Omega-3 fatty acid rules:
- Avoid vegetable oils in general -- corn is very bad, soy is bad and canola is not too bad
- Only olive oil is acceptable
- Flax oil is too short and still has omega-6 fatty acids -- most labeling is misleading
- Saturated fat in butter and eggs is ok and safer than vegetable oil
- More symptoms of inflammation means more fish oil supplements are needed
- Take fish oil supplements with meals and preferably fatty foods to stimulate bile
Explanation: The omega-3 fatty acids that count are those that are essential, i.e. the body can’t make them, EPA (C20) or DHA (C22), or that can be produced from ALA (C18). EPA and DHA can be converted into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins by COX, the enzyme that is blocked by aspirin. COX also converts omega-6 fatty acids into inflammatory prostaglandins. Unfortunately the corresponding short omega-6 fatty acids block the elongation of the short omega-3 ALA. For this reason, supplementing most vegetable oils, that are rich in omega-6 oils, with even high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, will still leave the vegetable oils inflammatory. In most cases the only alternatives are eating more fatty fish than you would normally eat or fish oil supplements.
Most people have found that without any symptoms of inflammation two gram capsules per day of combined EPA-DHA fish oil meet requirements for health. Two more capsules should be added per day for obesity and two more for other symptoms of inflammation, e.g. arthritis, allergy, etc. Spread the supplements over multiple meals. Eating the fish oil with other fat-rich food will improve absorbance in the gut by stimulating the release of bile -- capsules on their own will just slip on past. I would recommend an empirical approach -- start with two capsules a day and see if your symptoms lessen within a week. If not, increase by two more capsules a day and monitor your symptoms. The severity of your inflammatory inputs will determine how much fish oil is required. Other sources of omega-6 oils will sabotage the anti-inflammatory benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids supplements. Saturated fats and cholesterol are not as much of a problem as the omega-6 fatty acids (and of course trans fats.)
Obesity is a particular problem, because the fat is a source of omega-6 fatty acids that were eaten when your diet was worse. You will continue to pay for previous dietary errors. For this reason, a diet rich in olive oil is helpful, because fat stored from this oil will be low in omega-6 fatty acids that could be troublesome in the future. This may be a significant component of the benefit of the Mediterranean diet.