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Friday, October 12, 2012

Everything Omega-3s

Hello Seafood Lovers,

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last week, but it had been raining for a month and then it suddenly stopped and gave us 3-4 of the most beautiful days I have experienced in Seward in 3 years! We had no choice but to step away from the dock and explore the territories. Anyway, Bon Appetit!

Everything Omega-3s

If you have been to the grocery store or picked up a health and nutrition magazine lately, you probably have seen something about Omega-3s. RadioNutrition.com put Omega-3s at the #1 slot for Nutrition Buzzwords of 2012. With all the to-do about these Omega-whatevers, we at J-Dock, slingers of Wild Alaskan Seafood, decided to lay out the details for our readers by explaining what omega-3s are, evaluate the different sources for obtaining this precious life-hack, and touch on why omega-3s are a benefit to our immune system, vision, heart, as well as expecting mothers and the health of newborn babies. I found this website, Fats of Life, to be a very informative site about everything omegas, but also pulled from sources such as AlaskaSeafood.org. So what exactly are omega-3s and what types are there?

What are Omega-3s

Omega-3s are essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. Essential, because our body needs it to function normally, they aid in controlling blood clotting, building cell membranes in the brain, and so much more, and our body does not produce it naturally. That is, we must obtain omega-3s from supplements or food. There are three main omega-3 fatty acids:
  • Alphalinolenic Acid (ALA) - found in some plant seeds and oils such as flax seed and walnuts, and some greens including brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and salad greens
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) - known as "long-chain" omega-3s because their structure is longer than ALA. They are found almost exclusively in shellfish and fish and are more abundant in fatty fish.
The long-chain (LC) Omega-3s  DHA and EPA are highly concentrated in the brain and the retina of the eye, where they help cells communicate and protect them from harmful substances and neuro-degenerative diseases. EPA is especially helpful in promoting a healthy heart and blood vessels with anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties. DHA is crucial to brain structure and function and when it is not sufficiently available the body draws on other fatty acids such as linoleic acid (Omega-6), which do not perform the necessary functions as properly. It is the equivalent of putting regular unleaded gasoline in an engine designed to take premium.

There are mixed reviews on the benefits of the Omega-3s from vegetable and seed oils versus that of fish and shellfish. According to Joyce N Nettleton DSc, of Science Voice Consulting, in Denver, CO, written in the brochure, "Omega-3S, Are Fish and Plant Omega-3s The Same?" for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, in 2006 and then revised in 2009:
ALA is the only Omega-3 found in plants. it has some, but not all, of the health benefits associated with EPA and DHA. most of the ALA we consume is oxidized or "burned" for energy. A very small amount, less than 1%, is converted to EPA. Only a trace amount of this EPA is further converted to DHA.
Dr. Nettleton concludes that, although ALA is an essential fatty acid, it is only considered essential as it is the precursor of DHA (22:6n-3), an important fatty acid in the structural lipids of brain and other nervous tissues. DHA and EPA are more ready-to-use by the body. If this is true, and our goal is to live life with a healthy body, heart, and mind, then we need to determine what we can eat to most effectively provide our brains and bodies with the essential fatty acids, EPA and especially DHA.

What Are The Benefits of Omega-3s?

The benefits of Omega-3s are wide-reaching. These fatty acids aid in numerous normal bodily functions, and are especially crucial to the health of newborn babies and expectant mothers. Omegas also aid in visual development and acuity, reducing blood vessel inflammation, boosting our immune system, and so much more. Here is a quick breakdown on how Omega-3s can benefit you, and why you should start implementing a heavier dose into your daily meals, or at least as a supplement:

Heart Health
  • Maintain normal heart rhythms, prevents disturbed heart rhythms by improving electrical properties in the heart, and especially increasing heart rate adaptability to changes in the environment.
  • Reduce the chance of stroke from anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory properties, lowering blood pressure
  • Lower your chance of your first heart attack. Omegas slow down the development of atherosclerosis (clogged blood vessels)
  • Improve the pattern of lipids in the blood by dramatically lowering the amount of triglycerides in the blood
  • Better blood vessel function, by making arteries more flexible and elastic, less likely to promote clotting and more likely to prevent inflammation
Immune System
  • Inflammatory responses are the immune system's way of promoting healing and limiting tissue damage from an injury or harmful agent, but excessive immune responses (allergic reaction) pave the way for several chronic diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis and asthma.
    •  So let me get this straight! When our immune system naturally fights invasion we see and feel inflammation, redness, itchy skin, pain, and heat; our body is healing itself. But, when our immune system overreacts, we develop chronic diseases. It's kinda like dropping a Nuke on an anthill when all it needs is some Raid!
    • --> In fact, allergic diseases are on the rise in western countries. Many experts have suggested that an increase in the consumption of vegetable oils (Omega-6) has favored the development of allergies, as Omega-6 actually promotes inflammation.  
The Bottom Line: Omega-3s do not prevent conditions, such as asthma, or eczema, but there is substantial research indicating that these fatty acids most certainly help the body and our immune systems to react more appropriately to foreign invasion.

