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Signs of essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency
What are omega 3 fatty acids?
Omega 3 supplements
Dosage guidelines

If you take just one supplement it would be wise to choose an omega 3 essential fatty acid - and take it for the rest of your life. Why? Because of the following potential benefits:

• Aids normal growth, health and wellbeing

• Helps develop and maintain healthy skin

• Supports heart health and circulation, reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes, lowers levels of fats in the blood and reduces the risk of   irregular heart beat.

• Helps to regulate blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension

• Helps strengthen the immune system

• Moderates the inflammatory response to illnesses

• Improves joint function and mobility

• Aids the development and function of the central nervous system

• Vital for brain growth, development and function (memory, concentration and learning)

• Supports brain and eye development in the foetus

• Helps to maintain hormone balance

Impressive isn't it? So are why are they called 'essential'? Fatty acids are contained in the membranes of every cell in the body and are critical for good health but the body cannot make them itself so essential fatty acids (EFAs) have to be obtained through diet and supplementation.

Omega 3 oils are found primarily in cold-water fatty fish such as fresh tuna, mackerel, herring and organic salmon, and linseed, flax or hemp seed oils. Because sources are so limited diet alone rarely provides enough. Many people are deficient in EFAs but particularly those who through strict dieting have cut all fats from their diet, the good and the bad.

Omega 3 is to the brain what protein is to muscles and calcium is to bones. The brain is made up of around 60% fat and omega 3 makes up around 25% of these fats, in the grey matter, cell membranes and neurons of the brain.

Signs of EFA deficiency:

• Dry skin

• Red pimples on the back of arms

• Scaly skin

• Cracked skin

• Eczema

• Poor wound healing

• Dry hair

• Dandruff

• Brittle nails

• Excessive thirst

• Irritability

• Frequent urination

• Hyperactivity

• Attention deficit disorder

• Learning problems

• Frequent colds and infections

• Allergies

• Lowered immunity

• Tiredness and weakness

If you or your children have three or more of the symptoms above you may be lacking in EFAs. Try supplementing with fish oils or a flax oil complex (see below) for at least three months and see if the symptoms improve.

What are omega 3 fatty acids?

Omega 3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fats, one of four basic types of fat that the body derives from food (cholesterol, saturated fat, and monounsaturated fat are the others.) All polyunsaturated fats, including the omega 3s, are increasingly recognized as important to human health.

Eating too many foods rich in saturated fats has been associated with the development of degenerative diseases, including heart disease and even cancer. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, however, are actually good for you. Omega 3 fats fall into this category, along with omega 6, another type of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in grains, most plant-based oils, poultry, and eggs.

Although the body needs both omega 3 and omega 6 to thrive, most people on a typical Western diet consume far more omega 6-rich foods (including cereals, whole-grain bread, baked goods, fried foods, and others) and so the ratio is out of balance for almost everyone. There are new reports, almost on a daily basis, of the health benefits associated with omega 3s. For this reason, many experts recommend consuming a better balance of these two essential fatty acids in a ratio of 5:1 omega 3 to omega 6.

Different types of omega 3 fatty acids: key omega 3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), both found primarily in oily cold-water fish. Aside from fresh seaweed and certain algae, a staple of some cultures, plant foods rarely contain EPA or DHA.

However, a third omega 3, called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is found primarily in dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oils, and certain vegetable oils. ALA is the 'parent' omega 3 fatty acid and although ALA has different effects on the body than EPA and DHA, the body can convert ALA to EPA and DHA. While the EPA produced is not as effective as the EPA derived from fish it is an important way for vegetarians and vegans to obtain the benefits of EPA. All three fatty acids are important to human health.

DIET - try to increase your intake of omega 3-rich foods from the following categories:

Marine sources - these are organic or wild salmon and other fatty, preferably cold-water fish, including herring, sardines, halibut, trout, fresh tuna, pilchards and mackerel. The recommendation is that people eat fatty fish at least twice a week. NB. Tinned tuna is not a good source.

Wild game - surprisingly, venison and wild game birds are good sources of omega 3 and make a healthier choice for people who eat meat. These meats can be purchased through mail-order sources or local butchers if your supermarket doesn't sell them.

Plant sources - the leaves and seeds of the perilla plant, widely eaten in Japan, Korea and India, are the richest plant source however canola oil, flaxseed and linseed, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables are all good sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega 3. A quarter of a cup (30g) of walnuts supplies about 2 grams of plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, slightly more than is found in 100g of salmon. To include extra omega 3 in your diet on a daily basis try adding ground flaxseeds 'FortiFlax' to cereals and salads - see Supplements below.

Omega 3 supplements:

When you consider the health benefits of omega 3 you can understand why everyone should take it as a supplement. It is important to take a good quality fish oil. All fish oil supplements available at 100% Nature have much higher and therefore more beneficial levels of EPA and DHA than most high street brands, are guaranteed to be free from contaminants such as heavy metals and PCBs or dioxins, and are exceptionally stable guaranteeing freshness and no fishy smell or aftertaste. The producers of these omega 3 supplements follow stringent safety and quality regulations to ensure this.

Scientific research has shown that DHA is vital for brain function and memory, and is particularly important during pregnancy, breastfeeding and from weaning age up to the age of five, for the initial growth and development of the brain and eyes in the foetus, babies and young children. During pregnancy the foetus uses up the mothers supply of DHA so it is vital to take a supplement that supplies good levels of DHA to both mother and baby.

It is also now widely acknowledged that EPA helps to provide all the health benefits listed at the beginning of this section. So ideally everyone should take EPA for the rest of their lives, for brain function (concentration and learning), circulation, skin, hormone balance, the immune system, the nervous system and healthy joints. EPA supplements also contain DHA.

There are also omega 3, and specifically DHA, supplements suitable for vegetarians and vegans and those people wanting the many health benefits of flax oil.

See Essential Fatty Acids and Essential Fatty Acids for Babies & Children for all these supplements.

NB. For children who are too young to swallow capsules or take oil directly try adding the oil directly onto warm or cold food such as milk or yogurt - just make sure not to heat the oil.

Suggested dosage guidelines:

Dosages of fish oil for children -

For children's capsules give as directed on the package. If you are using the Lemon Fish Oil formula for children below the age of 1 give 1ml a day; for children over the age of 1 give up to half a teaspoon a day. For children who prefer to take a liquid formula with a natural fruity taste directly from the spoon use Omega Smooth Kids or EskimoKids.

Dosage of Flax Oil Complex for children -

For children up to one year of age give 1 teaspoon a day, for children from one to five years of age give up to 1 tablespoon a day, and for children from six years and upwards give up to 2 tablespoons a day.

For specific health conditions -

The following formulas below contain these levels of EPA; MorEPA - 1 capsule contains 580mg of EPA; Lemon Fish Oil - 1 tsp contains 885mg or EPA and 590mg of DHA . For general health take one capsule or teaspoon a day. For specific or chronic health conditions double the dose.

NB. This information is in no way intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are unsure as to the suitability of any of the products or recommendations with regard to your condition please consult your doctor. If your doctor does not approve of complementary medicine it may be helpful to find one who does.

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