Thursday, May 20, 2010


Today I was inspired to do some research on Omega-3's which of course everyone knows as that really good fatty acid found in fish and flaxseed. I expected to find some easy information about it from really ANYWHERE, but what I found was really complicated and confusing.

From Wikipedia I found out all about the chemistry of the acid, to what their chain of carbons look like to how the chains are reformed when the acids are ingested. I was completely confused. I couldn't even find the article interesting because I couldn't frame the information around, really, anything. However the one benefit, I must have looked mad smart to the guy standing behind me on the train. "Hey-Check out that chick in the skinny jeans reading about long carbon chains. Whoa."

From a study from the University of Maryland Medical Center I got some relatively boiled down information. They told me that the acids are 'essential' because they cannot be produced in the body, so they must be obtained from food. They also recommended that I eat fish at least 2 times per week (mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna or salmon).

But The University article also told me that while Omega-3 supplements had helped in trials for virtually everything from Rheumatoid Arthritis to Schizophrenia, it also stated for every single disease listed that alternate trials had shown that Omega-3's did not help. So what the heck are we left with?

Web MD had the most boiled down information. They took a very complex topic and took it to a 3 page article (or maybe I just didn't print the whole thing...). But they did mention that Omega-3's found in fish and walnuts among others help to make the blood flow better. Whereas Omega-6's (the other type of fatty acid being talked about now that comes primarily from seeds, like grains) make the blood 'stickier' and more prone to clotting. We are in theory supposed to eat 4 parts Omega-3's to every 1 part Omega-6. Currently the typical American diet is roughly 1 part Omega-3 to 20 parts Omega-6. That's alot of grain.

But as I was reading, I realized. I am no doctor and no scientist. I don't understand the information and it is hard to frame it in every day life. I don't eat a ton of fish or walnuts. But I consider myself healthy. Am I lacking in this essential nutrient? Am I getting it from other sources I don't know about now? I do have flaxseed in the house, but i bought it six months ago--has it gone bad? And I keep forgetting to put it in things. And what about Thing 1?? He doesn't eat any of those foods, in fact I think he lives on whole wheat pretzels and apples and plain pasta. What about his health? Thing 2 is living mostly on breastmilk and I do take a supplement for DHA and EPA, but studies always show that supplements are not as effective as real food.

And to make matters worse, the jargon is so confusing. The articles talk about health, but that is something different to a 60 year old than a 25 or 30 year old. My father may be concerned about coronary heart disease, but I am concerned about looking hot. I want to be thin because I live in Manhattan and I want to take care of myself and look great. I also want to have tons of energy to play with my kids and enough spring in my step to jump out of bed in the morning and make a huge pot of oatmeal for the family. Hopefully I'll remember to add the ground flaxseed meal next time.

I realize that I really need to stop reading these things. My mission is food knowledge, not nutrient knowledge. My hope is to get to better nutrition by eating more healthful foods. And I will accept the small victories. I made the ramp and asparagus pasta tonight and Thing 1 ate not one, but TWO asparagus spears. Small victories rock.
Good Fat, Bad Fat: The Truth About Omega-3. 19 May, 2010.
Omega-3 fatty acid. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 19 May, 2010.
Omega-3 fatty acids. University of Maryland Medical Center. 19 May, 2010.


  1. Worry not, I'm sure that if your diet is lacking it is probably not nearly as bad as most of the rest of us. I do remember a study I saw on a news program where they subjects had their stats taken before and after a meal. The first time they had all their blood work and etc done to get a base line. Then they went out to TGI Friday's or something and ate the most delicious but nutritionally devoid meal possible. After the meal: retest: BP up, cholesterol up, everything was significantly worse healthwise after the meal. A week later they did it again only this time they ordered the salad, salmon and fruit for dessert. It was astounding because the people were actually healthier after they'd eaten. Lower BP, lower cholesterol, higher brain function etc. I don't remember all the data, but it was clear that eating healthy made a significant and instantaneous difference in their health.

  2. I love it! I'll have to find that article!

  3. my picky eater love asparagus too. strange since it has such a strong flavor. i am with you on the scientific reading. it can boggle the mind, and the heart as well. I just started "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan. He uses words I know. :)