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David Baxter

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Something Fishy on Food Labels
October 9, 2007
New York Times Blog

Many scientists believe that omega-3 fatty acids, found mostly in fish, can prevent heart disease, so it?s no wonder these fats are being added to all kinds of products. But before you buy the latest omega-3 wonder food, check the label. Some contain a version of the nutrient that may not do you much good at all.

While numerous health claims have been made about omega-3?s, only the heart protection benefits are backed by strong evidence. And not all omega-3?s are created equal, notes the Center for Science in the Public Interest in the current issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter. The omega-3?s that count are DHA and EPA, the types present in fish and algae. You can get them by eating seafood or taking supplements.

But some foods claiming to offer omega-3?s mostly contain a form called ALA, which is naturally present in flaxseed, canola and soy. So far, ALA doesn?t have any proven health benefit, according to David Schardt, senior nutritionist at the center. Hellmann?s Mayonnaise, for instance, boasts that it?s naturally rich in ALA, but researchers disagree as to whether ALA promotes heart health (though there is some evidence that it lowers cholesterol). Of greater concern are studies showing that men who eat lots of ALA have higher rates of advanced prostate cancer. That doesn?t mean ALA poses a serious health risk, notes the center, but men shouldn?t go out of their way to eat it, either.

In any case, many products trumpeting omega-3 fatty acids contain only tiny amounts. Breyer?s adds an algae-based DHA to its Breyer?s Smart! Yogurt. A six-ounce container of Breyer?s Smart! Yogurt has just 32 milligrams of DHA ? about as much as you?d get in three-quarters of a teaspoon of salmon.

The bottom line is that eating fatty fish twice a week will bring you plenty of DHA and EPA. A six-ounce serving of farmed Atlantic salmon, for instance, contains 3,650 milligrams of these fats. If you don?t like fish or are a vegetarian, consider taking fish oil or algae oil supplements.

Admin: See also Omega medicine? Is fish oil good for what ails you? :acrobat: attached.
 

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ginkgo

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So does this mean that algae is the only plant food that contains EPA and DHA? I read that the body can change the ALA into EPA and DHA but only optimum conditions.
 

ginkgo

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From what I know, fish get their omega-3s from eating algae. Farmed fish that are not given algae to eat do not have omega-3s. I have been taking algae supplements for 20 years. :study:
 

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