Let’s first start with some basic facts about dietary fats and how our bodies use them. Dietary fats come in two forms—saturated and unsaturated fats. Unsaturated fats include essential fatty acids (EFA’s), which are considered polyunsaturated fats. They are termed “essential” because the human body cannot make them and must acquire them through the diet. There are three forms of EFA’s: Omega 3, 6, & 9. Omega 3’s typically come from cold‐water fish like salmon, sardines, anchovies, tuna, mackerel, cod and herring. Omega 6’s are found in vegetable oils like soybean, palm, and sunflower, as well as nuts and cereals. Omega 9’s are found in nuts like almonds and walnuts. As little as 50 years ago the American diet was fairly balanced between 6’s and 3’s with consumption ratio of almost 1 to 1. Over the last 50 years however, that ratio has significantly changed with omega 6’s dominating almost 16 to 1. Interestingly, we have also seen a tremendous increase in general inflammatory diseases including most forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease and auto‐immune disease. Omega 6’s are processed by the body and are turned into compounds like prostaglandins, arachadonic acid and leukotrienes—all which create inflammation in the body.
Omega 3’s produce anti‐inflammatory agents, as well as act as blood thinners and have been shown to have tremendous health benefits in terms of reducing inflammatory cardiovascular disease, stabilizing hormone levels, decreasing triglycerides, improving mood, and even decreasing many risk factors for dementia, diabetes, hypertension, and auto‐immune disease. Additionally, a balanced increase in EFA’s intake has been shown to be beneficial for the health of skin, hair, nails, and overall digestive function. Ideally, we would all consume 2‐4 servings of fish per week but once again, the American diet doesn’t really allow for that. Thus, most individuals need to take omega 3 supplements to re‐establish their EFA balance.
However, not all omega‐3 supplements (O‐3’s) are created equal. All O‐3 supplements are created from the body oils of small fish like sardines, anchovies, and herring. Utilizing these smaller fish has eliminated any concerns about mercury buildup in the fish higher in the food chain that was once commonplace. The extracted body oils are then purified by distilling them. This leaves the O‐3 in what is known as the ester ethyl form. Creating O‐3 in ester ethyl form is a relatively simple process and is where most of the over the counter, grocery store products stop. These forms are not easily absorbed nor utilized and can be associated with unwanted “social” gastrointestinal side effects.
Higher quality forms of O‐3s undergo another step, converting them into a form that the body can more easily absorb: compounds called DHA (called brain food because it protects the health and function of nervous tissue) and EPA (anti-inflammatory). Scientific studies have been mixed on what is the optimal dosages of EPA and DHA are but most agree that is it is at least 300 mg of combined EPA and DHA. That leaves you, the consumer, with two choices: Take approximately 2 grams of higher quality, O‐3, which costs more but allows you to take a lower dosage and avoid many of the gastrointestinal side effects, or take a significantly greater quantity of the O‐3 in ester form (5‐6 grams). When you compare the efficacy vs. the price of the two options the higher quality fish oil actually ends up being less expensive. In terms of specific eye health, the DHA and EPA by‐products of the omega‐3’s have been studied extensively in the prevention and even treatment of dry eye disease and age related macular degeneration. Interestingly, increased percentage of intake of omega‐6’s in relation to omega‐3’s has been shown to have a direct relationship with macular degeneration as well as progression of dry eye disease, ocular allergies, and other forms of ocular inflammatory disease.
Omega 3’s are the natural remedies used to decrease many ocular degenerative problems and ocular inflammatory conditions our patients may experience. The nutriceauticals our office provides include Nordic Naturals’ Pro Omega D and Pro DHA Eye. The Nordic Naturals vitamins are considered superior to other omega supplements. The oils used “surpass strict international standards for proven purity and freshness.” Their special triglyceride form gives you up to 70% better absorption than other omega supplements on the market, which means you can take a lesser does than the OTC version at most stores. Adding to the quality of the oil, all the fish used is wild caught and is lab tested for heavy metals, dioxins, and PCBs. Below we have the quantity comparison of Nordic Naturals versus other omega supplements available at various places.