Are supplements essential to health? How to get your daily dose of Essential Fatty Acids

by Stephen Janz

I am often asked just what supplements should people take on a daily basis just to stay well? There are a range of views on this issue, however I contend that for people without specific health complaints there are three supplements to consider on a regular basis to support daily wellbeing; fish oil, a probiotic and a multivitamin. Today I will focus on fish oil. Fish oil is a source of the omega 3 essential fatty acids EPA & DHA. They are called essential because the body cannot make them – they are either in the diet or the body has to make do without it. Omega-3 fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be important for memory and brain performance and well as normal growth and development. This is why they seem helpful in children’s behaviour problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation. The anti-inflammatory properties of fish oils have led to a role in preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, cancer and even macular degeneration (higher doses of fish oil are used in these conditions). Good sources of EPA & DHA include cold water oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and herring. Vegetarians can have difficulty getting adequate Omega 3’s as the plant based Omega 3 (Alpha linoleic acid (ALA)) found in flaxseed oil and canola oil needs to be converted to EPA and DHA in the body to be useful, and not everyone makes this conversion effectively.

The National Health & Medical Research Council recommends eating at least two oily fish meals per week to meet the recommended daily intake of EPA & DHA. Caution should apply though to which and how much fish is eaten. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) cautions pregnant women and young children to limit their fish intake due to the mercury levels found in fish. Two or three serves of tuna or salmon is safe, but avoid shark; and if orange roughy (deep seas perch) or catfish is eaten make it the only fish meal for the week.   If adequate fish does not make it into your diet or if higher quantities of fish oil is to be used therapeutically, then a high quality supplement should be used.  We recommend a fish oil supplement that meets the European standards for purity as they are stricter than the Australian standards for fish oil.   The Omega fatty acids are essential for health and development and many people do not get enough in their diet. A high quality supplement is a safe way to ensure that this vital nutrient can do its job.

Would you like more details on essential fatty acids? have a look at these links.

Mercury in fish | Better Health Channel

Omega-3 fatty acids