The Mailbox: Can you take too many Omega-3’s??

inseed backgroundDear Health Junction),

How many essential fatty acids should you be taking per day?  Can you take too much?  What about vegan sources vs omega 3 and 6 from fish oil?  I want to make sure I’m getting what I need plus I take a multi and fish oil so don’t want to take too much!



Hi CP,

Essential Fatty Acids are a type of fat that are labeled “essential” because we can’t make it in our body.  The same goes when you hear the term Essential Amino Acids.  So, we need to derive both Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids from our diet (we can make Omega-9 by ourselves).


These compounds are made from string of carbons and a carboxyl group and the two types of EFA’s are differentiated based on where the first double bond appears.  In the case of Omega-3’s the first double bond occurs on the third carbon from the end whereas with Omega-6’s it occurs on the sixth carbon.


PG1 = Anti-inflammatory PG2 = inflammatory PG3 = Anti-inflammatory

We should be getting roughly 4 times as many Omega-6’s in our diet as Omega-3’s but our current diet actually lends to a 20:1 ratio versus the recommended 4:1.  High sources of O-6 are typically found in vegetable oils where as high sources of O-3 are found in fish, flax seeds, walnuts, and avocado’s.  The big difference is that when we consume an O-6 it can be either inflammatory or anti-inflammatory based on the pathway it takes in our body (PG1 vs PG2), whereas Omega-3’s will ALWAYS be anti-inflammatory.  So, when you are looking at EFA’s, focus on increasing your Omega-3 intake and decreasing sources of Omega-6 (reduce use of vegetable oil).


Omega-3 Fatty Acids are vital for health as they help keep our cell structure strong and flexible, they reduce inflammation, and help to keep our blood thin and void of clots.  Some common conditions that can be supported through the adequate ingestion of Omega-3 include:

Alzheimer’s disease, Asthma, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Bipolar Disorder, Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, Depression, Diabetes, Eczema, High blood pressure, Huntington’s disease, Lupus, Migraine headaches, Multiple sclerosis, Obesity, Osteoarthritis, Osteoporosis, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Irritable Bowel Disorder.

Not getting enough Omega-3 has been linked to several health issues.


So, how much should you be taking in each day?  Adults should not be taking more than about 3 grams of Omega-3 fish oil each day.  That includes what you take in from your diet as well as a supplement.  To give you perspective, a 3 oz serving of salmon provides anywhere between 1.1 and 1.9 grams of O-3.  Most of us could probably benefit from taking an omega-3 supplement without the harm of going over 3 grams per day.  I personally take an omega-3 capsule that has 1400 mg’s of fish oil each day.  To give you peace of mind, it’s far more common to be deficient in omega-3!

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on  every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize  quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture – imagine this – where  our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting  them.
–  Michelle Obama


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The Health Junction Mailbox: Cat Related Sleep Disturbances and Fish Oil Confusion

I received a few great email over the past few weeks from readers with questions…which I LOVE!!  If you have any nutrition or health related questions, please send them to me at or click here for alternative ways of getting in touch.  Without further ado, here are the answers to your questions:

Cod Liver Oil vs. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Dear Health Junction,

