Cod liver oil, fish oil and Omega 3
In my opinion, other than drinking more water and eating more fresh raw green vegetables, the most important addition to the diet to fight and prevent disease and live longer is fish oil. More specifically, fish oil in the summer months and cod liver oil in the winter months when we can't spend as much time outdoors.
Experts looking at the dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids suggest that in early human history the ratio was about 1:1, however the typical American's ratio is around 20:1 to 50:1! Generally our diet contains far too much omega 6 fats. For most of us, this means greatly reducing the omega-6 fatty acids we consume and increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
I strongly recommend you avoid corn, sunflower, soy, safflower, canola, or products which contain these oils. This means no hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, no margarine, no shortening, no vegetable oil. These oils are full of omega-6 fats and will only worsen your omega 6/omega 3 ratio. You want to emphasize high quality extra virgin olive oil, organic butter, coconut oil and avocados.
You donít need to be concerned with the quantity of fat in your diet, rather you need to be concerned with the TYPE - and saturated fat is not the enemy. Saturated fats, found mostly in animal products like butter, cheese and fatty meats, are not as dangerous as you may believe. Saturated fats offer a number of health benefits and play many important roles in the body. Some vegetable oils (coconut and palm) also contain saturated fat. Coconut oil is a particularly healthy choice.
Trans-fatty acids, formed through a process called "hydrogenation", are found in processed foods and fried foods. Trans-fatty acids are much worse for you than saturated fats. Not only can they raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lower HDL (good) cholesterol, but they have also been linked to heart disease.
Benefits of the omega-3 found in cod liver oil and fish oil
Omega 3 helps prevent and fight heart disease, cancer, depression, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, ulcers, diabetes, hyperactivity and other diseases. Omega 3 increases your ability to concentrate as well as your energy level.
While a helpful form of Omega-3 can be found in flaxseed, walnuts and a few other foods, the most beneficial form of Omega-3 - containing 2 fatty acids, EPA and DHA which are essential in preventing and fighting both physical and mental illness - can be found only in fish. Unfortunately, however, I would advise you against consuming a lot of fish, whether naturally-caught or farm-raised, because fish of all varieties from any waters are now showing dangerously high levels of the highly toxic, tasteless metal, mercury.
The main difference between fish oil and cod liver oil is that cod liver oil is high in vitamin D. The cod liver oil has the advantage of providing vitamin D, which is necessary for most of us in the United States in the cold months of winter, when we don't get very much sun exposure on our skin in order to make vitamin D.
Many people get confused about the difference between fish oil liquid and cod liver oil. You can consider cod liver oil as fish oil+. The 2 are the same except that cod liver oil contains natural vitamin D and A.
I would recommend limiting your fish consumption and I suggest you consider replacing it with cod liver oil. This is NOT the cod liver oil which typically comes to mind, from many decades ago. Most cod liver oil from the past was rancid and tasted terrible because it was improperly processed. It is now easy to find flavored cod liver oil and fish oil which have a much more pleasant taste.
An additional way to increase omega 3 fats in your diet would be to use freshly ground flax seeds (just use an inexpensive coffee grinder), but I would tend to favor cod liver oil and fish oil.
Cod liver oil, fish oil and heart disease
Several studies and trials in humans have shown a favorable effect of dietary cod liver oil and fish oil on various risk factors for cardiovascular disease.(1,2,3)
Studies have shown (7) that the Greenland Inuit, when compared with the population of Denmark, has a significantly lower rate of death from acute myocardial infarction despite only small differences in blood cholesterol levels. So cholesterol is not everything.
The traditional high-fat Inuit diet provides several grams of omega-3 fatty acid (DHA and EPA) each day in the form of marine mammals (whale, seal), wildfowl (seabirds) and various fish.(7,8)
If you just listen to the 'experts', you would think that cholesterol is an evil substance and that most of us would benefit from lowering our cholesterol as low as possible. But it's not so. Cholesterol is a vitally important substance which is used for building our cell membranes and producing several of our hormones. If our cholesterol level drops too low, we are actually at increased risk for depression. (11)
Moreover, the higher fish intakes in the Japanese diet relative to that of the United States have been associated with considerably lower rates of heart attacks, other ischemic heart disease and atherosclerosis despite only moderately lower blood cholesterol levels in the Japanese.
A European study of the effect of dietary omega-3 fatty acids - such as cod liver oil and fish oil - on coronary atherosclerosis (measured with coronary angiography) in people with cardiovascular disease using a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial showed improved health from the omega 3.(9)
The study revealed that people with coronary artery disease given omega-3 (DHA and EPA) therapy (at levels of about 1.5 g/day) over a 2-year period had less progression and more regression of coronary disease, than did patients taking a placebo. Fewer cardiovascular events (fatal and non-fatal heart attacks, strokes) were noted in the omega-3 group. The omega-3 supplementation was considered safe and well tolerated.
Cod liver oil and depression
All the patients had already tried prescription drugs before enrolling in the study, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac, or drugs from an older family of drugs called tricyclic antidepressants, all of which are considered standard treatments for depression.
Previous studies have suggested that the balance of omega-3 fatty acids in the brain may be skewed in people with depression, and earlier studies have shown that cod liver oil and fish oil supplements can help alleviate the symptoms of depression and schizophrenia.
If you suffer from depression, I would also recommend you look into SAM-E which has been used for 20 years in Europe to treat depression and is very effective.
Find out how to preserve your cod liver oil, what kind of supplement to look for, on page 2.
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1. Holub BJ. Fish oils and cardiovascular disease. CMAJ 1989;141:1063. [MEDLINE]
2. Connor WE. The importance of n-3 fatty acids in health and disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71(1 Suppl):171S-5S.
3. Angerer P, von Schacky C. n-3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids and the cardiovascular system. Curr Opin Lipidol 2000;11(1):57-63. [MEDLINE]
4. Schmidt EB, Skou HA, Christensen JH, Dyerberg J. n-3 Fatty acids from fish and coronary artery disease: implications for public health. Public Health Nutr 2000;3(1):91-8. [MEDLINE]
5. von Schacky C. n-3 Fatty acids and the prevention of coronary atherosclerosis. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71(1 Suppl):224S-7S.
6. GISSI-Prevenzione Investigators. Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trial. Lancet 1999;354:447-55. [MEDLINE]
(7). Bang HO, Dyerberg J. Lipid metabolism and ischemic heart disease in Greenland Eskimos. In: Draper HH, editor. Advances in nutrition research. New York: Plenum Publishing; 1980. p. 1-22.
(8). Blanchet C, Dewailly E, Ayotte P, Bruneau S, Receveur O, Holub BJ. Contribution of selected traditional and market foods to the diet of Nunavik Inuit women. Can J Diet Pract Res 2000;61:50-9.
(9). von Schacky C, Angerer P, Kothny W, Theisen K, Mudra H. The effect of dietary omega-3 fatty acids on coronary atherosclerosis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 1999;130:554-62. [MEDLINE]
(10) Archives of General Psychiatry October 2002; 59: 913-919(11) Psychosomatic Medicine 2000;62.
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