A diet rich in omega-3 fats may explain why middle-aged men in Japan have fewer problems with clogged arteries than similar men in the United States.
The research found that Japanese men living in Japan had twice the blood levels of omega-3 fats, and lower levels of atherosclerosis, compared to middle-aged white men or Japanese-American men living in the United States.
Atherosclerosis is the buildup of plaque inside your arteries. Over time, they can lead to serious problems like heart attacks and stroke.
Nutritional studies show that intake of omega-3 fats averages 1.3 grams per day in Japan, compared to 0.2 grams per day in the United States.
- Journal of the American College of Cardiology August 2008; 52:417-424
It’s been proven time and again that omega-3 fats are excellent for your heart health. This particular study discovered that it’s likely diet and not genes that’s responsible for the drastically lower rates of heart disease among the Japanese men living in Japan.
Men of Japanese decent living in the United States have many of the same heart issues as other Americans. Why? Because their diets have become influenced by our western culture of processed, fried and fast foods.
Is Your Body Starving for Omega-3?
Animal-based omega-3 fats, which come largely from fish and fish oils, are not eaten in abundance in the United States. What Is eaten in abundance are omega-6 fats, which come from vegetable oils like corn, soy, and canola.
The typical Western ratio of omega-6 (which come from vegetable oils like corn, soy, and canola) to omega-3 fats is 20:1. To reach optimal health, the ratio should be closer to 1:1. Because the Japanese eat so much fish (about 3 ounces a day compared to twice a week in the United States) their ratio is about 3:1.
When unhealthy omega-6 fats are dominant in your diet, as is common in the United States, this encourages the production of inflammation in your body. Since so many diseases have now been linked to chronic inflammation, this is one of the most important nutritional concerns to get right.
In fact, many scientists believe one major reason for today’s high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature aging, and some forms of cancer is this profound imbalance between your intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fats.
What’s the Best Source of Omega-3 Fats?
Most of your health benefits associated with omega-3 fats come from animal-based omega-3 fats like EPA and DHA, not plant-based omega-3 fats like ALA from flaxseed. ALA is converted into EPA and DHA in your body, but only at a very low ratio.
Even if you eat large amounts of ALA, your body can only convert very small amounts into EPA and DHA, and only when sufficient enzymes are present.
So, it’s clear, the types of omega-3 that you want to add to your diet are EPA and DHA, which are found primarily in fish and fish oil.
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- Critical Information on Fish Oil
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