Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hurray for the Good Fats

by: Ashley Colombe
Downhome Magazine - March 2008

Learning about Omega-3 fatty acids, and why fish and seal oils are more important to our diet now than they were a century ago.

Take a stroll down any supermarket aisle and you will see plenty of evidence that there are “fatty acids” heralded as “essential” for good health. The amazing powers
Of the “Omega-3,” as they’re termed, are emblazoned in bright, bold letters on everything from milk cartons to yogurt containers to pet food boxes. Three decades ago, though, little was known about these nutrients that now enrich our manufactured food supply and are sold as supplements.

In the early 1970’s, scientists were determined to find out how the Inuit people of Greenland had evaded the cardiovascular problems that plagued the western world. Throughout the United States and Canada, many people were stricken with high blood pr4essure, blood clots and heart disease. Yet despite consuming a diet high in fat (mostly from fish and seal meat), the Greenland Inuit were relatively free of such afflictions. The key to their good health, scientists found, was in the effects of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are highly concentrated in marine oils.

Since this discovery, the medical community has produced thousands of studies proving their health benefits. Perhaps not surprisingly, the research shows that with the modernization of society and our tendency to eat more processed foods, the rate of diet-related disease has risen in concert with these changes.

Striking a Balance
Part of the problem is that the modern diet has created an imbalance between two types of essential fatty acids. When our ancestors consumed natural foods, Omega-6 essential fatty acids (found in vegetable oils) and Omega-3 essential fatty acids were in near-perfect balance. Since we began relaying on processed foods, however, we’ve tipped the scales drastically in favour of the Omega-6 variety.

In his book: Omega-3: The Seal Connection, Dr. Cosmas Ho explains, “The relationship of equivalence between the two Omegas is critical because they self-check each other in a delicate balance to regulate thousands of metabolic functions.” A general practitioner in Newfoundland for more than 40 years, Dr. Ho has been studying Omega-3since the early 1990’s.

He says some experts suggest that modern food trends have most people consuming Omega-6 in volumes up to 30 times the amount of Omega-3, a problem that he and thousands of other medical professionals agree is responsible for a myriad of illnesses.

“Nearly every biologic function is somehow interconnected with the delicate balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6,” Dr. Ho writes. He also explains that this shift is harming our bodies’ control of inflammation, cardiovascular health allergic reactivity, immune responses, hormone modulation, IQ and even behaviour.

Take a look at the ailments contributed to by lack of sufficient Omega-3

The Omega-3’s include Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These act to reduce inflammation, lower the risk of blood clots, promote growth and development in infants, and d support brain functions. Another essential fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA – found in high doses in flaxseeds) can be converted to EPA and DHA once ingested. (Some medical professionals warn that this conversion is not a sufficient source of Omega-3. Read more on this below.)

The Best Food Sources of Omega-3
before purchasing products that claims to be “enriched with Omega-3.” Carefully read the label. If you’re interested in consuming EPA and DHA directly, make sure these acronyms are listed in the ingredients. Many products that are fortified with OPmega-3 list ALA as an ingredient, which, says, Dr. Ho, is not the most efficient way to reap their benefits.

In his book, he states that the bodies of elderly people and individuals who aren’t completely healthy have difficulty converting ALA to EPA and DHA. Furthermore, Dr. Ho states, an overabundance of Omega-6 (which most average people have) may inhibit the conversion.

He also warns that some companies vie for our money by claiming their products are not only a great source of Omega-3, but also of Omegas 6 and 9 – a 3-for-1 deal. Sounds great doesn’t it? But Dr. Ho says offering this is ridiculous, as the body produces Omega-9 on its own and it is well documented that we already consume far too much Omega-6.

Because the body cannot produce its own Omega-3, Dr. Ho says we must consciously choose foods (or take supplements) that will replenish our supply. Below are some of the main sources of Omega-3 fatty acids to consider implementing into your diet. Before changing your diet or taking supplements, however, seeks the advice of a medical professional to determine what sources and doses of Omega-3 are right for you.

