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W. Gifford-Jones, M.D.

It’s been aptly said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” For instance, most North Americans believe that when they eat fish twice weekly as recommended, or take omega-3 fish-oil supplements, that they have sufficient omega-3 essential fatty acids. But a Canadian study using the Omega-3 Index shows that ain’t so.

Essential fatty acids including omega-3 are needed for growth, healthy cellular membranes, many reactions in the body, and are crucial for brain, mood, joint and cardiovascular health. So EFAs have been called “nutritional missing links.” Two of these essential acids, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic, are key to the reduction of cellular inflammation and they can be measured in our red blood cells. Study after study show that North Americans consume less than what’s required for optimal health.

There’s evidence this deficiency is contributing to today’s illnesses. For instance, low levels of EFAs have been associated with mental disorders, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity, depression and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as rheumatoid arthritis and several other diseases.

Studies have reported that patients consuming fish oils show decreased blood triglycerides, decreased total cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, and higher good cholesterol. These patients also had fewer incidences of irregular heartbeats and reduced risk of heart attack.

Now, a Canadian study has shown a relationship between the risk of coronary heart disease and the level of omega-3 in red blood cells. The shocking news is that 97 percent of Canadians do not have omega-3 fats measuring high enough to place them in the low risk range!

So why are people lacking EFAs? It’s because of low dietary intake of fish and poor fat absorption of the fish we do eat. Compounding the problem is the fact that absorption of fish oil is low even when loading up through typical supplements. Our bodies are largely made up of water. So these essential fatty acids often pass directly through our digestive system.

To correct this problem, a Canadian company has developed a patented fish oil to help with absorption in the digestive tract. A new technology using enzymes allows this unique “pre-digested” fish oil to be better digested. Studies conducted in laboratories in Sherbrooke, Quebec, show absorption is three times greater than with other fish oils. The patented ingredient is called MaxSimil. Readers can find the reports of clinical trials online. Ask for details in natural health food stores.

The Omega-3 Index is a risk factor test for heart disease. It simply measures the amount of EPA and DHA in the blood, specifically in the red blood cell membranes. But unlike cholesterol, you do not need a doctor, as kits are available online.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Omega-3 Index can be just as important as cholesterol blood level. It advises patients whether they are in the ideal range, whether borderline, or at higher risk of sudden cardiac death. Nearly half are in the high-risk category.

Some people using fish oils complain of gastric reflux. But MaxSimil is designed to bypass several digestive processes and is less likely to cause stomach upset.

Today, heart disease is the No. 2 cause of death in Canada. It’s also worrying that 8 percent of Canadians have been diagnosed with heart disease. This increases the risk of death by three times. And men are two times more likely to suffer a heart attack than women. Reports show that U.S citizens share this same risk.

So remember, it’s often the things you know for sure that ain’t so.

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones, M.D., is a graduate of the University of Toronto and the Harvard Medical School. He trained in general surgery at the Strong Memorial Hospital, University of Rochester, Montreal General Hospital, McGill University and in gynecology at Harvard. He has also been a general practitioner, ship’s surgeon and hotel doctor. His weekly medical column is published by 70 Canadian newspapers and 12 in the U.S. He is the author of 10 books. Sign up for medical tips at docgiff.com. For comments, info@docgiff.com.

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