Sunday, February 26, 2012

More Omegas! A Primer on Fish Oil

There are so many fish oil supplements on the market that it can be very difficult to choose just one. To help you wade through your choices, let’s take a look at some common differences.

Many of the fish oils on the market are basically generic combinations of any variety of fish that typically have 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA (the two main Essential Fatty Acids found in fish oil) per gram (typically 1 softgel). The problem with those is that most of them don’t tell you what type of fish is used (i.e. what the source of the fish oil is). This not knowing poses a problem for some people. For those that want to know the source of their fish oil, they may opt for specific options like Salmon Oil or Cod Liver Oil.

Salmon is considered one of the "cleaner" fish that typically live in cleaner waters like those around Norway (which is a common area to get Salmon Oil from). It has a different ratio of EPA to DHA where it’s normally in almost equal amounts and it can also be found as “Virgin Salmon Oil” (which uses less processing).

Cod Liver Oil is quite a different option by comparison, as it is from the Cod’s liver instead of the general body fat. One important difference here is that the Vitamin A and Vitamin D content is stored in the fish’s liver. Some people aren’t able to take the extra doses of the vitamins that come in the Cod Liver Oil if they take certain multivitamins, but some prefer the extra vitamins if they don’t get enough of those fat-soluble vitamins on a regular basis.

One nice thing about most all fish oil products on the market is that it’s basically industry standard for quality that fish oil should be molecularly distilled to remove any trace contaminants of any heavy metals. Because of that, consumers can be assured that there wouldn’t be any sufficient levels of Lead, Mercury, PCBs, or other contaminants that cause concern.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Vitamin D: Sun vs. Supplements

Vitamin D’s role in bone health is well known, but scientists continue to look at its role in boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation and supporting muscle health.  How does vitamin D work? It’s created in the "body from exposure to sunlight, traveling through the bloodstream to become a potent hormone that wakes up receptors in your intestines to start absorbing calcium." Now, research indicates that other organs and muscles are equipped with these receptors as well.

So how much do you need each day? The recommended daily allowance is 600 IU for everyone under age 70, but this is based on bone health support and assumes minimal sunlight. Many nutritionists and physicians believe that is not enough due to the recently discovered receptors mentioned above; they now recommend 1,000 to 3,000 IU per day.

What's the best way to get enough vitamin D? Sun exposure is the best source - this should be limited to 10 to 15 minutes a day to get a therapeutic dose (note that sunscreen inhibits the amount of vitamin D the body can absorb). In addition, dietary supplements can help you get the right amount of vitamin D. Choose the cholecalciferol version (D3), which is more bioavailable than ergocalciferol (D2).

Vitamin D is naturally found in some foods:
  • All varieties of mushrooms contain some vitamin D.  The types with the most vitamin D include portobello, white button and cremini.  One cup contains 380 IU of vitamin D.
  • Two egg yolks contain 80 IU of vitamin D, making this one good reason to actually eat the yolk. Egg yolks also contain lutein, choline and vitamins A and E. 
  • Fatty fish, such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, contain 400-800 IU of vitamin D in one 4-ounce piece of fish.
These foods are easy to find and fun to prepare, so incorporate them into your routine to get a natural form of the sunshine vitamin.