The Best Source of Omega-3, You Might Be Surprised!

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Scott: Doctor, you talked about raising our omega-3 levels, how do we do that?  I think fish is the most common way to do that.  Can we get it through farm raised fish?  You and I live in the midwest, we're not near any oceans to get fish like that.  What's the best way to increase our omega-3 levels?

Dr. William Harris: You're right, fish is the most common way of getting omega-3 and there are certain kinds fish that have more omega-3 than others.  The kind that have, that are rich in omega-3 are salmon, makeral, herring, albacore tuna has quite a bit more omega-3 than just the regular chunck lite tuna.  Many of the popular fish in American, or sea food, I think about shrimp, has almost no omega-3.  Cod, pollack, the white fish that's been breaded and fried at McDonalds, those don't have omega-3.  It's not that the breading and frying destroys the omega-3, its just that they aren't there in the first place.  So that kind of fish is not the kind of fish to use.  Talapia is another great example of a fish that has almost no omega-3.  It's better than a hot dog, all things considered, but it's not a way to get omega-3s.

There are new ways coming along.  Of course fish oils, that's a common way people get omega-3s, and these oils come from sardines and anchovies typically that are fished off the coast of South America.  And eventually purified and encapsulated.  And there are of course hundreds of varieties of fish oils that one can get.  And that's not a bad way to go.  It's probably the easiest way to go, in American, where you're right, getting fish is difficult.  

Farmed fish versus wild fish is an issue that often comes up.  It's kind of an evolving story.  The evidence that's in published data bases is that the farmed salmon, which is where there's most of the data, has as much omega-3 as wild salmon because the producers feed the animals omega-3 in their pens.  So it's part of their diet, which is where the wild ones get it too.  So it's a matter of how much you feed them.  Because fish don't make omega-3s, any more than we do.  They have to eat it.  So it's a matter of what they're fed and salmon farmers, for years, have always been putting fish oil in the food so they get the omega-3s.  So, it was never an issue that farmed salmon didn't have omega-3s and wild did.  That's not true.  

The situations evloving now as the fish farmers are experimenting with other ways to do, to feed their fish more cheaply.  Because it's sort of like raising pigs, we know a little about that from the upper midwest.  There's a certain phase of their life span... lifestyle, lifespan, (lifestyle), a certain phase of their life where a pig is fed with a certain ration, then you finish the animal with a different kind of ration.  It works with cattle as well.  The same with fish, there's a certain part of their lifespan when they're given a diet that might not have much omega-3, but the last few months, when they're growing fast and getting ready for market, that's when they switch to the omega-3 rich diet.  So people can say, 'well they're feeding fish with vegetable oils'.  Well that's true, but that's not the way they finish them.  So I still think farmed salmon is a good source of omega-3 and certainly more affordable for most people.  I'd rather have them eat that than not eat salmon at all because they can't afford it.

Scott:  How about the supplement form, can you talk about that a little more and is that an equally good way to get omega-3s or where does that fall?

Harris: Yeah.  My fundamental bias is I'm a nutrition scientist so we always like to say eat food, get your nutrients from food.  But we've done some experiments where we compared eating salmon and albacore tuna to taking capsules.  A direct, head to head experiment to see how much omega-3 levels went up in the blood.  And it turns out they went up the same when you give them the same amount, on a weekly basis.  We two meals a week of the oily fish, and every day we get capsules, so the sum of the omega-3 over the week was the same.  And the blood levels after four months were the same.  So I think as a source of omega-3, you could do oily fish or capsules and get the same benenfit.


Dr. William Harris discusses different sources of omega-3 fatty acids. He talks about the more popular sources from food and how it may compare with omega-3 supplements. Find out which source might be better!

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