A string of new scientific studies bolsters the growing body of evidence supporting the wide-ranging therapeutic benefits of Omega-3 long-chain fatty acids.
Accompanying calls from researchers advise wider use of a simple -pin-prick' -Omega-3 Index' test to provide objective, validated measurement of omega-3 proportions in the bloodstream – and accurately track whether intake is at recommended levels or flag up a deficiency.
Question: Can you share with us the most recent research surrounding omega-3?
Gerald Quigley: HEART: An analysis of 34 population studies found people consuming more omega-3 lowered their risk of developing heart disease by 18%
IMMUNE SYSTEM: A higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with better sleep quality and a decrease in depressive symptoms in people with the more severe form of the autoimmune disease, lupus (SLE)
NERVOUS SYSTEM: The anti-inflammatory and regenerative properties of omega-3s show promise in treating neuropathic pain if given following nerve injury
Another recent study of 5,000 Australians found 8 out of 10 are below target Omega-3 levels – levels over 8% are viewed as being acceptable; but Australians are more likely to test at around 5%
Question: What are the five reasons we need Omega 3's?
Gerald Quigley: Inflammation is an underlying cause of a range of acute and chronic diseases and involves the release of a number of inflammatory mediators. Oral administration of omega-3s decreases the production of these mediators.
Cardioprotective benefits as anti-inflammatory, anti-arrhythmic, anti-hypertensive, anti-thrombotic, anti-atherogenic, lowers triglycerides, improves endothelial function.
Fatty acids are major components of neuronal membranes and the myelin sheath in the rain. Essential fatty acids are there crucial for brain function and development through life.
Optimal development of visual and brain function during infancy and childhood are dependent on DHA, especially during the third trimester. Omega-3s are important in pregnancy and lactation.
Omega-3s have beneficial effects on inflammatory skin condition including eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and wound healing.
Question: Why is it important that we consume enough omega-3?
Gerald Quigley: Based on the above reasons, the shift to wellness across from the invariable illness pathway is essential.
Question: How does adequate omega-3 improve our sleep?
Gerald Quigley: Research in healthy young adults shows that omega-3 supplementation reduces anxiety and might be useful in insomnia.
Question: What foods contain omega-3?
Gerald Quigley: Cod liver oil, linseed oil, tuna, salmon, sardines, krill, cod and walnut oil.
Question: How can we ensure we're getting enough omega-3?
Gerald Quigley: The Omega-3 Index Test, a take-home finger prick test, gives an accurate reading of the essential fatty acid content of red blood cells. You have the research showing the Australian average versus the accepted levels.
Question: What is the one oil healthcare professionals recommend for everyone and why?
Gerald Quigley: Krill oil and fish oil are the two supplement sources most recommended. Dietary sources are best, but Australians have low levels of oily fish intake.
Question: How do we source Omega-3s for our bodies?
Gerald Quigley: Our bodies source omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPA & DHA) from foods such as salmon, krill, sardines, nuts and dark leafy vegetables (e.g. kale). We need omega-3 oils and also omega-6s, but too much of the latter from processed foods may accelerate inflammation with known effects on brain, joint, eye and heart health.
For people who don't eat enough foods containing omega-3s, krill oil delivers omega-3 fatty acids in a form (-phospholipid'), which is more easily absorbed than the form (-triglyceride') found in fish oil. Krill oil contains the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, which gives it its natural red colour.
Interview by Brooke Hunter