Omega 3s Can Save Your Life

Over the years, there have been dozens of studies and thousands of articles written about how eating fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids is good for our health. These studies have shown us how diets high in salmon and herring and even tuna are good for our hearts and lower our risk of dying from heart disease.

But up until now, there haven’t been any studies which conclusively prove that individuals who ate a diet high in Omega 3s actually lived longer and better than the rest of us.

A new study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows us that “older adults who have higher levels of blood omega-3 levels are able to…

  • lower their overall mortality risk by as much as 27%
  • and their mortality risk from heart disease by about 35%

Researchers found that older adults who had the highest blood levels of Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish lived, on average, 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels.

Not only will your doctor be happy with your blood tests and your ECG scans, you will actually live longer…and that is pretty darn cool.

The Science

The researchers examined 16 years of data from about 2,700 U.S. adults aged 65 or older. Participants came from four U.S. communities in North Carolina, California, Maryland, and Pennsylvania; and all were generally healthy at baseline. At baseline and regularly during follow-up, participants had blood drawn, underwent physical examinations and diagnostic testing, and were questioned about their health status, medical history, and lifestyle.

The researchers analyzed the total proportion of blood omega-3 fatty acids, including three specific ones, in participants’ blood samples at baseline. After adjusting for demographic, cardiovascular, lifestyle, and dietary factors, they found that the three fatty acids—both individually and combined—were associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality.

One type in particular—docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA—was most strongly related to lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) death (40% lower risk), especially CHD death due to arrhythmias (electrical disturbances of the heart rhythm) (45% lower risk). Of the other blood fatty acids measured—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA)—DPA was most strongly associated with lower risk of stroke death, and EPA most strongly linked with lower risk of nonfatal heart attack.

Overall, study participants with the highest levels of all three types of fatty acids had a 27% lower risk of total mortality due to all causes.

And how much fish & Omega 3s do you need to consume to get these amazing life-extending benefits?

  • 400 mg or two servings of fatty fish per week.

But what if you’re worried about high mercury levels found in some fish?

  • Consult this chart and eat fish high in Omega 3s and low in mercury
  • Or buy quality fish oil supplements (my second choice)

fish-omega3-mercury

Reference

Your Omega 3 Prescription

By this point, you should already know that you need more Omega 3 fatty acids into your diet.

The question is: how much?

  • A teaspoon of fish oils?
  • A tablespoon?
  • 3 pills?
  • or a great big slab of smoked salmon?

Well, according to this study, researchers believe that “a 200 mg dose of DHA per day is enough to affect biochemical markers that reliably predict cardiovascular problems, such as those related to aging, atherosclerosis, and diabetes”.

This study is the first to identify how much DHA is necessary to promote optimal heart health.

The Study

To determine the optimal dose of DHA, the researchers examined the effects of increasing doses of DHA on 12 healthy male volunteers between ages of 53 and 65. These men consumed doses of DHA at 200, 400, 800, and 1600 mg per day for two weeks for each dose amount, with DHA being the only omega-3 fatty acid in their diet. (No EPA)

Blood and urine samples were collected before and after each dose and at eight weeks after DHA supplementation stopped. The researchers then examined these samples for biochemical markers indicating the effects of each dose on the volunteers.

They found that supplementation with only 200 mg/d DHA for 2 wk induced an antioxidant effect.

They concluded that “low consumption of DHA could be an effective and nonpharmacological way to protect healthy men from platelet-related cardiovascular events”.

Conclusion

If this study is correct, you need only 200 mg of DHA per day to reap the cardiovascular benefits of the Omega 3 fatty acid DHA.

And how do you get 200 mg of DHA?

Southwestern Salmon Salad

Southwestern Salmon Salad

A little while ago I had asked if anyone had any requests for recipes. Our buddy, Robb, wanted to know how to cook fish on the grill the healthy way (i.e. sans the fish & butter foil packet idea, the one he knew well). Our favorite little person, Grace, had a request for a healthy summer-inspired lunch idea, other than the obvious choice of leftovers. Robyn wanted to know why she has paprika in her spice rack. All excellent requests so thanks guys! I hope I killed two three birds with one stone with this idea!

Now, let’s get down to brass tacks:

Believe it or not, there are several types of paprika ranging from mild and sweet to hot and spicy. OK, I hear you, Robyn–What exactly IS paprika? Paprika is made from ground peppers (think bell peppers or tomato peppers). “Paprika” is actually the name of the spice and any kind of fresh pepper in Hungarian and along with Eastern European foods, paprika is a staple in both their cuisines.
In American cooking it’s usually considered a garnish (think the infamous deviled egg).

Continue reading the full recipe and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the NEW Healthy Irishman Newsletter!

Fueling your body with healthy food. Fueling your mind with the wealth of health.