Seeds and Nuts
Whether sprinkled on toast or taken as an oil supplement, many people consume flax in an effort to boost their daily Omega-3 intake. Flax is the common source of Omega-3 in many of the fortified products sold in supermarkets. Walnuts are also high in Omega-3. If you don’t fancy eating seeds or nuts daily, both also come in the form of oil, which can be used to make healthy salad dressings.
Both flax and walnuts contain ALA, the fatty acid our bodies must convert to DHA and EPA before we can reap the benefits. Many experts argue that consuming ALA in an inferior method of increasing our Omega-3 intake. “Humans may be unable to convert enough ALA to achieve optimum levels,” notes Dr. Ho.” Nonetheless, eating foods high in ALA is better than not receiving any Omega-3 fatty acids at all.”

Some of the best sources of essential fatty acids don’t come in brightly coloured packages with “Omega-3” stamped boldly on it. Instead, suggests Dr. Ho, they are found at the fish counter. With 2.5g of EPA and DHA per 100g serving, mackerel is one of the best fish sources of Omega-3. Salmon, herring, tuna and cod also pack a powerful punch. Health Canada recommends two Food Guide servings of fish each week. Krill, shrimp-like crustaceans near the bottom of the food chain, are another potent source of Omega-3.

When researchers traveled to Greenland to uncover the secret of the Inuit population’s lack of cardiovascular problems, their regular consumption of seal meat was found to be a major factor in their remarkable health. Seal meat contains 4.5g of EPA, DHA and DPA (another healthful Omega-3 fatty acid found in large quantities only in seal meat and human breast milk.)That’s nearly double the amount of Omega-3 contained in mackerel and other fish species. And Dr. Ho believes that seal meat and seal oil are superior sources of Omega-3 for other reasons.

“Fish are cold-water animals; seal is mammal – mankind are mammals,” said Dr. Ho during a recent interview with Downhome. He pointed out that like humans, seals filter out many natural impurities found in the fish they eat. “They digest it for us and manufacture it for us.” Dr. Ho also believes seal oil is a superior source of Omega-3 due to its lack of Omega-6, which most people need to reduce dramatically. There are trace amounts of Omega-6 in seal oil, but quantities are doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in flax and fish sources of Omega-3; definitely not an efficient way to restore balance, says Dr. Ho.

His company, Newfoundland Health Foods Corp, was the first to manufacture edible seal oil capsules. And Dr. Ho has been dubbed the “father of seal oil” for his belief in its benefits.

Purchase Dr. Ho's Premium Grade Seal Oil or Marine Oil capsules directly from his website

Friday, May 1, 2009

Seal Oil Study shows more benefits

by: Everton McLean
The Evening Telegram
Sunday, June 29, 2008

If you want a healthy dish, trim the fat off your beef, chicken or pork. But leave it on your seal meat.

Or just take a seal capsule instead.
That’s the message from a Memorial University researcher who has been studying the health properties of seal oil for the past three years.

Sukhinder Cheema, an associate professor of biochemistry, says the oil, which is derived from the mammal’s blubber, has far greater health benefits than some other supplements, such as fish oil.
First off, she said, it’s low in saturated fats.
“Saturated fat is bad for you. You go to the store and everything says ‘Low in saturated fats,’” she said. Seal oil is very low in saturated fats compared to fish oil.

“Secondly, we all say olive oil is very good for you because it is high in monounsaturated fats. Seal oil is high in this also.”

She said her research has also shown that the body can use seal oil more easily than fish oil, due to its composition. Seal oil even has an extra type of Omega-3 fatty acid compared to fish oil, Cheema said.
“Seal oil contains three Omega-3 fatty acids, while fish oil only has two.”
In addition to being useful in fighting heart disease by lowering lipid levels, Omega-3 is beneficial against Alzheimer’s disease, asthma and arthritis, Cheema said. It’s also good for the eyes, and because it things blood, it can b e used to reduce the risk of blood clots.

To cap it off, seal oil also has a better shelf life, she said.

