To Fish or Not To Fish

by jenna on June 5, 2010

Like I said before, the views I’m expressing are totally mine alone. I’ll admit to the fact that I’ve been pretty oblivious about omega-3′s. I mean, I eat fish and love it…especially salmon. Because of this, I figured I was getting enough fatty acids but really had no idea what the current recommendations by the AHA even were. I’m actually sort of embarrassed by the fact that I write about health and fitness but, like the majority of Americans, I don’t really know my stats.

What I have realized today is that even though I do eat fish, I don’t eat fish enough to get the recommended amount of omega-3. The American Heart Association says we should be eating fish twice a week to get the minimum amount to benefit our bodies and the more I think about it…..I don’t do that. I eat the occasional salmon burger and when I have extra cash I spring for smoked salmon from Whole Foods but that’s probably only once every few weeks…if that.

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It then hit me that I am part of the average American statistic that only 1 in 10 eat enough fish to supply themselves with the proper amount of omega-3.

The idea never occurred to me to actually take fish oil. To be honest, fish oil just never seemed sustainable to me and has always sounded totally gross. I mean…it’s fish and it’s oil. I like fish when its grilled or seared and sprinkled with sesame seeds and beurre blanc. I don’t like liquid fish.

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The product I’m learning about, New Harvest, brings us the first ever totally 100% vegetarian omega-3 oil. This oil contains EPA, which is one of the omega-3 fatty acids.

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There are three, by the way, of these fatty acids. You’ve got DHA, EPA and ALA.

Repeat after me: DHA EPA ALA.

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Good job.

DHA and EPA are pretty much are the same thing and are both found in fatty fish. These fatty acids are associated with the reduced risk of cardiac death, which is the leading cause of death in Americans today.

ALA is that fatty acid that is found in flaxseeds, walnuts and canola oil but is converted very poorly to DHA and EPA in the body. Vegetarians think they are getting their omega-3 by consuming flaxseed oil but really it’s not working out as well as they think because its not being converted properly in their body.

New studies have shown that even though their fatty acid chains appear to be the same, EPA is actually better for us than DHA. In a 6 week clinical study, DHA actually raised LDL levels (the BAD cholesterol). Not cool.

New Harvest provides us with EPA….not DHA. No fishy smell, no fishy burps and no worries about fishy sustainability. All you get is a healthy hearty and an “improved emotional state”. I have to admit, I’m most curious about the emotional state. We could all use a little more of that in our lives, no?

Maybe its just me. I should be a nicer person, I know.

Off to go cook lunch here.….photos to come!

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{ 69 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica @ How Sweet It Is June 5, 2010 at 8:24 am

I find it hard to believe that it really would improve someone’s emotional state, but if so, that is fabulous!

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Elizabeth June 5, 2010 at 12:07 pm

actually, the research on omega-3s and mental health is very impressive. I work as an RD in a psych facility, so I’ve been reading up on it. Definitely been shown to help prevent depression, even schizophrenia in some cases. It’s not something where one day you’ll feel happier because you took your fish oil, but population studies show that a higher omega-3 intake is related to improved mental health.

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Rachel @ Suburban Yogini June 7, 2010 at 4:45 am

My other half is a walking example of how higher omega-3 has helped depression :)

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Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine June 5, 2010 at 8:25 am

Ahh you’re going to love La Cucina and the Reading Terminal Market…total foodie heaven!! They have an amazing crepe station :) I’m intrigued by the fish oil, I don’t like to eat too much (even though I love it) because of the mercury, so this sounds like a good alternative!! Hope you enjoy the rest of your day!

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Cynthia (It All Changes) June 5, 2010 at 8:26 am

I’ve been taking fish oil supplements for years because it really does help with your emotional state. I have Bipolar Disorder and it helps keep my moods more even. I’m really interested in this new product because my fish oil is the only thing that is non-vegetarian I still take/eat.

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Freya @ Brit Chick Runs June 5, 2010 at 8:26 am

That stuff sounds really good – do you know if they sell it overseas?

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Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks June 5, 2010 at 8:30 am

Wow, so interesting! I’d love to get my hands on some of these fish-free supplements – I hate the aftertaste of fish oil supplements. Soo gross.

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Carrie (Love Healthy Living) June 5, 2010 at 8:32 am

Interesting, did not know that about DHA. Keep the facts coming!!!

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Maria @ A Healthier Maria June 5, 2010 at 8:33 am

This is a great post. I guess I am like you & kind of assumed I was getting enough (from flax, mostly) without knowing too much about it! Thanks for the information… I look forward to learning more :)

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Michelle June 5, 2010 at 8:36 am

Thanks for the mini-lesson :) You learn something new every day, I guess. I didn’t know about the oil in flaxseeds not being easily converted in our bodies. Interesting stuff.

