Omega-3 Primer

Posted on May 7, 2012 · Posted in Dry Eye, Nutrition

Omega Supreme says: "Eat an Omega 3-rich diet"

There’s been a lot of buzz about Omegas in recent years and sorry, 80’s youth, I’m not talking about Autobot tough-guy Omega Supreme from the Transformers.

Omega-3s are termed “essential fatty acids” as they are necessary for human health and development.  The “kicker” is that they need to come from outside the body because we don’t readily make them.  Where do they come from, you ask?  Fish (generally cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna, etc.), some plants, and nut oils are excellent sources.

Omega-3s play a critical role in brain function, potentially reduce systemic inflammation (which reduces risk of heart disease, cancer, arthritis), and, from an eye standpoint, greatly assist our natural tear film.

“Great! Where do I sign up?”  Unfortunately, not enough people are asking that question as studies show nearly 9 out of every 10 Americans fail to consume enough Omega-3 fatty acids.  Instead, diets rich in meat, corn oil, and carbohydrates, staples of the American diet, provide an abundance of Omega-3s’ arch-enemy: Omega-6s.

Omega-6 fatty acids aren’t all bad and some are even essential. But the issue is that there needs to be a balance (ideally 1:1) between the consumption of Omega-3 and Omega-6 because certain types of Omega-6s block the absorption of Omega-3s.  So when you hear the statistic that the typical American diet provides about 16 times more Omega-6 fatty acids than Omega-3, it should be no surprise that scientists feel this imbalance is at the core of many of our chronic health problems.  For example, examine the diet of Mediterranean countries where the consumption of grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil, and wine is higher and you’ll find lower rates of heart disease, cholesterol, and diabetes.

The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fish per week.  Ongoing research seeks to determine the optimal servings to maintain eye-specific health and improve dry eye symptoms.