Sources of Omega-3s

Posted on May 9, 2012 · Posted in Dry Eye, Nutrition

OK.  So you read our Omega-3 primer, you like what you read (sans the Transformer reference), and you’re ready to start making a concerted effort to up your Omega-3 intake.  There’s just one problem:  you can’t stand fish.  You know the American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish per week, but you can’t stomach the thought of eating even one.  Or maybe you are a strict vegetarian or concerned that fish might contain mercury or other toxins.

Tuna everywhere sigh a collective “Phew!”

Hey,  that’s just fine with Charlie from StarKist.  (Incidentally, who knew that Charlie wore glasses?  And does he only wear them and his hat when on land?  And why is he promoting the consumption of his own kind?)  The Gorton’s fisherman might have an argument to make, but the truth is that there are plenty of options out there for people to increase their Omega-3 consumption without eating fish:

  • Oils
    • Flaxseed, canola, and soybean oils
  • Nuts, Seeds & Grains
    • Flaxseed, walnuts, oats, wheat
  • Legumes
    • Kidney, pinto & soy beans, leeks
  • Vegetables
    • Spinach, squash, broccoli, cauliflower
  • Raw Fruits
    • Avacados, raspberries, strawberries

Supplements are also available.  Fish oil capsules are extremely popular and can help prevent or reduce the symptoms of dry eye.  In fact, a recent study (2011) out of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center demonstrated up to a 54% increase in tear flow rate in patients who received a daily dose of fish and flaxseed oils.

It should be noted, however, that not all Omega-3 fats are equivalent.  Omega-3 fatty acids can be broken down into two broad categories: short-chain or long-chain.  The Omega-3s found in flaxseed and nuts are short-chain Omega-3s which require much higher doses to equal the longer-chains found in fish.  Big deal, right?  Just eat more?  The problem is that our bodies only convert about six percent of the small-chain fatty acids to the useful longer-chains.

In the end, Omega-3 fatty acids are critical, but how we are supplying them to ourselves is nearly as important.  Enter the health care provider.  One should not start an Omega-3 program or supplement without a discussion with their primary care physician or eye doctor as fish oils consumed in high amounts can decrease blood clotting and, over longer periods, lead to vitamin E deficiency.