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Lori June 5, 2010 at 8:39 am

There are many many different BRANDS of fish oils. Not one is created equally. I myself cannot handle the nausea that occurs when I take fish oils. Fish oils are good…..but simply not necessay in everyones’ diet.

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Diana June 5, 2010 at 8:40 am

Wow, I’m learning so much today. Thank you so much for sharing! :)

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Tammy (Defining Wellness) June 5, 2010 at 8:53 am

Do you know if this supplement is safe for pregnant women and/or women trying to get pregnant?

Very interesting! I knew all about ALA, EPA and DHA, but the info about EPA being better for us to DHA is new to me. It sounds like New Harvest really did its research. I’m currently taking fish oil pills every day (and yes, I do think it improves my mood!) and I’d be interested in switching.

La Cucina at the Market looks awesome! Carter & I love cooking classes. You’re going to love Reading Terminal Market.

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Brianne June 6, 2010 at 5:06 am

Absolutely take fish oil when pregnant! It is soooo important for brain health.

(To everybody) However I defiantly do not buy that we do not need DHA. Fish has DHA and EPA naturally for a reason. I work at a health food store- take everything a company rep says with a grain of salt and do your own research- they are trying to sell the product to you so of course they make it sound good…

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/fish-oil-health-benefits/

http://www.westonaprice.org/cod-liver-oil/238.html

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Camille June 5, 2010 at 8:57 am

Thanks for all the info!
I always hear how great fish oil is for you, but I never really knew what to make of it!

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Kristin (Salty Tooth) June 5, 2010 at 8:57 am

Fish oil always sounds scary. I’m worried that it’s going to taste fishy…but perhaps will need to add it to my diet.

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Tammy (Defining Wellness) June 5, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Kristin, I was worried about that, too! But I take it every day, gulp it down with water, and don’t taste a thing. :) Thank goodness.

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Julie June 7, 2010 at 12:39 am

The one I take tastes, surprisingly, a little like coconut. I think they must use coconut to make the gel casing or something.

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Corinne (breathe and savor) June 8, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I take Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega and there is NO weird fishy taste! Google nordic naturals and you will find so much great info on the company’s products! I researched the diff. fish oils a lot before I found one I felt confident taking, let me know if you need anything :)

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Anita June 5, 2010 at 9:37 am

There is an excellent article in the May/June issue of Eating Well magazine about this topic. Joe Hibblen, M.D. of the United States Public Health Service has been researching the relationship between our consumption of Omega 3 (decreasing) and Omega 6 (increasing and found in a lot of processed foods) and the rising incidence of depression and other mental health conditions. He does a good job of explaining how it effects the brain. Very interesting stuff, check it out if you can.

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Meghan@traveleatlove June 5, 2010 at 9:42 am

Interesting, I am always interested in a little emotional boost. I tried fish oil once, and it was VILE!

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Lynna June 5, 2010 at 10:05 am

I’ve been listening to some “Nurtrition Diva” podcasts lately and they’re pretty interesting. One of them was about Omega-3′s and pointed out a lot of the things you said about ALA not always being converted. It also talked about the importance of balancing your Omega-3′s and Omega-6′s. Here’s a link to the article and audio if you’re interested (http://nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com/fish-oil-and-omega-3-fats.aspx).

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Kath June 5, 2010 at 10:12 am

SARDINESSSSSSSS!!!!!! Twice a week!!

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Tara June 5, 2010 at 10:14 am

Thanks for posting about this, I’ve been looking for a veg omega 3 supplement. I tried the Deva omega 3 from algae but it just tasted way too fishy/ocean-y, more so than actual fish oil ever did.

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SallyH @ acountablelife.wordpress.com June 5, 2010 at 10:16 am

I wonder how much supplementing flax and chia does to help us get our stats?

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Lisa June 5, 2010 at 10:25 am

There have been numerous studies done comparing vegetarian omega-3 sources with fish based sources. The reality is that vegetarian sources are not absorbed well by the body–to the point where the benefit of supplementation is negligible. I’d much prefer a vegetarian supplement, but as far as omega-3 is concerned, it’s a waste of money. Rememeber that you got your information from a company which is interested in selling you a product. It’s not necessarily great or totally accurate information on the whole issue!

