Omega-3 fats help promote cardiovascular and brain health, but the key to their effectiveness is an essential fat known as eicosapentaenoic acid, more easily pronounced by its acronym, EPA.
Essential fat imbalance in the body can trigger chronic inflammation, pain and risk of chronic illness. The most common cause of this imbalance is inadequate consumption of EPA-containing omega-3 fats, coupled with overconsumption of omega-6 fats. It’s been estimated that more than 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from this fat imbalance.
EPA is produced in the bodies of wild cold-water fish and crustaceans, and to a much lesser extent, mammals including humans. For this reason, wild cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines and anchovies, are the best sources of EPA. (Farm-raised fish contain little if any EPA.)
However, most people consume too little EPA because sufficient amounts of safe, fresh, cold-water fish are not typically included in the diet. Another issue with adding freshwater and ocean fish to the diet is that these fish are increasingly contaminated by pollutants, posing toxin risks to those who eat them regularly.
Taking an EPA fish oil supplement is the most effective solution to this problem. However, choosing the right supplement is essential.
The best fish oils are:
- Made from cold-water fish.
- Molecularly distilled to minimize the amount of omega-6 oils.
- Tested to be free from heavy-metal contamination.
- Produced without oxidized oils.
When buying oil-based dietary supplements, read the labels and make sure the oil has been tested for oxidation, as well as heavy metals and other potential toxins found in the oceans.
Some people prefer taking flaxseed oil as an omega-3 supplement. But flaxseed oil does not contain EPA. Since humans are very inefficient at converting EPA from flax, it is not a first choice among EPA supplements. In addition, flax oil is extremely susceptible to oxidation when exposed to air or heat, so it is best to purchase it in capsules or refrigerate it in liquid form. Avoid refrigerating any encapsulated dietary oil supplements, as the cold environment may cause air leakage, leading to oxidation and lowered potency.