DHA & EPA, The Lifesaving Omega-3's
Cell Membrane Nutrients - Essential to Life Itself
DHA and EPA are essential fatty acids -- long, stretched out molecules with their carbon atoms linked all in a row and carrying multiple Hydrogens and a few oxygens. Both these molecules have unsaturated, carbon/carbon double bonds (DHA has 6, EPA has 5). They are present in all our cells, where they help build the membrane systems that do just about everything important for life.
The cell is the basic unit of life. Within all cells, the majority of life processes occur in or upon the membranes, DHA and EPA are part and parcel of larger phospholipid molecules that are the structural and functional building blocks for all cell membranes. This makes them crucial to the survival, growth, renewal, and assorted life functions of our cells -- and, by extension to our tissues, organs, and body as a whole.
The DHA and EPA content of our cell membranes responds to our dietary intake so that we have power over the omega 3 content of all our cell membranes. From the huge amount of research conducted over the past three decades, here's some of what DHA and EPA do for our health:
* Support brain development and maintenance from conception to the end of life;
* Support and protect the heart muscle, coronary circulation, and all blood vessels, and contribute to blood pressure maintenance;
* Support healthy balance in the brain, intestines, joints, all other organs;
* Help maintain positive mood including calming manic activity;
* Help keep children calm while optimizing their cognitive performance;
* Very likely contribute to canc support (more studies needed);
* Probably assist with weight maintenance (more studies needed);
* Improve skin quality through enhanced blood flow and other means;
Benefits for the Heart and Circulation
With heart and blood vessel diseases still the number 1 cause of death, and coronary heart disease killing half a million people annually in the United States alone, DHA/EPA's proven cardiovascular benefits make them a salvation for public health.
The evidence supports the following cardiovascular benefits for DHA/EPA:
* Reduction of clotting risk from inappropriate platelet behavior;
* Slowing of atherosclerosis by improving the vessel lining (endothelium);
* Improvement of insulin sensitivity, and lowering of circulating triglyceride levels;
* Reduction of triglyceride surge after a meal (linked to heart risk).
Essential to Brain Development, Cognition and Mood
The human brain doesn't work to its full potential without omega-3s. The dynamic properties they give to cell membranes are especially necessary for our nerve cells, which are the largest and busiest cells in the body. DHA/EPA give a fluidity to cell membranes that allows for efficient conduction of the electrical stimuli and for overall high efficiency within the brain.
High brain demand for DHA/EPA begins in utero, even as the fetal brain is being mapped out. Demand rises as the brain grows exponentially in the third trimester, and it continues after birth as the baby's circuitry becomes consolidated through environmental experience. After years of scandalous neglect, omega-3s are finally in infant formulas, though breast is still best and the mother should generously endow her milk with DHA/EPA.
As the child grows and matures, the high demand continues, since DHA/EPA are necessary for learning, memory and other cognitive functions, along with mood and appropriate self-control. The brain's demand for DHA/EPA continues throughout life. Population (epidemiologic) surveys and other clinical studies indicate that adults in middle age or older who have more DHA/ EPA in their cell membranes have a lower risk not just for heart problems and stroke, but for suffering accelerated brain decline.
DHA/EPA are very effective in supporting moods. They're also good for developmental disorders and have the potential to assist autism. The intakes required for these disorders are on the order of grams per day, amounts that can only be fully obtained by taking concentrated supplements.
Cell Membrane Nutrients - Allied with Phospholipids and Antioxidants
The phospholipids that are the major cell membrane building blocks, especially PS (phosphatidylserine) and GPC (glycerophosphocholine) both have stellar records as dietary supplements supporting memory, learning, mood, and stress relief. Both these nutrients have a biochemical synergy with DHA, whereby they move these molecules into the nerve cell membrane and hold them in position to enhance membrane fluidity and related membrane dynamics. PS-DHA (from combining PS+DHA) and PC-DHA (from GPC+DHA) are key molecular components of the brain's billions of circuits. Phospholipids also hold EPA in place for it to be a precursor to messenger substances (eicosanoids).
Healthy cells have a complement of antioxidants that sit in their membranes to protect them against spontaneous disintegration. The membrane antioxidants work in natural synergy with the omega-3s in the membrane. Being especially endowed with unsaturated bonds, these fatty acids are especially prone oxidative (free radicals) destruction without the antioxidants close by to protect them. Within the active membrane milieu, DHA and EPA are in natural synergy with the membrane's antioxidants as well as its phospholipids.
The most important membrane antioxidants are vitamin E, coenzyme Q10, and the various carotenoids. Membrane antioxidants also regulate the production of messenger substances from EPA in the membrane. These eicosanoids (prostaglandins, thromboxanes, leukotrienes) are formed by controlled oxidation of EPA, a fragile process kept in favorable balance by having adequate antioxidants in the membrane.
Just as in the membrane, DHA/EPA supplement products also need membrane antioxidants close by. They're safe to store and consume as dietary supplements only when they're well protected against spontaneous oxidation. Good omega-3 supplements have generous amounts of antioxidants added in, and they are certified free of pollutants by independent lab analysis. Incidentally, the shorter chain alpha linolenic acid cannot adequately substitute for DHA/EPA.
