Thursday, July 17, 2008

Take Omega3, Stay out of Prison

So much has been made of Omega 3 fatty acids as of late. The experts seem to be unanimous about the fact that there are good for us (they are unsaturated fats, and most raise HDL (good cholesterol), and lower LDL (bad cholesterol). The most commonly cited sources of Omega3 is fish, and this is where things get murky.

So fish is good for me, check.

Wait, what about all the fish that has mercury in it?

Hm. Well, let's see, there are some fish that are higher in mercury, and some which are lower. Bluefin tuna's usually bad (I'm relying on memory here, just to underline how confusing all this is). Salmon, too I think. But then, was it farm-raised salmon, or wild salmon? One of them wasn't so bad. Or was it just wild Pacific salmon that's good and Atlantic salmon that's bad (or vice versa)?

Ok, it's the big fish that have the highest concentration of mercury, since they've been around longer and have built up higher levels. But blast it, how do I know how big a fish is? I'm a city girl, and haven't caught a fish in my life (though believe me, I tried when I was in Alaska). I trust they don't look like the filets I buy in the grocery store...

I recently heard a program on NPR about this whole issue. It was an interview with the author of the book Bottomfeeder, which basically discusses how to eat fish sustainably. I haven't read it yet, but perhaps when I do it will help enlighten me.

Back to Omega3s. Other sources - flaxseed oil (check, I add two teaspoons to my breakfast shake), kiwifruit (really? Who knew?!), black raspberry (I don't suppose ice cream counts?), lingonberry (heard of it, not sure how to obtain it or what to do with it once I do...), walnuts (woohoo!), and eggs from grass/insect-fed chickens. I also have one GNC Omega3 soft chew every day (kind of like a healthy Starburst). I'm not a big fan of how aritificial they are, but given that I hardly ever eat fish (it won't keep long for leftovers), I eat them anyway. It's like candy, only without the same bad effects.

Interestingly, I came across an article a while ago showing a link between low Omega 3 intake and aggressive behavior. It was a study done of British and American prisoners, and showed that if they were given Omega3 supplements, their aggressive behavior actually decreased. Perhaps we should required every to eat fish a couple times a week? Give tax breaks on flax seed oil (that stuff's damn expensive!)? Encourage people to grow their own kiwi vines? It's interesting to see a study which comes up with such strong evidence of a diet deficiency affecting mood so greatly (I would like to one of Charlotte's posts here about mood vis-a-vis food, but I can't find it! Charlotte, if you know what I'm talking about, please feel free to put it in the comments...)

Do you eat Omega3s? Do you notice that they have an effect on your mood? Do you think it's just the latest craze?


MizFit said...

I lovelovelove the omega 3's and am on a coromega phase (seen that?) in addition to my flax and chia.

as far as mood Im not sure! Ive been doing the flax for so long (10 years?) I dont know.
I do know I get crazy meandepressed when I have too much processed white.

it gets ugly.


The Lethological Gourmet said...

Mizfit, I'm intrigued! Sounds kind of like the chews I eat, only a bit more oozy (is it like those energy oozes that cyclists eat?). If I come across it shopping, I'll pick some up!

I don't really get depressed if I eat processed white, but I do get hungry a lot faster than with multi-grain bread. An interesting thing I've noticed is that I can eat a multi-grain for a long time, but if I change to a different one, I feel a lot more full for some reason. Maybe my body's just not used to processing that kind.

I've seen toasted breads with flax seeds on it too, maybe I should try that...

jeffg said...

Omega 3 vs. Omega 6 balance is pretty important as well. People are just focusing on Omega 3 and from what I remember if you're out of balance it's nearly as bad as being deficient.

I don't like fish and flaxseed oil makes me want to hurl so I just take my lumps as a red blooded american and realize that I just ain't gonna get my omegas in properly :)

Random side note - there's a measurable (on a macro scale) drop in intelligence for each subsequent child after the first one. One thought is that since the American diet is so deficient in EFAs that the first kid uses most of them up, and then so on and so forth.

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Ooh, looks like I'm set on the omega6, since it's in whole grain bread, poultry, eggs, nuts, and flax oil. The flax oil in my fruit shakes is pretty innocuous - I wouldn't want to take it straight, but added to a shake, I don't even taste it.

I hadn't heard about that study about measurable differences in intelligence per child. Very interesting. Do you know where you read that? Just curious.

One of the problems with the low-fat movement was that it told everyone that any kind of fat was bad (including olive oil, avocados, and other poly- and mono- unsaturated fats), so many of us do have a decided lack of them in our diets. I've added them back in, but sometimes I have to remind myself...

