Why is Omega-3 so important?
Studies show that optimal intakes of DHA and EPA in our diets are important for the maintenance of normal health. Indeed, about 33% of our brain is made up of DHA, one of these essential long chain omega-3 fatty acids and so it is important to ensure every person, from a developing foetus right through to older people get as much of it as they require.
About 5mg of DHA is lost through our normal metabolism every day and so over time, unless replenished regularly, can help to cause health problems. However, a lot of people in the West are deficient in omega-3, due to having a diet low in oily fish. Omega-3 supplements are a good way of getting these essential fats, as they play an important part in blood vessels, heart, brain and eye health
The alternative to oily fish consumption is flaxseed and hemp oil which contain alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), also an essential omega-3 fat. However, it is not the important and active omega-3 fats - EPA and DHA. There is a small amount of ALA converted by the body into EPA + DHA, but in the order of about 5%. This is why we all need to have an adequate intake of omega 3 EPA + DHA regularly. Vegetarians and vegans included.
Know Your Numbers
Millions of people worldwide have tested their Omega-3 Index.
Omega-3 Index levels of 8 -12% are associated with better overall health, but levels around the world remain low.
See map below (red = poor, green=good)
How Are Omega-3's Connected to the Endocannabinoid System?
As previously mentioned, endocannabinoids are lipids or fatty acids, made from the cells’ omega-3 and omega-6 content. Once cells build up enough store of these fatty acids, endocannabinoids are created rapidly and as-needed in response to brain activity and stimuli (like stress and exercise).
As we have seen, omega-3s are directly involved in the synthesis of endocannabinoids, and also react with existing endocannabinoids to create omega-3-derived endocannabinoid epoxides (which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties).
Due to the important role that omega-3s have in the cell membrane, researchers believe that omega-3s also serves as crucial anchors for endocannabinoid cell membrane receptors.
To put it simply, omega-3s and endocannabinoids are totally dependent on each other in a healthy brain and body. This connection can also help explain why the noted anxiety and pain relieving effects from taking CBD oil are similar to the results achieved from receiving adequate omega-3 supplementation over time.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Omega-3s?
Omega-3 deficiency is widespread in today’s world, impacting some 75% of adults in the US, for example. As researchers have demonstrated, this deficiency has serious consequences for the healthy functioning of our endocannabinoid systems.
Omega-3-deficient diets don’t just limit the creation of beneficial endocannabinoids and the omega-3-derived endocannabinoid epoxides. Studies have also shown that omega-3-deficiency creates dysfunctional endocannabinoid receptors, uncoupling them from the protein and altering signalling pathways in the brain.
Health Consequences of Omega-3 Deficiency
Consequences of a dysfunctional endocannabinoid receptors (due to omega-3 deficiency) include increased anxiety and impaired behaviour, according to studies from the University of Bordeaux. In addition, studies also show that omega-3 deficiency plays a role in increasing the development of obesity through the dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system.
Chronic deficiency of omega-3s in our diet may partly explain the enormous demand for CBD products. What’s more, it may also help to explain the widely-diverse experiences that CBD users have. For example, if one person’s endocannabinoid receptors are dysfunctional, taking a lot of CBD won’t necessarily produce the results that person is hoping to achieve.
Most people in the United States and many countries in Europe, including the UK do not get enough omega-3s, either from diet or supplements. This is in stark contrast with other countries, like Japan, where omega-3 intakes are much higher.
Why Do People Prefer CBD to Omega-3 Supplements?
Given the intimate involvement of omega-3s in the endocannabinoid system, you would think that anyone interested in the effects of CBD would also have a dual interest in omega-3 fish oil. However, when compared to most omega-3 supplements, CBD has clear advantages.
While CBD’s effects appear quickly, omega-3s take longer to work – often many weeks of consistent consumption. These rapid effects probably explain why CBD is creating such a buzz. With CBD products, people are also willing to take an adequate dose, but that often is not the case with omega-3 products. CBD, however, does not solve the underlying omega-3 deficiency problem.