Vision

A developing fetus begins accumulating large amounts of DHA in the eye, to eventually host the most concentrated amounts of DHA of anywhere in the body. According to eye expert, Helga Kolb, professor emerita at the University of Utah, the retina is "essentially a piece of brain tissue," lining the eye. To function, the retina uses photoreceptor cells called rods and cones, which are used to process what we see and are highly enriched with DHA. When there is an insufficient amount of DHA available there is a reduction in visual acuity-the ability to distinguish fine detail. Since visual acuity develops rapidly in the first year of life and increases slowly thereafter until about 3 years of age, it is integral to have plenty of DHA available for proper development.

According to Dr. Nettleton in her work, "Seeing Clearly - Fish, Omega-3s and Vision," she explains:
The longer infants receive DHA, either from breastfeeding or supplemental formula, the better visual acuity they will have. Once infants begin to eat solid foods, usually at 4-6 months, there are few foods with EPA and DHA.
As we age, one condition that develops is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is an eye condition in which the central part of the retina becomes damaged, and becomes progressively worse with time. According to some recent studies, when DHA is abundantly available the retina is protected. In the eye, DHA is used to make a substance called neuroprotectin D1, which protects retinal pigment cells from damage and destruction.

 

What Are The Best Sources for Omega-3s? 

As I explained in a previous section, omega-3s must be obtained from our environment; our body does not naturally produce these essential fatty acids. So how can we most effectively provide our bodies with these essential acids without taking supplements?

SEAFOOD! In general, fish and shellfish that live in colder habitats need that extra layer of fat. It is precisely this fat layer that provides us with the precious Omega-3s our bodies desire. At J-Dock Seafood Co. we proudly provide you with premium, certified sustainable, wild Alaskan seafood. All of our seafood is sourced from the icy waters Alaska, and are all loaded with Omega-3s. There are are few sources that stand out though:

Sablefish - a relatively unknown specie in the United States, but all the rave in Eastern Asia. Wild Alaskan Sablefish (also known as Black Cod/Butterfish) is packed full of Omega-3s. This fish is fantastic tasting, with a delicate buttery flavor, a velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture, and a richness that will leave you wanting more. It has more Omega-3s than even King Salmon!

Wild Alaskan Salmon - The famed salmon. Most everything you read about Omega-3s will tout this fish as being the premier source for omega-3s. There are many different species of salmon. We broke down the specifics in our post on, Which Salmon is Slammin'? We highly encourage you to visit that posting to learn more, but basically, listed in order from most omega-3s first, to least omega-3s last: 
  1. King Salmon
  2. Sockeye Salmon
  3. Pink Salmon
  4. Coho Salmon
  5. Keta Salmon

Sea Scallops - Jumbo Weathervane Sea Scallops out of Wrangell, Alaska, are hand-shucked at sea and have no preservatives or additives. Our scallops are plump and juicy (average about 10-20 per pound) and go well with just about everything. We just got a fresh catch of these tasty little guys. Don't miss out and order yours today!

There are many products available at the grocery store, that have added omega-3s, such as yogurts, eggs, margarine, snack bars and more. These types of food pretty much always contain the omega-3, ALA, from flax seed or oil which as we have learned is not the preferred omega-3. Sources that require the conversion of the Omega-3, ALA, to the Omega-3 EPA or DHA are less effective in providing our body with what it truly needs to thrive.

J-Dock Seafood's Conclusion:

EAT MORE WILD ALASKAN SEAFOOD


Sources:

www.AlaskaSeafood.org

www.fatsoflife.com

DSc Joyce A. Nettleton, Science Voice Consulting, Denver, CO



Until next time,

J-Dock Seafood Co.


Sources:

www.AlaskaSeafood.org

www.fatsoflife.com

DSc Joyce A. Nettleton, Science Voice Consulting, Denver, CO

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