Episode 1 with Gretchen Vannice
Ms. Vannice discusses the basics of omega-3s, from what they are, where to find them, and why they matter in human health. From a practical perspective, forms and sources are described, key benefits are highlighted, confusion is addressed, and solutions are provided.
- What are omega-3s & why they are essential (5:44)
- Main forms of omega-3 (8:15)
- What do omega-3s do? (10:10)
- Confusion around omega-3s (14:50)
- Key take-aways (16:43)
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- Gretchen Vannice
Any statements on this podcast are the opinion of the scientific guest and/or author and have not been evaluated by the FDA. The information we may provide to you is designed for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any health issues or conditions without consulting a health care professional. If you are experiencing a health issue or condition, we suggest you consult with your health care professional.
Why omega threes are essential fatty acids is because nothing else can perform the same function as EPA and DOJ in the human body.
Hello, and welcome to the science and the story behind omega three, a podcast brought to you by Wiley companies, where we explore one of the most researched nutrients on the planet. Listen in as global omega three experts and researchers translate the science, reveal personal insights and share their stories of discovery while navigating the sea of omega three science. Thanks for joining us today. Now, here’s your host, Greg Lindsey.
Yes, and welcome back to another episode of the science and the story behind omega three, where we talk with experts from all over the world. My guest today has a passion for omega three research in global health. She is the lead author of the position paper of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on dietary fatty acids for healthy adults, and was the first chairperson of the International Science Committee for the global organization of EPA and d h j omega three. Today she will share many insights around the role of omega three compliant overall human health. And it is my great pleasure to welcome to the program Gretchen van. Nice. Gretchen, thanks so much for being here.
Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Gretchen, you’re one of the most passionate people I know on this topic. So I want to dig right in. How did you get interested in omega threes?
Well, I actually kind of fell into it, I had worked in the natural product industry, I’d also worked in Clinical Health Care. And I liked the idea of applying using natural ingredients and natural occurring nutrients and applying science to them. And I could see that there was a role in applying science to natural products in preventive medicine. And I actually, to me that looked like it was going to be botanical medicine. So I was working in research and development in a botanical medicine company. And in 2002, I saw a paper on omega three that really distinguish the difference between the forms of omega three, and it talked a lot about EPA and DOJ omega three. And at that time, I had learned not that long ago in graduate school, that ala omega three was the only one we needed. And here, this paper was talking about the benefits of these other forms of omega three. And it really was kind of confusing to me. And epmd ha we’re only found in fish, which was also a bit challenging for me personally, because I lean vegetarian. And the idea that I was going to need to get a nutrient from fish was perplexing. And then also it’s a fat, and I had been an overweight child. And so the idea that there was fat that was good for us, so we actually needed to eat was also kind of a foreign concept to me. And so I got really intrigued. And two years later, I was working specifically with omega three. And here, you know, 18 years later, we, we’ve learned a lot since then,
you know, you said good fat, and I heard the term essential fats. So I’m familiar with fat and bacon fat and cheese and nuts and olive oil and coconut oil. But what is so special about omega threes?
Well, the real key difference between the fats and the foods that you just mentioned, bacon, coconut oil, olive oil, ice cream, those are fats that our body can produce. omega threes are fats that our body could not produce, but we need for human health. And that really is what it comes down to is we can produce the fats that you mentioned, we can’t produce omega threes. And we found that omega threes and omega sixes, which are actually found in nuts, and seeds, and marine foods are the ones we need and we cannot make them. So that’s really what it came down to. and omega threes and omega sixes are really fats with an explicit benefit. And the topic today omega sixes are also essential fats, but the focus today is omega three. And if we look back in history a little bit, it was actually 1929 when it was discovered that humans needed fat to support human health. We needed to eat some fat. And then it was in the 1960s when it became really evident that in the United States where we were eating about, you know, 40% of our calories from fat, we had a very high incidence of death from heart disease, compared to the Greenland Eskimos, that reading about 50% of their calories from fat, and their incidence of heart disease was less than 5%. So there was this conundrum. Both in the United States and in Greenland, they were consuming high amounts of fat. And so a medical researcher and his students, Dr. Bang and Dr. Dyer, Berg, went to Greenland, set up a temporary camp, and actually drew blood samples from the Eskimos. And then when they went back and analyzed it, what they saw was the significant difference had to do with the type of fatty acid that was found in whale and seal.
So gretchin for people that omega three might be a newer term, because we’re talking about really the introduction to omega three, I think the questions that I that I’ve had have would be, why are they essential? And then they are essential? Where do we get them?