Missicat said...

I do love salmon, need to check on which is good/bad for me, I also get confused!
I bought some omega supplements but haven't been very consistent in taking them...will try to do better and let you know if it makes a difference - that would be interesting to check out.

jeffg said...

This isn't what I originally saw (I read it years ago), but the abstract of this paper mentions it. The impact of birth order and intelligence is discuseed in this Science article. You better believe I rubbed this in to my sister! ;)

The Lethological Gourmet said...

Missicat - I never remember to take supplements unless I keep them at work. I take a chewable centrum (one that's 100% of vitamins rather than the normal 1000%) and the omega chews. I've worked it into my routine, so that as soon as I'm finished with my morning snack, I automatically take them. I don't know how I did it, especially given how bad I usually am at remembering them. I suppose having the vitamins on top of my desk helps...

Jeff, I also saw a 60 Minutes segment about the increased likelihood for a boy to be gay based on how many older brothers he has (no like correlation for girls) - it had something to do with the hormone levels of the mother while she was pregnant. So there seem to be lots of studies which show some kind of effect of birth order on kids (we'll have to wait and see whether other studies actually bear this out).

Leah J. Utas said...

I use flax seed in the granola I make and often add it to my bread.
I've even used it as an egg replacer, but it has to be boiled and it gets quite disgusting.
Haven't a clue what it did for my moods.

Charlotte said...

Okay, I didn't know that such a thing as a "black raspberry" actually existed. I thought the candy people made it up along with blue raspberry and mystery berry. Good to know!

Anyhow, I too read the study with the link between smarter babies & high omega-3 intake during pregnancy. I do take a supplement as well as eat some fatty fish. Thanks for the GNC tip!

The Lethological Gourmet said...

I'd never heard of black raspberry either, Charlotte, except as a fake flavoring! Maybe it's like a blackberry?

Leah, you can use flax as an egg replacer? Really? How cool! I can totally see how that would get gross boiling it - I've made cheese before and boiling (and curdling) milk is very nasty smelling, but does create good cheese (well, sometimes).

jeffg said...

Yeah, it is prenatal androgen levels. You can actually gauge the relative androgen levels that someone had in the womb by looking at their index-to-ring finger length ratio - and it does seem to correlate with sexual orientation as you mention. An interesting takeaway from their findings was that gay men were exposed to *more* androgens then straight men which isn't what Joe Public would typically guess/stereotype by.

What's the dose in those omega chews you have? I used to take capsules but gave up because they were so inefficient/expensive (I forget how much they had in them but you were supposed to take 1 pill according to them but realistically you needed to take 15-20 if you weren't otherwise getting EFAs, which would describe me).

The Lethological Gourmet said...

The chews have 120mg of fatty acids. I tried a quick lookup of the recommended dosage, but I'm leaving work soon, so I don't want to invest lots of time. Do you know off-hand?

Not sure how many omega3 I get from the flax oil too. I should check the bottle when I get home.

jeffg said...

I don't know specifically offhand but I know that it is measured in grams and not miligrams ;)

I think you want to get at least a few grams of each in per day to prevent deficiency. Udo Erasmus' site has some good info if you can get past the hucksterish look to it. I was reminded of his site from a quote I dug up on the net attributed to him:

"Although 1-2% of calories or 3-6 grams per day is enough to prevent symptoms of deficiency in most health subjects, an optimum amount might be in the range of 3-10% of calories, or 9-30 grams per day."

I remember that I was using his oil blend several years ago but don't remember why I kicked that one to the curb either. I probably just admitted to myself that I live a pretty unhealthy lifestyle and it probably wasn't worth the effort :)

Leah J. Utas said...

Tablespoon of flax seed in I think a cup of water. Boil it down until it's a half-cup. It looks like frog's eggs and the product of the worst cold you've ever had. But it does replace egg in baking and quite well if memory serves.

Gopi Rajaseharan said...

Try this to check on mercury levels:

I take fish oil (spring through fall), krill oil (only in the summer) and cod liver oil (only in the winter months). Doing so for almost 3 years now. My joints have never felt better. After heavy training (squats and stuff), my joints feel barely warm. My knees don't have that creaky feeling despite still having a significant lateral meniscus tear in the right one. Like Jeff said, the balance between 3s and 6s is more important. And that can be accomplised by going organic. That means wild salmon, grass-fed beef, etc.

I have also noticed plenty of natural "lubrication". Dont quite know how to really describe it. But no more ky jelly (wink).

Depression? I occasionally have a mood swing but the more important thing is I know how to deal with it comfortably.