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eatmovelove June 5, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Excellent point. Even if it alot of it is correct, ALWAYS be cautious when the info comes from the company…it’s the same when alot of the studies on calcium assisting with weight loss came out – they were done by Milk companies…

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Karen June 6, 2010 at 4:37 am

My understanding of the research corraborates with yours, Lisa. As such, I have conceded to taking two fish oil capsules each day, for optimal heart and emotional health, despite being a long-time (30+ year!) vegetarian. Perhaps the company is touting one isolated (flawed? company sponsored?) study. There is a wealth of evidence that vegetarian sources of Omega-3 (EPA) are not readily absorbable/use-able by the body. Hence, many of the most respected M.D.’s and heart-health experts recommend eating fish 2 -3 times per week or taking fish oil capsules daily. Jenna – perhaps you should have conducted your own independent research on this very well-documented topic prior to promoting this product to your readers. Your credibility is becoming strained.

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Karen June 6, 2010 at 5:58 am

*Correction: ALA (not EPA)

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Karen June 6, 2010 at 6:03 am

*Correction: Veg. source of Omega-3 = ALA (vs. EPA)

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jenny June 5, 2010 at 10:26 am

This is actually very helpful. As a vegetarian I know I don’t get enough!

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Anne @ Food Loving Polar Beara June 5, 2010 at 10:31 am

I should be eating a lot of fatty fish because of my cholesterol and on top of that my doctor recommended me to take supplements too.

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Helen June 5, 2010 at 10:33 am

I really don’t get enough fish / omega 3 either, I eat it less than you! This supplement looks fab though for helping us all get more omega into our diet. It must be so interesting to learn about it first hand from the experts.

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Marissa June 5, 2010 at 10:35 am

I took fish oil for a while, and loved how I felt while on it, but had to stop taking it as it began making my hair fall out. Give it a shot, it may work for you!

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Kait June 5, 2010 at 11:20 am

I, like you, always assumed I was eating enough fish and getting enough omega-3′s as well. I see now I should probably supplement that, thanks for the post!

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Cyclist Kate June 5, 2010 at 12:03 pm

This isn’t intended to sound snarky at all, but did most of this information come from this specific company? The first bit that made me pause about this information is that this company is not the first to create a vegetarian omega-3 supplement; Udo’s has been doing it for years. There are also several companies that use algae to create a vegetarian omega-3 supplement. This might be a small qualm, but when a company blatantly misrepresents itself, it makes me wonder what else they’re misrepresenting.

You’re totally right, though, that most of us need to supplement a bit in this area! Thanks for sharing the info.

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jenna June 5, 2010 at 12:12 pm

All that information came from Jenna Bell, PhD and RD. She does not work for New Harvest.

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Paige June 6, 2010 at 4:36 am

Just to clarify, as others have, Dr. Bell IS employed by New Harvest and most likely is either unaware or purposefully misconstruing the “first ever vegetarian omega-3 pill” claim. Perhaps the concentration levels or amounts of EPA are different but there are other vegetarian options available to supplement omega-3 in your diet. Having said that, I think it’s wonderful that people like Jenna are raising awareness about omega-3 deficiencies. I only hope that, likewise, it’s made clear any “factual” information purported as such is better researched.

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Lisa June 5, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I agree Cyclist Kate! Jenna Bell DOES work for New Harvest btw. (http://newharvest.com/New_Harvest/ub_US/about/meet_our_expert.html).

It’s frustrating that so many blogs have just become advertisements for various companies. I love reading ELR (!) and just find it unfortunate that it’s beginning to sound like an commercial soundbite. Sorry, Jenna. :-(

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Katie June 5, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I agree, but Jenna has to make a living somehow– it is a fine line to have to walk. Personally, I don’t envy it.

On the oil supplement convo:
I am a pretty regular fish eater, but I did add oil supplements a few years ago. I stopped conditioning my hair after awhile on the oils. Buuuuut I didn’t really like how greasy they made me feel, so I stopped taking them. I think it is pretty easy to do a good job with Omega 3s in diet, and not in supplement.

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Tammy (Defining Wellness) June 5, 2010 at 2:42 pm

As a fellow blogger, I have to say that some of us tend to be pretty enthusiastic people — it’s part of our nature & one reason why I love Jenna’s blog. Personally, if I don’t like something, I will either be honest or not post at all. I think Jenna does a great job of pointing out the pros and cons and keeping an open mind!

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Cyclist Kate June 5, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Yep! That’s why I wanted to clarify that I didn’t intend that to be snarky. I check Jenna’s blog several times a day and have for a couple of years and have no intention to change that–obviously she’s got something going on! At the same time, I see blogs as a great opportunity to bring new information up, critique it, discuss it, etc. I would hope that’s okay.

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Heather Rose June 5, 2010 at 12:16 pm

That was really good information…I’ll admit I know I definitely do not eat enough fish to get the recommended amounts, so maybe it’s time to research and look into taking a supplement.