Okay? Well, first, I’ll give you the formal answer the formal definition of what omega three is. And then I’ll give you how we normally speak about it, technically, from a chemistry point of view. And omega three is a fatty acid chain. So it’s a chain of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, and where the first carbon is on the third double bond from the Omega. And that’s how it was named. That’s a mouthful. The other way to look at it, is it it is a chain of carbons that are in fat. And they’re actually an energy supply. And they provide, you know, energy to our body as fat does. But these particular omega threes are very long chain, and they have many double bonds. This is very unique chemistry. And that also gets them they’re very unique function in the human body. I won’t talk too much chemistry here, but just to say that ala omega three, which is considered the parent omega three, is 18 carbons long, three double bonds, the human body just cannot produce that fatty acid, we just cannot produce it. And we also can’t predict EPA and DOJ, which are even longer than those. But it’s the uniqueness of these fatty acids is how they are so important in human health. And how they work is they’re actually structural components of our cell membranes. So they’re part of the structure like DHT, omega three is found in the human brain. It’s also found in the human eyes, and it’s stored in sperm. And so it’s part of the structural component of those organs, but EPA and VHA together and in concert, really, they have unique function, but they work in concert to help manage and regulate metabolism, genetic expression. And they both work in the membrane of the cell and also inside the cell. And these cells are you know, we have trillions of cells in our body and EPA and DHS are component of all of those cells. And the other unique thing to know about omega threes, they are considered conditionally essential in pregnancy. But really fundamentally, why omega threes are essential fatty acids, is because nothing else can perform the same function as EPA and DOJ in the human body. superettan.
I guess you talked about different forms of omega three. My question is, how are they or are they are related to each other? Good question.
They are related to each other. There are three main forms of omega three, there’s a couple other ones that we talked about, and I’ll just name them right now. La EPA dhk are the three main forms of omega three that we speak of these days, SDA and DPA, which are also omega threes, you know, you hear those two, but they’re not they they’re functionally different as well, but HLA and EPA and da che are related to each other by their chemistry. These fatty acids all have that you know, first double bond and the third carbon from the omega n. So the chemistry is the same, but the source and their function are very different from each other. HLA and SDA are omega three fatty acids found in plant based foods, predominantly seeds. Think flaxseed, chia seed, walnuts, were EPA and FDA and EPA are found only in foods from the sea marine source. So they they are all omega three, but their sources different and their function is different from each other. And so actually going back to when I said in graduate school, I learned that de la was the only omega three we needed. It was because it was then believed that we as humans could produce EPA and da che from LA. And in fact, we can, but what we’ve seen and the 1000s of clinical trials that have been done on omega three is humans do not do that very efficiently. We’re actually quite poor at taking LA and producing you can tha therefore we now here 2020 are looking at these omega threes very differently.
Okay, so million dollar question, what do they do?
Well, fundamentally, they work in our cell membranes. And like I said, they’re structural components of tissues, right? They’re found in our brain, they’re found in our eyes. They help manage and regulate metabolism. And what I mean by that is they work together to support our lungs for breathing, our heart rate, blood flow, they work in our immune system, they work in neural transmission, which is communication between brain cells, we find them in our bone marrow, there in our eyes, they help with muscle recovery. So EPA ndhca, just metabolically help our bodies try to maintain homeostasis. That’s what the goal of the human body always is trying to get back to homeostasis, and what the newer research is showing, which is really fascinating. Is it from EPA, and tha, our body makes other compounds and we’re starting to identify how these new these compounds produced from EPA and JJ, actually help maintain homeostasis. So that’s why we need EPA and tha just as essential nutrition, we just need some to maintain good human health. For example, when we have EPA, gha in our tissues, when we have inflammation occur, which is a natural normal process in human health, right, I mean, you hit your hand or you cut yourself or you hit your knee, I mean, there’s going to be a natural reaction. And it’s part it’s part of natural recovery. But when we have EPA in our tissues, EPA can help reduce inflammation. So it helps try to read right the ship and get us back into, you know, healing and balance. We also know that when we have tha in our body, we have better brain function. DHS is part of our nervous system, it’s in our eyes. So we have healthier eyes, because we you know, literally eye tissue is part of the retina is where DHT is found in the eye. So we have such a great body of science on omega three, there’s over 40,000 published studies on epay nihi, mega three and over 4000 human clinical trials, we know a lot. And again, it goes back to these fatty acids are these you have this unique chemistry. And they have this unique function. And we know that just by getting our daily need, our general metabolism is well supported, and our body can operate, you know, most efficiently. But we also know from science that when people consume more, there’s actually additional benefit. And here I’ll just give you a snapshot of what we know about just some kind of new research that we’ve seen in the science community. We know that when pregnant women get enough tha that we can significantly reduce the incidence of preterm birth in the United States. We know that when children get EPN Jfj mega three, they’re able to learn better focus better, some even have better handwriting. There was a study done a while ago in prisoners that when they gave young inmates, young adult inmates, EPA and DOJ and multivitamin, they saw a 26% reduction in in offenses, and they saw the greatest reduction in violent offenses. They’ve shown that in mature people their younger biological age by testing in their blood. And they’ve also shown that in seniors that those who beat and fish over their lifetime, have better cognitive function as they age. So that’s just a snapshot of some of the research that we’ve seen with omega three. I also want to add that, please don’t let the negative headlines from drug trials, cloud our understanding and information on EPA and DOJ, and their role in human health and nutrition.