“Seal oil is also more stable and less prone to oxidation, as opposed to fish oil.”

Cheema said the new information may be useful for companies in the province that make and sell the oil. Recently, St. John’s-based Company North Atlantic Biopharma started a partnership with Chinese companies to develop a seal oil alternative to soy products.

While she outlines its health benefits, Cheema said people who are thinking about using the seal oil should consult a physician first, due to its ability to inhibit blood clotting in large doses.

Purchase Premium Grade Seal Oil Supplements from the "Father of Seal Oil" - Dr. Cosmas Ho

The science behind dietary omega-3 fatty acids

Marc E. Surette, PhD
Marc Surette is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Cellular Lipid Metabolism, Département de Chimie et Biochimie, Université de Moncton, Moncton, NB

Correspondence to: Dr. Marc Surette, Département de Chimie et Biochimie, Université de Moncton, Moncton NB E1A 3E9; fax 506 858-4541;

Omega-3 fatty acids are being increasingly promoted as important dietary components for health and disease prevention.1,2 These fatty acids are naturally enriched in fatty fish like salmon and tuna and in fish-oil supplements. An increasing number of foods that are not traditional sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as dairy and bakery products, are now being fortified with small amounts of these fatty acids.2 This recent promotion of omega-3 fatty acids has likely been driven by recommendations for omega-3 fatty acid consumption made by scientific groups such as the American Heart Association.3 The search for the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which omega-3 fatty acids affect health and disease has led to a large body of evidence which suggests that these dietary lipids modulate numerous processes, including brain and visual development, inflammatory reactions, thrombosis and carcinogenesis. An obvious question that someone unfamiliar with omega-3 fatty acids might ask is: How can these nutrients affect so many seemingly unrelated processes in different cell types and tissues? The goal of this review is not to comment on the extent to which dietary omega-3 fatty acids affect health and disease, but rather it is to give an overview of the nature of these dietary components and to present some of the mechanisms by which they may modulate cellular functions.

What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Our diet contains a complex mixture of fats and oils whose basic structural components are fatty acids. We generally consume at least 20 different types of fatty acids, which are classified as saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Fatty acids have many fates in the body, including β-oxidation for energy, storage in depot fat or incorporation into phospholipids, which form the major structural components of all cellular membranes.

Not all dietary fatty acids are created equally. Because humans do not have the enzymatic machinery required to synthesize omega-3 fatty acids, they must be obtained from the diet (termed "essential fatty acids"). Even among dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids, there are different families of compounds, and this is at the heart of the difference between omega-3 fatty acids and other dietary lipids. Omega-3 fatty acids generally account for a small fraction of the total daily consumption of fatty acids in Western societies.2,4 Fish such as tuna, trout and salmon are especially rich sources of these fatty acids. Fish-oil supplements are also a rich source, as they typically contain 30%–50% omega-3 fatty acids by weight. Small quantities of omega-3 fatty acids are naturally present in meats like beef, pork and poultry. Despite containing small quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, meats contribute to the overall intake of these fatty acids simply because of the large amounts consumed in Western societies.4

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oils are not to be confused with those from plant sources, such as flax and canola oil. These plant oils are enriched in an omega-3 fatty acid called -linolenic acid, which is a metabolic precursor of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oils (Figure 1). Although we are able to convert dietary -linolenic acid into eicosapentaenoic, docosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (which are found in fish and fish oils), this conversion is not efficient in people who consume a typical Western diet. Consequently, following the consumption of foods containing -linolenic acid, our tissues are exposed to very little of the types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oils. Some beneficial biological activity has been attributed to plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids; however, the associated health benefits are likely independent of the conversion of -linolenic acid to the fatty acids found in fish. In addition, dietary oils that are rich in -linolenic acid do not, for the most part, reproduce the biological activity associated with dietary fish oils.3 The balance of this review will address the types of omega-3 fatty acids typically found in fatty fish and fish-oil supplements.

Purchase Premium Quality Omega 3 from Dr. Cosmas Ho