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Marina June 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I would love to eat more oily fish, like salmon, but it’s too expensive :(

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Amy June 5, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Very interesting. I’m horrible with taking supplements and want to include more in my diet. As a vegetarian, I just avoid the fish oils, but I’m excited to learn of a vegetarian equivalent.

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jessica June 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Just out of curiosity, do you know why New Harvest invited bloggers that eat fish/meat and not vegetarian bloggers? As a person who is not a vegetarian and eat fish, I’m not that interested in a product that is vegetarian when I can just eat fish and supplement it with fish oil from the real source and I would think thats what most of the non-vegetarian bloggers would be thinking also.

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jenna June 5, 2010 at 1:25 pm

There’s actually a few veggie bloggers in the group.

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Erin June 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm

My guess would be the readership numbers of the bloggers in attendance. Gotta get the product in front of as many readers as possible to make the cost of the weekend a worthwhile investment.

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jessica June 5, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Yes, I totally understand that but I think it would have been more beneficial for the company to invite more vegetarian bloggers who can’t get the omega-3s in “real food” form as us fish eaters can. I don’t think it makes sense for non-vegetarian bloggers to be taking a vegetarian supplement when they can eat the real food.

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Joelle (The Pancake Girl)) June 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm

So my dad used to take those fish oil supplements, but he eventually stopped because they made him smell sorta funky.. does that always happen or could it have just been a fluke? Haha not sure if they mentioned that at all in your sessions..

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Cyclist Kate June 5, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I’ve heard that some brands can have this effect on people–I think it depends on the brand and maybe on the quality of the fish oil?

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Staceyhttp://stacey-healthylife.blogspot.com/ June 5, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I have been eating salmon once or twice a week for the last few months. I’m really trying to work on increasing my omega 3′s.

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sally June 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Looks like someone’s been drinking the Kool Aid ;) Hope ya’ll are having a blast either way.

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M. June 5, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I really like Jenna and Tina, etc etc blogs.
I am not a fan of these type of “advertisements” on blogs by companies though(I felt the same way with Kath’s Lipton sponsored tour/trip and with Tina’s Eggland venture etc etc)

It just seems like the companies are getting blatant advertising and I know the bloggers let us know what they do and don’t like,etc but upon reading Jenna and Tina’s blog about this product I did feel like I was reading a big commercial.

I understand one needs to make a living,it’s just tricky because some of us really don’t want to be presented any more advertising no matter how subtle in our lives.

That is just my two cents. I am a big fan of these bloggers and enjoy their writings(except for product placements/samples) and hope they all understand this point of view.I wish them nothing but the best.It’s just the companies that make me feel uneasy and taken advantage of that they have invaded the blogger world.

Anyways all the best in life and love to the blogger girls (and please do not take this critique as a personal affront-you all rock!)

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Daisy June 5, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Seems like there is a bot of controversy on the subject matter! either way, you did a great job presenting the statistics. I looooveee fish. all kinds. I am trying to think if I ate fish twice this week…so this might sound like a dumb question but does shellfish count or is it only fish fish?! Thanks!!

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Daisy June 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm

*Bit of controversy :)

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Aviva June 5, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I’ve been a reader for a while (love your blog, especially the photos!), and this post really caught my eye. I actually work for a researcher who is investigating whether fish oil is efficacious as a treatment for depression, so I have a fair deal of knowledge on the subject. Most research indicates that a combination of EPA and DHA is best, both nutritionally and for treating psychiatric illness. Also, some companies make flavored fish oil capsules that help eliminate the fishy taste/smell.

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Jaya June 5, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I have been a fish oil fan for years now and though I would love to eat more real fish, it’s tough to find sustainable and local fish, since I live right smack dab in the prairies, so we run into the usual issue – privileging nutrient-oriented views of eating vs. eating sustainably. I guess we just have to do our best!

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Taysa (Water, Butter and Wine) June 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm

I have to say that I am also a little wary of this. I want to believe that I can get my daily nutritional needs through real food without having to buy yet one more expensive supplement. I’m always wary of studies that companies show to help support their product and I can’t help but wonder, who funded the research? Have other studies been done to conflict the findings? I’d just rather have the information coming from a neutral source.

Either way, the discussion has prompted me to think about my own omega-3 intake and whether or not I’m getting enough. I just hope to find a suitable solution that doesn’t come from a bottle.

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Cyclist Kate June 5, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Excellent point–I think it’s really valuable to question the funding for studies, as food companies often have a ton of influence on studies and what is/isn’t published.

