by Kealy Mann ND

In the 80’s to early 90’s we were all emphatically told to avoid fats in our diet, birthing the ultra low fat diet fad.

We now know that not all fats are ‘evil’ and that some are absolutely necessary for the healthy function of our bodies and minds. These necessary fats are called “essential fatty acids” and are otherwise known as omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

They are termed “essential” because our bodies cannot make them, and we must get them through our diets. Through the North American diet, we typically get an abundance of omega 6 fatty acids, but are sorely deficient in omega 3’s which mostly come from oily fish in our diet.

Omega 3 fatty acids play many roles in maintaining a healthy body and mind. It improves heart health and reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. They reduce inflammation in the body and so can reduce the risk of cancer but also help people who suffer from joint problems and inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

These essential fatty acids are one of the major components of the brain and many studies have shown that they have a beneficial effect on those suffering with depression, anxiety, ADHD and bipolar disorder.

The best types of fish oils are ones that are molecularly distilled to remove chemicals and contaminants. The other important factor to consider when purchasing a high quality fish oil is finding a company that has been evaluated by 3rd party independent testing to show that there is no contamination with heavy metals which is one of the main reasons that over consumption of fresh fish in the diet can be harmful.

Two of my favourite companies that meet these criteria are Ascenta/Nutra Sea and Nordic Naturals.  You should also consider using fish oils derived only from small fish such as mackerel and sardines and avoid those from larger fish which tend to have more environmental contamination and higher mercury levels.

The dosing of fish oils ranges depending on the patient and their health concerns. Not all fish oils are created equally and contain different concentrations of EPA:DHA, the two main health promoting components in a fish oil.  For example, many children’s food products now claim the addition of DHA omega 3 fatty acids to their products, like yogurts and other snacks.

New evidence is showing that high DHA omega 3 fatty acids actually increase aggression levels in those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  Seeing a licensed Naturopathic Doctor can help you to determine what concentration and dosage would be best for your needs.

Fish oils are not safe for everyone. They do have blood thinning affects, although quite slight, but should be avoided by those taking anti-coagulant therapy or have a history of hemorrhagic stroke. They should also be discontinued for a short period of time before a scheduled surgery and they should be avoided by those with allergies to the types of fish contained in the oil.

Kealy Mann is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing at the Carp Ridge Natural Health Clinic  (www.crnhc.com).

Call 613-839-1198 for info or to book an appointment.