Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Focus on Fish Oil

There are three big players in achieving the desired brain states which allow for sharp mental function, a sense of ease and well-being, and fluid access to memory. They are:

Blood glucose
Omega-3 balance

If you asked me what one thing I would most recommend for restoring and maintaining brain health, I would answer FISH OIL. Hands down.

Fish oil is extensively studied, readily available, and safe. Concerns about mercury and other contaminants are much less with the small fishes used for fish oil. The best sources come from anchovies, sardines, and mackerel. The main goal with consuming fish oil is to balance our Omega 6 fat intake with Omega 3.

NOTE: Flax oil appears to have the same benefit as fish oil, however, it is far less extensively studied.

What’s with those Omega 3 fats? Here are some facts:

Omega-3 alters brain cell structure and the ability to messages to get through with high-powered transmission.

DHA is like DSL for the brain.

Americans have among the lowest blood levels of DHA in the world.

Evidence suggests that DHA-type fish oil helps regulate serotonin, the neurotransmitter known for its “feel-good” qualities. Depressed persons often have low levels of serotonin, and almost always have low levels of DHA.

Taking fish oil has been proven to be as effective as consuming fish. Bipolar patients improved on fish oil and stayed well on a high intake. It also works very quickly, with improvement often showing within a week or two.

Dr. Andrew Stoll, psychopharmacologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, executed most of the studies on fish and flaxseed oils and mental illnesses. He believes fish oil mimics the activity of drugs such as lithium and valproate, blocking the recycling of so-called second messengers that can cause havoc inside cells.

Researchers theorize that individuals suffering from schizophrenia or ADD have an enzyme disorder blocking the needed enzyme delta-6 desaturase. This enzyme is required to turn on the precursors that supply essential fatty acids. They must have larger amounts of omega-3 in order to experience its benefits. Brain imagery has shown that the brains of people with dyslexia do not break down fatty acids and incorporate them into their neuronal membranes the way non-dyslexics do. In short, there appears to be a biological basis for dyslexia. Fish oil has been shown to alleviate the frustrations of dyslexia in studies using fish oil on patients with ADD.

ADDED BENEFIT: By diminishing stress hormones, these oils also diminish heart disease.

The recommended dose is five grams per day. Taking it at night cuts down on the aftertaste.

SMARTEST FISH, or Fish with the most “smart fats”

Mackerel 1.4 grams of DHA in 3.5 oz raw or canned
Herring 1.0
Sardines 1.0
Anchovy 0.9
Tuna, bluefin 0.9
Whitefish 0.9
Sablefish 0.9
Bluefish 0.8
Salmon 0.8
Lake trout 0.5

Cod, catfish, flounder, grouper, haddock, perch, snapper, sole, swordfish and shellfish contain very little omega-3. Average 0.1 to 0.2 grams DHA per 100 grams fish.

Fish oil!! I have experienced a marked improvement in my sense of well-being after adding fish oil to my diet. When I first learned about the importance of DHA to mental health and well-being, I started taking a high-quality fish oil supplement, and consuming anchovies and sardines as well. Most people I speak with do not want these salty fish in their diet. For those of you who enjoy anchovies, however, I highly recommend experimenting with a couple of anchovies in a homemade “fish taco.” I use fresh lettuce and cabbage, some black beans, and a good fresh salsa to compliment the anchovies.

That wild salmon steak or fillet is also an excellent source of DHA. Reference the chart above for more ideas about getting your all-important intake of fish oils.

Joy and blessings,

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