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The Discovery Of How Omega-3 Fish Oils (EPA & DHA) Reduce Heart Disease


I think omega-3 fish oils are the most serious and most common nutritional deficiency in America (possibly tied with vitamin D deficiency). And, the discovery of omega-3 fish oils has been called one of the greatest nutritional discoveries of all time. I want to summarize the health benefits of omega-3 fish oils and tell the story of how they were discovered.

In 1968 a Danish medical doctor named Jorn Dyerberg learned that Greenland Eskimos or Inuits as they are called today, had very low rates of heart disease. This puzzled Dr. Dyerberg because these Eskimos consumed one of the highest fat-content diets in the world. Their diet consisted mainly of meat and blubber from seals, whales and walrus. And, this was at a time when rates of cardiovascular disease rates were skyrocketing and high-fat diets were thought to be the major cause of heart disease.

Dr. Dyerberg organized a team of scientists and went to Greenland to try and learn why a group of people who consumed an extremely high-fat diet had rates of heart disease that was about 1/10th the rate of U.S. heart disease. Dyerberg's team discovered that although the Eskimos consumed an enormous amount of fat, it was the type of dietary fat that made the difference. The Greenland Eskimo diet contained very high amounts of what are now called the omega-3 fish oils.

The names of the primary omega-3 fish oils (also called marine lipids) are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fats are part of every cell wall and cellular membrane throughout the body and they participate in and regulate a vast amount of biochemistry in our bodies.

How's this for omega-3 fish oil benefits? Reduce your risk of dying from sudden death by 45% (1) and reduce your risk of sudden cardiac death by 90% (2). Lower your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 50% (3). EPA and DHA are powerful anti-inflammatory agents, they lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of blood clots, have anti-depressant action and they play critical roles in regulating our immune system.

Quality is important when it comes to fish oil products. The fish oils are unstable, so they can easily oxidize and become rancid during processing. Also, toxins in the ocean accumulate in the fish. Hence, the extraction and processing of fish oils must be done carefully. Two brands that I trust and recommend are Nordic Naturals and the Life Extension Foundation. I recommend that adults take from 2 to 4 grams of EPA and DHA daily. Kids should take omega-3 fish oils supplements too and Nordic Naturals has lemon-flavored fish oil supplements that kids love.

In 2007, Dr. Dyerberg was honored by the American Heart Association in “Recognition of Outstanding Scientific Contribution for the Advancement of Heart Health Worldwide, and in 2008, was honored by the American Dietetic Association Foundation’ for his groundbreaking discovery.

The February 2013 issue of Whole Foods Magazine contains a nice interview with Dr. Dyerberg by Dr. Richard Passwater. Also, a book co-authored by Dr. Dyerberg and Dr. Passwater titled The Missing Wellness Factors-EPA and DHA: The Most Important Nutrients Since Vitamins? is now available.



 
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