What is the difference between Cod Liver Oil and Omega-3 capsules?
El B
Dear El B,
Cod Liver Oil comes from cod-fish and contains some omega-3 fatty acid as well as Vitamin A and Vitamin D.  Omega-3 Fatty Acids are a type of fatty acid found in a variety of fish, including Cod.  Omega-3, depending on the ration of DHA to EPA is used for to help support brain function (DHA) or mood and inflammation (EPA).  The reason it’s called an “essential” fatty acid is because we cannot make it in our body and therefore it must be obtained from diet.  Omega-3 Fatty Acids are thought to help support heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, depression, painful periods, dry eyes, and skin issues to name a few.
It is not advised to take Cod Liver Oil if you are interested in Omega-3 Fatty Acid benefits because the amount in a Cod Oil is too small.  Cod Oil should be taken if you are looking for Vitamin A or D supplementation.  If you’re interested in the benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids, look for a supplement that is named as such – some good brands include NutraSea and Natural Factors.  An Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplement contains a blend of Omega-3 Fatty acids from a variety of fish, but most often sardines, anchovies, or salmon.
The Health Junction
Dear Health Junction,
I do believe you are a feline aficionado, of the kitty-cat variety; I have a few concerns regarding my pussy-cat, Kylie. 
In her advanced age, Kylie feels compelled to sleep in my bedroom at night, which would be fine if she didn’t have the habit of coming and going throughout the night, which is very inconvenient since I need to sleep with the bedroom door closed.  Consequently, I end up being woken up a few times each night to let Kylie in and out of the bedroom, which, in turn is interrupting my sleep and from our nutrition consultations together, I understand I need to get undisturbed sleep!! 
I’ve tried to break Kylie out of her habit of sleeping in my bedroom but she cries and scratches at the door for prolonged periods of time, and I feel guilty since she’s my cat, and I don’t want Kylie to feel stressed out or alone in her senior age. 
What is a feline-companion (to Kylie) to do?
Dear CL,
You’re right.  I LOVE cats!
First off, I would like to make note that this reader clearly gets the connection between good sleep and good health.  In fact, you cannot have one without the other.  People who get less than the required 8 hours per night have an increased risk of car accidents, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, higher than normal Body Mass Index (BMI), and a decreased level of concentration and memory.  Impaired sleeping raises levels of cortisol (our stress hormone), over stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, increases blood pressure, increases our heart rate, decreases our ability to respond to insulin, and decreases levels of leptin, a substance that inhibits appetite.  So without getting a good nights sleep, among other health challenges, it becomes more difficult to manage weight.
Cats are wonderful, but like our reader, I can relate to the massive sleep disturbances that they can bring on at ridiculous times (like 4 am…shudder).  Here are some tips to for cat related sleep disturbances:
  • Try to tire Kylie out during the day by playing with her and making sure she has lots of toys available.
  • Start putting Kyle’s litter box, food, and water in a bathroom (or small room) far away from where people are sleeping.
  • Put some blankets and make it a nice place for her to sleep.
  • At night, bring Kylie downstairs and put her in the bathroom with her litter box and food.  She will likely meow and put up a fuss but it’s important not to respond.  After a few days she should stop making a fuss.

While you want to be nice to your cat, putting her somewhere at night where she doesn’t disturb you doesn’t mean you love her any less!  Good luck!

The Health Junction

Tired of dry, flakey, tight, and dull winter skin?

Around the beginning of November, the skin on my face goes from manageable to as dry as the Sahara desert.  My normally very minimal routine no longer suffices and in the past, I’ve resorted to a wonderful, but expensive cream by Kiehl’s.  After investigating, I realised that there are easier and cheaper ways of getting the skin you want that involves just a few simple ingredients that you can find at your local health food or grocery store.

The first thing you’ll want to do is ensure that all the nutrients vital to skin health are being consumed regularly:

Water:  it makes sense right?  The more hydrated you are, the more hydrated your skin will be.  Aim for at least 10 cups of water a day…no less.

EFA’s (Essential Fatty Acids):  These are your omega 3 & 6’s and sources include:  cold water fish (salmon, etc), flax seeds, hemp seeds, avocado, chia seeds, nuts, and leafy greens.  I also personally supplement with omega-3 fish oil capsules twice a day @ 1400 mg’s/capsule.

EFA’s cannot be absorbed through the intestines when your digestive system isn’t working properly.  So, make sure that you’re avoiding foods which you may be allergic to, chew your food thoroughly, ensure adequate fiber intake (50 grams a day!), and drink lots of water to keep things “flowing”.

