Monday, January 25, 2010

And You Thought All Fat Was Bad

Fish oils, also known as omega 3 fatty acids, are polyunsaturated fats that are essential for human health. These healthy fats are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is associated with degenerative conditions including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, and dementia. Omega 3 fatty acids also offer protection against depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. The American Heart Association recommends 3000 milligrams of fish oil everyday for the prevention of heart disease. Therapeutic doses are much higher around 8300 mg of fish oil.

Good food sources of omega 3 fatty acids include flaxseed and cold water fish such as mackerel, sardines, herring, trout, and salmon. Unfortunately, due to environmental pollution, eating a lot of fish can lead to a build up of toxins in your body. A diet of two to three servings of cold water fish each week and taking a high quality fish oil supplement is the safest way to reach appropriate levels of omega 3 fatty acids. High quality fish oils are processed by molecular distillation which gets rid of the toxins in the oil. It is difficult as a consumer to know the quality of fish oil because the supplement industry is unregulated.

If you have questions about the quality of fish oil, you can call the manufacturer and ask for a certificate of analysis from a third party lab that reports levels of heavy metals, PCBs, or dioxins. As always, consult your healthcare provider when making decisions about your health.

Friday, January 22, 2010

How good are the vitamins you take?

We are in the midst of cold and flu season and it is difficult to avoid the viruses that make us sick during these chilly months. The good news is that your body came equipped with an army to fight off these viruses; it is called your immune system.

Most of you have probably heard to take vitamin C when you feel under the weather, but there are many other important vitamins that your immune system needs in order to fight off the viruses that make you sick. It is essential that you take a multivitamin, but not just any multivitamin. Not all vitamins are created equal; it depends on the form of the vitamin or the carrier molecule of the mineral.

Here are a few tricks to make sure you have a high quality multivitamin to help you get through the cold and flu season. Vitamin E can exist in natural form (d-alpha tocopherol) or a synthetic form (dl-alpha tocopherol). Look for the natural form. Calcium carbonate is found in many inexpensive supplements and is much more difficult to absorb compared to highly absorbable calcium citrate or calcium aspartate. Calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are minerals that take up a lot of space in a multivitamin and require more pills per day to get the required amounts. Multivitamins that are advertised at one to two pills per day do not have required amounts of these large minerals. It is often difficult to find high quality vitamins in stores because many are available only to health care practitioners.

Use these tricks or contact a health care practitioner in your area the next time you want to challenge a cold or flu virus.