DHA/EPA Omega-3s Have Something for Everyone
Just as every thinking family has a bottle of vitamin C around, now they will have a high-quality DHA/EPA supplement. The pregnant mother needs generous intakes to nurture her fetus. Postpartum depression has been linked to omega-3 deficiency. The newborn needs it to build and mature its organs. Older kids need omega-3s to help them function in school and avoid behavioral problems. But their parents need them also, maybe more so.
All adults should be taking DHA/EPA, not just to protect them against heart problems but to help them stay energetic, positive and balanced as they deal with the stresses of work and family. Women with menstrual or menopausal problems and men with fertility problems also stand to benefit. The grandparents need it for their joint pain, intestinal problems, and to feel good, period. There's also fast-accumulating evidence that DHA/EPA supplements help with memory. They may help for weight control, and likely lower the risk of some cancs. DHA/EPA have something important to offer everyone.
While the omega-3 DHA/EPA are undoubtedly "good fats," the omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid, arachidonic acid) are often called "bad fats." This is a fundamental misunderstanding, because they also are essential for healthy cell function. The real "bad fats" come from a diet that is very high in saturated fats and cholesterol, or especially from the hydrogenated ("trans") fats that come from processed foods. The former can make our cell membranes too rigid; the latter pollute our cell membranes. Both threaten the omega-6 to omega-3 balance which is the key functional measure. It's not the quantity of fats that we consume, but their quality that is important.
For optimal health, our cell membranes must have both omega-6s and omega-3s. To get your membrane Omega-3 Index, check out http://www.gsdl.com/home/assessments/fattyacids/ (Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory, Asheville, North Carolina).
How Much Should We Take?
DHA/EPA are practically vitamins, since we have to obtain virtually all our needed supply from our diet. They seem to work best when taken together in a 1:1 ratio. The shorter-chain alpha-linolenic acid is not a useful additive, since it is not efficiently converted to EPA and then DHA. Our diet has been losing these since the early 1900s when industrialized food processing came into vogue. Certain spreads and other foods enriched in omega-3s are now available, but caution is required to ensure that their other ingredients are helpful. For example, one heavily advertised spread carries trans fats that are defeating its stated purpose.
Currently, the typical Western diet provides 100 mg EPA+DHA per day or less. The most reliable minimum intake figure for protection of the heart and circulation is 850 mg per day of DHA+EPA. This is likely the lowest daily intake necessary for adults to maintain their health. To get this amount from the diet alone would require eating one large serving of salmon every day. The USDA's and others' recommendations that Americans consume two meals per week of oily fish-salmon, trout, or herring-would still fall short of 850 mg per day.
From the clinical-scientific knowledge base, the 850 mg daily intake from one meal every day is still at the low end of intakes needed for full benefit. Also, most salmon available in the stores is contaminated with mercury or other toxic heavy metals, or with petrochemical pollutants. Wild salmon is better, but is very hard to find and is expensive. The unavoidable alternative is to take dietary supplements rich in DHA/EPA.
Will the Codex WTO Conspiracy Take Away Omega-3s?
Codex Alimentarius is the body of government representatives and nongovernmental organizations charged by the United Nations' World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization to establish international guidelines on food law. Unfortunately, the committee handling dietary supplements has not been operating openly and through consensus. If this committee's biased recommendations are accepted by the Codex Commission, and the U.S. government accepts Codex Alimentarius, it could impose restrictive standards on the types and potencies of dietary supplements available to the American public.
Causing further concern is that the Codex Commission signed agreements with the World Trade Organization (WTO) that give WTO the right to use any Codex document as international trade standard. So, if the Codex Commission adopts the proposed restrictive guidelines, the U.S. or another country could get dragged into court for violating GATT or NAFTA Free Trade policies. Pharmaceutical interests are highly influential in the Codex process, and the omega-3s are so good they could threaten statin drugs as well as aspirin and other anti-inflammatories. So let's keep a wary eye on this Codex WTO unholy alliance.
DHA and EPA - Pioneering a Golden Age for Nutrition
The Codex conspiracy may have something to do with the dietary supplement paradigm -- a safe and affordable means for people to become healthy which can damage the toxic pharmaceutical paradigm. The "Old Order" is scared by the writing on the wall: Anything Drugs Can Do, Nutrients Can Do Better. DHA/EPA are leading the charge -- no pharmaceutical does as much. But, they are just one example of the versatility of nutrients for human health.
Society needs the freedom to consume nutrients over a wide range of dosages. Typically there's a great range of difference between intake of a nutrient to prevent deficiency symptoms, and taking higher amounts to build optimal health. Nutrients such as vitamin C, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ), and folic acid (folate) remain safe and are increasingly effective as their intakes are increased. Take vitamin C, for example -- safe and effective intakes range from less than 100 mg to more than 100,000 mg. CoQ-10 at 400 mg/day may protect against aberrant cell division in addition to helping circulation, brain and other organs. With folate, the higher our intakes the lower our risks for various health problems.
Similar to these nutrients, DHA/EPA have a broad intake range: A few hundred milligrams a day for most kids, more than 1 gram/day for healthy people and, up to 10 grams for mood disorders. Society needs to have access to these and all the other nutrients in their safe dosage forms and potencies. DHA/EPA are opening the door to a "Golden Age" for nutrition. Let's protect them, so that we and our children's children can benefit from them.
Order: Super DHA/EPA Omega 3 fatty acids Supplements
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