Copyright © 2009 The Healthy Irishman. All rights reserved.

PediaSure…a source of complete and balanced nutrition for our kids?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite treats was chocolate milk.

nestle quik nesquik

A great big glass of milk (whole milk, not skim) with a heaping tablespoon of Nestle Quik.

mmmmmmmmmmmmm good. I can almost taste it now.

True, it wasn’t the healthiest choice of beverage for a growing boy, but like I said, it was an occasional treat, and all of the good stuff in the milk helped to make up for the overdose of sugar in the chocolate milk powder.

Well, things certainly are different today.

Today, good old fashioned chocolate milk has been re-placed, re-packaged, re-formulated and re-branded as PediaSure.  And PediaSure is being marketed to parents as the pediatrician recommended choice for your child’s nutritive needs.

Ahhhh, wasn’t that adorable. The poor little kid doesn’t like broccoli or chicken or waffles. But she sure likes her PediaSure.

And that’s okay, because PediaSure is “a source of complete balanced nutrition…for healthy growth”.

And it’s pediatrician recommended.

You can trust me, I'm a doctor
You can trust me, I'm a doctor

Okay, let’s forget about the pediatrician recommended thing for a moment.

Let’s try to be objective and look at the ingredients.

Here is a little chart I put together comparing PediaSure and my childhood addiction, chocolate milk.

Sorry about the fuzzy image. Click on the pdf link below for a clearer image
Sorry about the fuzzy image. Click on the pdf link below for a clearer image

PediaSure vs Chocolate Milk-pdf

Note – I included a whole milk and a reduced fat chocolate milk in the comparison because I realize that no one drinks whole milk anymore because of the fear of cholesterol. And I am glad I did. It provided an interesting observation.

PediaSure v.s Chocolate Milk

Here are some of my observations:

  • PediaSure is higher in calories than both of the chocolate milk samples.
  • The higher calories is due primarily to a higher fat content
  • The higher fat content is a design feature of PediaSure. PediaSure is fortified with  life’sDHA by Martek Biosciences Corporation. DHA is an Omega3 fatty acid that has been shown to support brain development.

In fact, PediaSure ran another commercial highlighting the supplemental DHA in their product.

Here is some more info on life’sDHA. Feel free to scroll down if the details are too geeky for you.

LifesDHA_logolife’sDHA™ from algae is a vegetarian source of DHA. It’s produced, from start to finish, in an FDA-inspected facility with controls in place to ensure the highest quality.

Martek’s microalgae are grown in fermentors that range in size from 80,000 to 260,000 liters. The algae are then harvested and processed to extract the DHA-rich oil. The finished product is a clear, amber-colored oil rich in DHA.

And as my regular readers already know, I am a big fan of DHA and Omega3s in general. There are lots of health benefits to supplementing your kid’s diet with Omega 3s.

Back to PediaSure v.s Chocolate Milk

  • All 3 samples have the same amount of protein
  • The reduced fat chocolate milk has the lowest amount of fat calories (duh!)
  • And it has replaced those fat calories with sucrose

But most important….

  • PediaSure has far and away the highest amount of Omega6 fatty acids

and when we look at their Omega6 to Omega3 ratios, we see that:

  • PediaSure has a 10.6 : 1 – Omega 6 : Omega 3 ratio, while
  • Whole milk chocolate milk has a 1.7 : 1 – Omega 6 : Omega 3 ratio

And, as I have said before, having a diet with a high Omega6 : Omega3 ratio, is a bad, bad thing.

As well, it should also be noted that organic milk (or pre-factory farm milk) has been shown to have 71% more Omega3 fatty acids than conventional milk. Just some food for thought.

Here are a couple of studies – Study 1, Study 2

So, what does all of this mean?

  1. In my opinion, PediaSure is inferior to whole milk chocolate milk when it comes to feeding your kids.
  2. Kids don’t like broccoli. Never have, never will. But instead of giving up on feeding real, healthy food to your kids, go to your library and take out this book.
  3. Monkey see, monkey do. If you are eating junk for dinner, how are you ever going to convince your kids to eat healthy?
  4. Even if chocolate milk is healthier for your kids than PediaSure, please remember that it is not a wonder-food. It’s a treat…like dessert.

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And please, please, please – pass this article on to anyone you know who has kids and is feeding their kids PediaSure.

Childhood obesity is higher than ever before….and if we’re at the point where laboratory designed chocolate milk is actually being sold as a healthy option for our kids, we have really lost our way.

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Reference

Omega 3s – Why you need them and How to get them

Why do you need Omega 3s?