It’s my impression that the research has pretty unanimously shown that Americans (and probably other first world eaters) have a pretty significant imbalance of omegas in their diet. Omega-3′s are not shelf stable and foods are processed to remove the Omega-3′s, often while keeping or increasing the Omega-6′s, which are shelf stable. Animals fed primarily on corn also tend to have higher levels of Omega-6 than do animals fed on grass and more traditional diets (which is part of the reason that buffalo meat is healthier than most cow meat). Because Omega-6′s are inflammatory and Omega-3′s are anti-inflammatory, this imbalance can have pretty serious implications re: disease, as many “western” diseases are diseases of inflammation, such as heart disease.

Bottom line is that the most important thing is having a healthy balance of fats in the diet. Since so many people eat way too many Omega-6′s and not enough Omega-3′s, taking a supplement that is predominantly Omega-3 may help even things out.

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Jenn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) June 5, 2010 at 8:36 pm

I hope I’m getting enough omega-3′s in my diet. I eat fish, especially salmon and tuna at least 4 or 5 times a week. I just love it! :) Every little bit can help, though.

Jenn

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Doc June 5, 2010 at 8:43 pm

I’m all about eating fish (yummmmm!), but please consider that you have an above-average diet with a considerable amount of input from plants and grains and low in the meat dept. The research I’ve seen indicates that it’s not so much eating MORE omega-3′s as much as evening out the ratio of omega-6′s to omega-3′s. Processed foods are artificially inflated with omega-6′s, and your diet probably has a low ratio of omega-3′s by percentage. That ratio gets skewed and that seems to be more the problem than overall fat intake of omega-3′s. Look into it and take everything a sponsored program has to say with a grain of salt. I mean, they are benefitting from your participation in their program, right?

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Lani June 5, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Hey Jenna, first time posting here but I’ve followed you for a while. There is an AMAZING fish oil calculator at the Whole9 website (http://whole9life.com/fish-oil/) because its not just that people dont get enough, its that people who do sports and high intensity activities need MORE then the reccomended dosage. Sine I upped my intake above the reccomended I’ve felt a lot better before, during and after workouts and my recovery from things is so much better.
Hope the site helps!

Lani (australia)

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Robyn @ Frugal 'n' Fit! June 6, 2010 at 4:42 am

I currently take a fish oil supplement because I want the DHA for my fetus (and, well, for me too!). I’m a vegetarian and it was a tough choice to make. If a product like New Harvest was readily available to me, I would definitely take it over the fish oil. I hope it catches on!

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Jaime June 6, 2010 at 11:32 am

I take Omega Three fish oil tablets and love them! I am much more alert for a whole, rather harried, working day. I stopped taking them for a little while and I could really feel the difference.

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Annie D. @ Annie's Simple Life June 6, 2010 at 4:30 pm

hmmm… Interesting! We’re even going off of fish, so we may have to check into this!!

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Mastering Public Health June 6, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Interesting; I had always read that DHA was superior to EPA. I currently use Spectrum brand Norwegian Cod Liver Oil capsules but am almost out. I’ll have to delve deeper into this before my next purchase.

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Kristen June 7, 2010 at 6:03 am

Thanks so much for the 411 on the vegetarian fish oil!! It is sold at GNC (at least where I live) and I’ll be going to pick some up today at lunch. There are so many wonderful things about fish oil, but I cannot handle the indigestion I get from it (ew).
Love your blog! :)

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kathryn June 7, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Hi Jenna and Eat Live Run Readers- This is such a great discussion about Omega-3s and New Harvest. I’m so glad that you guys are sharing your thoughts and opinions, I just wanted to take a moment to clarify a few things.

Jenna- You mentioned that EPA and DHA are pretty much the same thing…which isn’t quite right. EPA and DHA are both long chain fatty acids and have important benefits, but have different chemical structures. EPA is often associated with heart health and positive moods, while DHA is most often associated with infant brain development which is why it is recommended during pregnancy and is often found in infant formula.

Lisa and Karen- New Harvest gives you EPA in a natural triglyceride form which is the natural form found in food. This means that it is a very effective way to get EPA. Other vegetarian supplements like flax seed oil provide ALA which you correctly pointed out, is not easily converted into EPA or DHA.

Cyclist Kate, Page and Lisa- You are definitely right to investigate where your information comes from. The study that Jenna referenced was done by New Harvest, but is pending publication by peer-reviewed journals. Also, there are many other vegetarian supplements on the market. New Harvest is the first 100% vegetarian EPA Omega-3 Supplement.

Sorry for the long comment, but I hope this information is helpful in answering some of your questions. Thanks so much for the engaging discussion!

Kathryn from New Harvest

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