Finally Understand Omega-3s

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Scott: We're talking with doctor Bill Harris today about omega-3 fatty acids. Can you talk about what omega-3s are and why are they important?

Dr. Bill Harris: Omega-3s are one of a class of two different types of fatty acids that we have to have in our diet, essential fatty acids. There's the omega-6 class and the omega-3 class. Most people are familiar with these, they're called polyunsaturated fatty acids, which is what you typically see in vegetable oils. Any liquid fat, liquid oil that you eat has polyunsaturated fats and they're either omega-6 or omega-3. Almost all that we eat in American are from plants, the oils, plant oils and they are rich in omega-6 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids are a slight difference in chemical structure. If I had a graph, I could show you but, that's ok, that's ok. The chemical structure is different but the function is much the same. But the omega-3s come from fish oils, so it's an animal oil, it's not a plant oil, it's from an animal. Yet, it's a liquid at room temperature so it's... that's because it's full of these polyunsaturated fatty acids that are omega-3s.

Why are they important for you? Partly because we, in really building cell membranes and doing all the communication, the chemical communication between cells, the omega-3s form kind of one of a... two legs... I guess you can't have a two-legged stool. But the omega-6 and the omega-3 are important in giving healthy membranes and improving a variety of conditions, particularly cardiovascular conditions are improved by the omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-6 are good too. They are healthy fats as well. It's possible to be a fan of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. It doesn't have to have a adversarial relationship between the two.

The omega-3 have kind of emerged over the last 40 years, originally from research from Danish scientists in Greenland when they were studying Eskimos. They were examining the Eskimo diet, which by our standards in the 70s was a terrible diet. Blubber, seal, whale, no 5 fruits and vegetables per day, none of that stuff. It looked awful, very high in cholesterol and fat. Yet they weren't having any heart attacks. There was some real paradox going on there. That is what led to an investigation of what's different in the blood of these Eskimos versus normal, Danish people, westerners. They found a whole lot of omega-3 fatty acids and traced it back to the food and found in the food all these omega-3s. That's where they kind of started to gt the idea that omega-3s might be protective. Since then there have been hundreds of thousands of papers written on this topic and it really is true. They have a big impact on a lot of diseases.


Dr. William Harris explains essential fatty acids and what omega-6 and omega-3s are. Find out what the benefits are of omega-3s and why they're important to overall health.

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