  1. When Omega 3 consumption increases, your risk of cardiovascular disease decreases
  2. High levels of the Omega 3 fatty acid – DHA are required for optimal mental performance and vision
  3. Low levels of Omega 3s have been associated with depression, Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD, as well as developmental coordination disorder.
  4. Omega 3 supplements have been shown to improve the condition of chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, various skin disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Crohn’s disease
  5. Omega 3s may help men reduce their risk of prostate cancer.
  6. And if that isn’t enough, various population studies have also shown that diets high in Omega 3s have been effective in preventing:
  • chronic eye conditions (cataracts, dry eye),
  • epilepsy,
  • allergic sensitivity in very young children,
  • pneumonia,
  • lung/breathing capacity and chronic pulmonary disorders,
  • bone health, and
  • fibromyalagia

Now you know why you need Omega 3s.

So, what’s the best way to get them?

Currently, there is a bit of disagreement between Omega 3 experts.

On one hand, we have experts like Dr. David Jenkins who prefer we get our Omega 3s from the plant based Omega 3 – ALA.

Dietary sources of the Omega 3 – ALA include:

  • Flaxseed
  • canola oil
  • English walnuts
  • specialty eggs

Dr. Jenkins believes that ALA is an effective source of Omega 3s and because it can be found in vegetarian sources such as canola, walnuts and soy, it is superior to the fish-sourced Omega 3s -EPA & DHA.

Dr. Jenkins cites the crisis of global fisheries as an important reason to choose vegetarian sources of Omega 3s.

However, critics of Dr. Jenkins position claim that the majority of Omega 3 fish oil supplements rely on smaller, less commercially attractive fish such as herring and anchovies. These fish are available in large numbers due to their lack of market popularity and higher reproduction rate.

In addition, supplement manufacturers are trying to improve the harvesting of algae and krill as potential mainstream sources of Omega 3s.

Dietary sources of the Omega 3 – EPA include:

  • Fish,
  • fish oils
  • marine sources like krill & algae

Dietary sources of the Omega 3 – DHA include:

  • Fish,
  • fish oils
  • specialty egg/dairy products

And if that wasn’t complicated enough

There is significant research that shows that ALA is an inferior source of Omega 3s.

And why is that?

It’s because our bodies require that ALA be converted into EPA and/or DHA for use in our bodies.

And, apparently our bodies do a pretty poor job of making DHA out of ALA.

So, if you want the benefits of DHA:

You should probably go with a combined EPA/DHA Omega 3 supplement.

But, then again, just about every day, there is some new Omega 3 research being published….so stay tuned.

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Reference

Zucchini Wrapped Wild Halibut

Zucchini wrapped Halibut

This is one for all you healthy romantics who want to make a big impression. Though this recipe isn’t difficult you may need to put on your patience cap. Believe me, it looks harder than it really is,   but the ‘wow’ factor will definitely earn you brownie points.

Serves 4

RECIPE:
4 x 6oz portions wild halibut
2-3 large zucchini – thinly sliced lengthwise 1/8″ thick
1/2 lemon – zested
S&P
olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
Begin by washing and drying the zucchini. Top and tail them and very carefully slice them lengthwise either with a sharp knife or, as I have, a Chinese mandoline. You can pick one up in an Asian market or a kitchen/home supply store. It’ll make this task a lot easier. Once all the zucchini are sliced, set aside.

Lay the fish on a cutting board and season with S&P and sprinkle of lemon zest. Rub the seasonings into the fish very gently.
To assemble halibut:

On a clean surface lay 4-5 zucchini slices, slightly over lapping and parallel with each other. Place seasoned halibut on one end perpendicular, across the zucchini. The idea here is to wrap the fish in the zucchini. Fold one end of the zucchini under the fish and roll the halibut over thus keeping the halibut neatly wrapped so that the ends of the zucchini overlap each other making that side the bottom.

Preheat large non-stick pan on medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 tbsp olive oil. Holding the halibut securely, lay the bottom of the fish in the pan first. The objective here is to seal the bottom thus fastening the zucchini around the halibut. Sear for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Gently flip fish over on all sides until nicely browned. Remove to foiled oven tray.

Preheat oven to 420F.
To finish, pop fish in oven for 4-5 minutes to cook through.

This can be done slightly ahead of time and refrigerated until your significant other arrives, just be sure to remove the fish from the fridge 1 hour head of cooking so it comes up to room temperature.

Serving suggestion:
Saute French Beans and for a little added spice, try some wasabi mash potatoes. Make mash as usual and add enough wasabi paste to your own personal taste. Don’t go nuts with it as you’re having a romantic evening, use with caution.
Now that you’ve made the big splash, why stop there? Go for the gold with some Chocolate dipped strawberries.

Let me know how you get on with this recipe. And if you have any requests or questions, please leave a comment! To see more of my recipes and learn about me and my healthy food philosophies head over to thehealthyirishman.com.

The Healthy Irishman Fueling your body with healthy food. Fueling your mind with the wealth of health.

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