioning over time, providing benefits even after discontinued use.