Ok so what is Omega-3? Well without getting too sciency about it, in short it is a type of fatty acid essential to health. Ok, now that’s out the way with let’s talk about omega-3’s side kick omega-6, now although this piece is about omega-3, talking about omega-3 without mentioning omega 6 is well impossible and would be very silly. The two go hand in hand so accept that now and I will endeavour to explain why.
Fats come in a large variety and their biological function is determined by their structure. People lack the necessary mechanisms with which to produce some fats that are essential for healthy function and these must be ingested through our diet, with me so far? Ok then, well if it can be ingested through our diet then why would we supplement with omega-3?
Well that is an interesting but very important question and is linked to our other friend omega-6. There’s an important word that is used relating to nutrient intake at both a macro and micro level and that word is RATIO. Getting the proportion of nutrients right is just as if not arguably more important than the amount we consume (but that’s a different debate). Our western diets have high ratio’s of omega-6:omega-3 reported to be somewhere between 10-20:1. The important thing to note here is that this ratio is linked with heart disease amongst other disorders and in those cultures with diets that consist of a smaller ratio of O6:O3 have reduced levels of heart disease and other disorders linked to the imbalance of this ratio.
So how do we change this ratio, well we have 2 options, reduce O6 consumption or increase O3 consumption or maybe a bit of both.
Those of us leading an active lifestyle will I guarantee be consuming plenty of O6 due to its prevalence in food we eat on a day to day basis (search for food sources and you’ll see why!), that are essential to keep our physically active lifestyles going. That is why to reduce this ratio, O3 supplementation is recommended by many of the world leading sports nutritionists, especially if like me you don’t eat oily fish (the primary recommended source of O3)! This leads me on to the next part of the story, so why is it important in sports, if we lead active healthy lifestyles the surely are risk of heart disease is reduced so this ratio isn’t that important to us? Well this ratio business has more far reaching effects than just heart disease.
Reducing this ratio has been demonstrated to reduce inflammatory response in both muscles and joints, so those of you who pound the pavement or lift weights may see benefits in recovery time from joint inflammation or the dreaded DOMS! Some cellular studies have demonstrated the O3 also increases insulin sensitivity improving the body’s response to changes in blood glucose levels. Other studies have shown that supplementation can improve mood state and also have aid in protecting cartilage.
So what should the ratio be? Well a reduction to levels of around 5:1 have been recommended by worldwide health institutions with some suggesting closer to 2:1 or even 1:1. The final piece in the puzzle relates to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) these, in short, are forms of Omega 3 fatty acids without going into the biochemistry (as this has already gone on long enough I’m sure you’ll agree), research has suggested that these fatty acids For the majority of athletes, especially those at the leisure level should be around 1 to 2 g/d at a ratio of EPA:DHA of 2:1.
In conclusion, omega 3 supplementation would be recommended to a majority of the general population for it’s obvious health benefits but the potential role it plays in recovery and injury prevention in athletes make it a valuable tool in our supplement armoury. Dosing can be difficult to calculate so it is important to assess your Omega 3 source for not just dosage in mg to calculate your daily amount, but check to see if your EPA:DHA ratio is mentioned.
I would recommend PurePharma Omega 3 Ultra Pure Fish Oil as it is a top quality, contamination removed, fish oil with a ratio of 5:2 EPA to DHA.