Salmon is an excellent source of both omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

Have you ever heard of Jojoba Oil?  The oil comes from the seed of the Jojoba shrub which is found the desert areas of both Mexico and the United States.  What is unique about this oil is that its chemical structure is almost identical to the oil produced by our skin and hair.  It’s nourishing and moisturizing to the skin and because it’s similar to our own oil, is easily absorbed and doesn’t leave a nasty greasy residue.  Jojoba oil contains a compound called myristic acid which is an anti-inflammtory agent – this is why jojoba oil is commonly used in the treatment of inflammatory skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis.  A bottle of Jojoba Oil (my favourite band is called Desert Essence) costa about $13 dollars and will last you several months.

Jojoba Oil Instructions:  just put a penny sized drop of Jojoba Oil on your palms and massage into your face before bed.  Overnight it will soak into your pores and absorb.  The next morning, wash and moisturizer your skin as your normally would.

If you’re looking to gently exfoliate your face and get ride of those existing flakes, try the following concoction which was recommended by my classmate Emily P.

Facial Scrub Instructions:  Mix a tsp of brown sugar in with a tbsp of Jojoba Oil.  Spread of over your face and gently massage.  Rinse, wash, and moisturize as you normally would.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“Look at children.  Of course they may quarrel, but generally speaking they do not harbor ill feelings as much or as long as adults do.  Most adults have the advantage of education over children, but what is the use of an education if they show a big smile while hiding negative feelings deep inside?  Children don’t usually act in such a manner.  If they feel angry with someone, they express it, and then it is finished.  They can still play with that person the following day.”

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Monday Morning Roundup: Testicular Cancer Detection Through a Pregnancy TEST?! And more.

Wowza, there are some real gems from the world of health and nutrition news this week.  Enjoy!

What a smart move!  A man who suspected he might have testicular cancer took a home pregnancy test to see if his level of the hormone beta human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) could be detected.  hCG is the hormone that flags pregnancy but is also present in higher levels for men with developing testicular cancer.  His test came up positive prompting him to visit a doctor.  Smart or weird?  I like it…thinking outside the (pregnancy) box may have saved this man’s life!

“It does not protect as promoted. It’s all a sales job: it’s all public relations.”  A pretty bold statement from Michael T. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy on the effectiveness of flu vaccines – especially for children and the elderly.  Check out this story from the New York Times which offers a refreshing alternative perspective to need for flu vaccines.

Someone help this kid balance his blood sugar!  A 9-year-old in Ukraine stole almost $4000 from his parents for the purchase of candy.  Yikes.

A funny little study presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting suggested that there are four tell-tale signs that indicate a predictability for future heart issues; a receding hairline, baldness on the top of your head, creases in the earlobe, and fatty deposits around your eye.

As if you need more reasons to include coconut oil in your diet – here are 13 Evidence-Based Medicinal Properties of Coconut Oil

Infographics had a poignant image depicting the number of choices really available to consumers.  Made me think!


THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“The goal is not to be better than the other man, but your previous self.”

– Dalai Lama XIV


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Hemp Hearts 101 in 100 Words

The Health Junction received and overwhelming response to Chia Seeds 101 in 100 Words – thank you!  Since you seem to enjoy reading about seeds so much, here is a another 100 word post on Hemp Seeds – another goodie you might want to consider stocking in your cupboards.

If you like flax seeds and chia seeds, hemp hearts will also appeal to you.  Hemp Hearts come from inside the shell of a hemp seed and they are high in essential fatty acids (EFA’s).  About 35% of their EFA comes from ALA Omega-3 which is the vegetarian derived omega-3 source responsible for reducing inflammation.  Aside from their anti-inflammatory properties, they’re also high in Vitamin E (antioxidant), Magnesium (good for your muscles and relaxation  – 2 tbsp provides 55% of your daily Mg requirements), and contain a full spectrum of the all important B Vitamins.

In my mind, what differentiates hemp hearts from other seeds is that they are a complete protein which means they contain all 10 essential amino acids – one serving of 2 tbsp provides 7 grams of protein.  In short, 2 tbsp of hemp hearts sprinkled in cereal, on a salad, or in a smoothie offers an excellent  nutritional bang for your buck.  I enjoy a brand called Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts.  And yes, they come from hemp plant but no, they won’t make you feel loopy:)

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama):

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

– Dalai Lama XIV


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