The hot topic in healthcare right now is how to reduce inflammation.
Radical changes to the American environment and lifestyle over the last century, including physical activity, our environment, how we obtain our food, and levels of stress and anxiety have all combined to create an unprecedented rise in a number of chronic health conditions that all have a strong inflammatory component.
Unlike acute inflammatory conditions, which are parts of the healing process, following injuries such as a soft-tissue injury or bone break, chronic inflammation can actually aggravate conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiac disease.1
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), approximately half of all American adults had one or more chronic health conditions in 2012, which added up to 117 million people. Furthermore, one of four adults had two or more chronic health conditions.2 In 2010, seven of the top 10 causes of death in 2010 were due to chronic diseases with inflammatory components. Two of these chronic diseases, heart disease and cancer, accounted for almost half of all deaths just in that year.3
Obviously, inflammation plays a large role in our current chronic disease epidemic. A high-inflammation diet loaded in salt, refined sugar, and fat has played a huge role in this constant inflammatory state in which our bodies currently reside. How can we improve this current inflammatory condition through both diet and supplements? Interesting research into omega 3s may offer some clues in the right direction.
What are omega 3s, and why do they matter?
Omega 3s are what are known as essential fatty acids. They work to reduce the type of chronic inflammation that is often found in conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Unfortunately, the human body does not naturally produce omega 3s, so these essential fatty acids must come from either food or supplement sources.
The most common food source for omega-3s is fatty fish such as salmon, herring, or mackerel. This type of fish contains long-chain eicosapentaenoic acids (EPAs) and docosahexaenoic acids (DHAs), which are particularly good at suppressing chronic inflammation. A 2012 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that elderly Chinese women who consumed three ounces of fatty fish, five times a week for eight weeks, reduced their risk for cardiovascular disease.4,5
Chia seeds, walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseed oil contain the short-chain omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is not considered quite as effective at reducing inflammation as either EPA or DHA and requires eating greater quantities of food containing ALAs.4
Patients who are either allergic to fish or keep to a vegetarian or vegan diet may find that supplements provide them with a better source of omega-3s than nonfish foods. Various studies have shown the benefits of omega-3 supplements, in doses ranging from 2 grams to 4 grams per day for various lengths of time, ranging from six weeks to six months, depending upon the particular inflammatory condition being treated.4
American life has undergone tremendous changes over the last century. Although part of these changes has brought us unprecedented technological advances, it has also had a detrimental effect on our overall general health. Fortunately, adding omega 3s into our diets, whether through supplements or natural food sources, can help offset some of these effects due to chronic inflammation.
- Egger G. In search of a germ theory equivalent for chronic disease. Preventing Chronic Disease 2012, 9:110301.
- Ward BW, Schiller JS, Goodman RA. Multiple chronic conditions among US adults: A 2012 update. Preventing Chronic Disease 2014, 11:130389.
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Death and mortality. NCHS FastStats. Accessed Jan. 11, 2017.
- Franz M. Nutrition, inflammation, and disease. Today’s Dietician 2014, 16(2):44.
- Zhang J, Wang C, Li L, et al. Dietary inclusion of salmon, herring and pompano as oily fish reduces CVD risk markers in dyslipidaemic middle-aged and elderly Chinese women. British Journal of Nutrition 2012 Oct. 28,108(8):1455-1465.