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First, I want to give myself a little pat on the back for managing to combine studying for my midterm tomorrow with writing a blog entry…
It is so much fun to learn things in class that are not only interesting, but also helpful and informative in my life! Every day I am learning to understand the mechanisms behind health, which is a huge privilege. There is so much information available (on the internet, particularly) about health, but how many of us really UNDERSTAND how our bodies use the food and supplements we put in? Before starting school, I was aware that there was a lot for me to learn, but I did not realize that I would learn so much so quickly! I haven’t even started full-time yet! Imagine what I will know in 4 years… Watch out!
This is also a bit scary. Most people don’t have the time or interest to intimately understand the human body and so must rely upon trusted sources. What disturbs me is that many of these sources have an agenda other than just “health”, be it money or whatever. And many of these sources just aren’t credible because they are either opinion based or anecdotal. The human body is so complex and miraculous that I see more and more why it is so important to get GOOD information and not to rely on just one source or one type of bias. I’ve written about the importance of citing sources and using reliable sources on the forum quite a bit, and the more I learn, the more adamant I become about this.
I’ve never taken fish oil and I know that it is not recommended for type O. I think this is because of its blood-thinning effects (something type Os don’t usually need, if in good health). However, I don’t have my copy of LR4YT (as usual, this thing hasn’t been in my possession in over a year), so don’t quote me. In May, I started working part-time at a health food store and one thing that we sell A LOT of is fish oil. And I still didn’t really buy in, because there are lots of supplements that are pushed for everyone as “miracles” and I try to filter my opinions through more objective information (rather than relying on sales pitches, anecdotes, opinions, and hype).
So there’s the background. Now I’m going to get somewhat technical… Today I am studying for a Biochemistry midterm and one of the topics we covered was lipids. In one class we discussed omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet and their roles in the body. Here is what I learned. I must warn that this is very general, so I’m not going to pretend that it is perfectly, technically accurate – I’m just starting school, remember!
Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that are formed from unsaturated fatty acids. There are “good” prostaglandins, which do things like reduce inflammation/pain, BP, “bad” cholesterol, blood thickness, etc. The “bad” prostaglandins basically do the opposite.
In the body, omega-6 fats (found in vegetable oils, such as corn and sunflower) are converted to GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), which is then converted to DHGLA (dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid). DHGLA is converted via 2 pathways: series 1 prostaglandins (good) OR arachidonic acid, which is converted to series 2 prostaglandins (bad).
Omega-3 fats (found in flax, hemp, walnuts, and fish) are converted to EPA (eicosapentanoic acid), which is then converted to DHA (docosahexanoic acid). EPA and DHA are converted to series 3 prostaglandins (good). While flax, hemp, walnuts, etc. all have omega-3 fatty acids in them, the conversion rate of omega-3 to EPA from these foods has been found to be only 0-12%. Fish, on the other hand, not only has omega-3 fatty acids, but also EPA and DHA and is considered (at least according to my professor) to be the only good source of these substances for the body.
Now for the connection… An enzyme called delta-5-desaturase works to convert omega-3 fatty acids to EPA, but ALSO converts DHGLA through its 2 pathways. When there are not enough omega-3 fatty acids to convert, this enzyme will preferably convert DHGLA to series 1 prostaglandins (good!), but will ALSO convert it to series 2 prostaglandins (bad!).
The key here is the ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, which is ideally 2:1 or 3:1 in the diet. However, because most people don’t eat enough fish to get enough omega-3 fatty acids AND most people easily get enough omega-6 fatty acids, fish oil supplements are recommended quite broadly.
Omega-3 fatty acids, therefore, are useful for reducing the formation of series 2 prostaglandins, but also for maintaining fluidity of cell membranes and for brain function. My professor is a big fan of fish oils and said that her patients can see positive results from taking fish oils within 1-2 weeks.
So, what does this mean to me? Type O people are recommended to get their fish oils through diet, rather than supplements. Realistically, I am probably never going to eat enough fish to get enough omega-3 that way… I rarely eat sushi and even more rarely eat any other fish dishes and I don’t see this changing in the foreseeable future. I plan to do some more research into this topic and look into EPA/DHA supplements not from fish oils. I may also do a little experiment on myself to see if I notice results from taking fish oils for a few weeks. There are some benefits I would like to see, and the best way to find out if something works is to try it!
For more info, here is some information (from a trusted source!) on omega-3 fatty acids.
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