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So Gretchen with all these studies and all these clinical trials. And I’m listening to you talk about the benefits of omega three. So then my next question is why do you think there’s so much confusion around them?
Yeah, that that’s you hit that on the head. There is a lot of confusion about it, I think. Well, for one as you can just tell just by listening to me so far. This is kind of complicated. You know, there’s different forums, there’s different sources. And they’re you know, found in different foods and how much you take makes a difference. That’s hard to communicate in a tweet. We also know that in the United States, people don’t eat a lot of fish. We don’t really we don’t know how to cook fish, we don’t really know how to buy fish. And, and there’s a lot of serious misinformation. And the other thing about fish is that the amount of EPA and VHA varies in fish. We also know that vegans and vegetarians and I am guilty of this, I wanted to believe that I could get all of my nutrition without eating fish without eating any animal products and fish. There are now vegan and vegetarian alternatives for EPA and tha. But I think there’s confusion about that, that we can get everything we need is from eating plants. We also know the alien mega tree is plentiful, and it’s an expensive, you know, it’s found in seeds and seed oils, avocados. There’s a lot of noise about nutrition. And it’s not always science based. We also you know, food marketers tend to lump together omega three, like they’re all the same. And that does not help people try to discern the difference. supplement companies, they label things differently, how they report omega three on their label can differ. And, you know, fundamentally, nutrition really can’t be taught in a soundbite. And a lot of what people hear is is not correct.
No. And again, I so appreciate your passion on the topic. So anything else? I’ve been asking all the questions, is there anything else that you want the listeners to know about this topic?
Wow, thank you for asking that. Yes, I think I would like listeners to really get that EPN tha omega threes in general. And in particular, EPA and DOJ are essential fatty acids that we need to consume in our diet, we need to get them on our plate, or in a supplement. All omega threes are good, and we get more HLA in our diet. And all omega threes are good, but we really need to get more epmd ha and I want people I think the reality is we need to be somewhat intentional about it. Like our culture is not a culture that eats a lot of fish, you know, and I think what I’d like listeners to know is that it’s worth the effort to make sure that you get long chain omega three epmd ha. And I liken it to kind of like brushing your teeth, a friend of mine told me years ago, only brush the teeth you want to keep. And I think you know, only give epmd ha to the brain and body that you want to keep. The other thing I’d like people to know is that you’re not going to feel a difference. Right? It’s not like you’re going to take it in necessarily feel different. But in general, you’re not going to feel a difference. But the really good news here is that while Americans are right now under consuming omega three, and actually 80% of the globe is not is not consuming as much as we’d like that The good news is that there’s a solution to this problem. You know, EPA and DHS are available in fish, they’re available in fish oil, vegan vegetarian sources are available. dose makes the difference. We would like everyone to get at least 250 to 500 milligrams of EPA dh a day. And as I mentioned before, two grams or 2000 milligrams is a good amount to get. Now before you think 2000 milligrams is a lot, that’s about what you’d get if you ate a good piece of fresh salmon. And if you know somebody who’s pregnant, I am going to ask you to please reach out to them and make sure that they’re getting their omega three, because having you candy ha in our system, these omega threes will help you help a person have a healthier pregnancy can help your child learn better. We’d all have better heart health. It supports healthier blood pressure levels give us It gives us better cognitive function as we age less joint pain. If you want your athletes brain to be protected when he’s out on the field, he she is out on the field. We have the the solution here is really omega three and I’m not saying that omega three is the cure all for everything. It is not. But and I think Greg, you picked up on my passion on this. The reason I’m so passionate about it is because our intake is so low and we can do something about it and the science is clear that we need more. So we have a problem but we have a solution and I you know the gap is understanding like some of the confusion we just talked about. I think one of the best gifts that you can give yourself and your family is to start consuming either oily fish or taking a fish oil supplement. And it’s it’s a gift of a lifetime.
Gretchen as we come to the close of the program, and I could talk to you much longer about this and I’m certainly going to invite you back right now because I again I love the passion. I love all the great information that you can provide but one real quick word association. What word or short phrase comes to mind when you think omega threes
and e is good, more is better. That’s perfect.
Perfect. Gretchen, thank you so much for being part of our program today. And until next time, be healthy, be well, and fight the good fight.
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Any statements on this podcast or the opinion of the scientific guests and or author and have not yet been evaluated by the FDA? The information we may provide to you is designed for educational purposes only it is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. This information should not be used to diagnose, treat or prevent any health issues or conditions without consulting a health care professional. If you are experiencing a health issue or condition we suggest you consult with your healthcare professional