Recent media headlines are dominated by rediscovery of aspirin as a wonder drug. Doctors are well aware of benefits of low dose aspirin. It thins the blood so naturally reduces chances of stroke or heart attack which are predominantly caused by blockage of blood supply to these organs. It has also been shown to have anti-cancer properties.
So, do we all rush out and start taking aspirin!
Well, let’s put this in perspective. I am not against aspirin and use it very often in my practice. Some patients can have side-effects or problems with intestinal tract bleeding with aspirin and its risks in certain circumstances can outweigh the benefits. So, is there an alternative without the risks?
The good news is, yes. Omega 3 fish oils can provide many similar benefits. Populations that consume a diet naturally rich in omega 3 fish oils have a low incidence of cardiac and cerebro-vascular disease, cancer and all cause mortality [a low death rate from all causes.] These populations also have other factors that contribute to their longevity but fish oils do play a role.
A natural approach to longevity and reducing diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer would include a number of things such as stress reduction, regular exercise, adequate sleep & hydration, positive relationships, positive mental attitude, balanced diet, avoiding sugar & tobacco, hormone balancing in certain circumstances and nutritional supplements such as fish oils. It is synergy of these which is much more powerful than one thing in isolation.
So, what omega-3 oils do we consume? Vegetable oils such as flax seed oil provide some of these but not enough. The best source is fish oils. 1gm of oily fish three times a week should be adequate for most of us. Another option would be fish oil capsules, ideally these should be in enteric coated formulations and provide EPA and DHA as main ingredients.
Are there any risks? Due to contamination of our oceans, concern has been raised about mercury content of the large predatory fish such as tuna, grouper, snapper & bass etc. Theoretically smaller fish would be low in mercury content and better in this regard. Also, too much of fish oils can thin the blood so I would not recommend more than 1-2 gm a day for most healthy people. And, do remember to tell your doctor if you are having any aesthetic procedure or surgery. It is possible to run a fatty acid profile as part of a nutritional assessment. This would indicate omega-3,6 and 9 oil levels in the blood. Testing can also reveal mercury levels in the body. This testing however is not widely recognised by mainstream medicine at the moment.
Most important thing to remember is that there is no one answer or magic drug to solve all our problems. It has to be a combined approach.