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Dr. Mark Kestner: Should you be taking Omega-3 supplements?

By Published On: May 15, 20244.6 min readViews: 660 Comments on Dr. Mark Kestner: Should you be taking Omega-3 supplements?
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It seems we are constantly urged to take more dietary supplements. Supplements are controversial in many ways. Last week this column contained a warning about the concerns of mislabeling when applied to dietary supplements. 

Some health professionals continue to maintain that vitamins, minerals and supplements are wholly unnecessary, assuming you eat a healthy diet. “All those vitamins just make expensive urine,” one physician once told me.

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Because he was a friend and neighbor, I countered with, “And yet I see you adding Miracle-Gro to your plants. Surely, dirt has all the nutrients those plants need.” He reluctantly agreed that his beautiful landscaping plants thrived when fed the right nutrients in a supplement.

That’s the point of nutritional supplements. The products are not about surviving; they are often recommended for thriving. Our body will often benefit by taking certain supplements.

But which ones to take? And how much? And when is the best time to take them? Does this apply to everyone? Are they safe with other supplements and medications? Do certain people, such as pregnant or nursing women need their own recommendations? Do older people need more or less of the supplements? Are men’s and women’s needs different?

So many questions. One could write a book about the speculative answers. In fact, thousands of books have been written about supplements. 

Because there are lots of varying opinions expressed about the answers to the questions listed above, the opinions featured in the books are often contradictory. Scientific research has been carried out to learn about the effect of numerous supplements, but the research is often inconclusive. In some cases, there are contradictory conclusions.

Contrary to my friend’s opinion that all dietary supplements are wasted, I am of the opinion that many are very valuable for most people and some can even be considered essential for most of us.

Let’s face facts. Most people I have met, including myself, do not eat an ideal diet. We eat things we shouldn’t, we skip meals at times and over-indulge at other times, we tend to eat foods that are convenient, especially tasty or satisfying, or perhaps less expensive rather than making the so-called ideal choices.

I have met a few individuals that are not described by that generalization. Some may call them “health enthusiasts.” They are very intentional about their food choices, and often about other lifestyle choices.  Yet, even for these smart, disciplined people, their ideal nutritional needs may be unmet. This is due to change in availability of wholesome, healthy, unadulterated foods now compared to only a couple of decades ago.

Foods are now often genetically modified, treated with hormones, pesticides, and other chemicals, grown in countries far from the United States, harvested before they are ripe or mature, over-processed, and in other ways manipulated to reduce their nutritional value compared to what would have been available to most people 20 years ago.

For these and other reasons, supplementing our food intake with certain nutritional supplements can be a good idea.

One of the more valuable supplements to consider is Omega-3 fatty acid. You may have heard about Omega-3 fatty acid and its chemical relative, Omega-6 fatty acid. The different names for these somewhat similar nutrients are a reflection of their molecular structure. Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 are considered essential nutrients. This means it is essential that we obtain these nutrients in our diet because our bodies cannot produce them.

Ideally, the balance of Omega-6 in our diet should be around four times as much as Omega-3. American diets, however, tend to have 15-30 times the amount of Omega-6 than Omega-3. Compare that to typical Japanese diets where the ratio is around four times Omega-6 compared to Omega-3. This is largely due to the fact that Japanese people eat far more seafood and other foods naturally containing Omega-3 than Americans.

Does it really matter?  Is it really that valuable to increase our intake of Omega-3?

Here is a partial list of potential health benefits of increasing Omega-3 intake:

*Improved Heart Health

*Improved Brain Health

*Decreased Pain from Osteoarthritis

*Improved Immune Function

*Improvement in Rheumatoid Arthritis

*Decreased Chronic Inflammation

*Healthier Skin

*Improved Liver Health

*Less Tendency for Hyperactivity

*Better Concentration

*Slow Mental Decline In Aging

*Improve Asthma and Allergies

*Better Bone Health

*Healthier Baby Development

*Less Joint Stiffness

*Better Sleep

*More Energy

Omega-3 is one of the supplements we recommend routinely for our patients who have osteoarthritis, chronic joint pain, such as knee pain, back and neck pain, and other chronic pain. Research has shown that the long-term supplementation of a quality Omega-3 product can reduce chronic inflammation.  Note that it may take 2-3 months after beginning the supplement before you can notice a benefit.

Chronic inflammation is a widespread problem. Some researchers say that 95% of all chronic pain and long-term illness is due to chronic inflammation. They further point to our diet and indicate that the Western diet is “pro-inflammatory,” meaning our food choices cause inflammation.

Most readers would benefit from taking an Omega-3 supplement. I do recommend professional advice to help you determine if this or any other supplement is right for you, personally. Individual factors such as age, gender, health status, medications and lifestyle can make a difference in nutritional supplement recommendations.

Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractic physician and acupuncturist with 30-plus years of experience focused primarily on treating complex and chronic spine, joint and neurological conditions in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at mkestner@DrKestner.com.


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