Fish oil supplements which include natural forms of vitamin D and A such as cod liver oil are reported to be giving some amazing health benefits. These include skin cancer reduction and prostate cancer blocking.

In addition a four year US study into the effects of an increased dietary intake of Vitamin D and calcium has shown a marked reduction in the rate of cancers in women over 55.

Generally the view seems to be that the supplement of just 3 grams (3 x 1000mg) of cod liver oil into the daily diet considerably improves the bodies ability to fight a range of illness and disease. Skin tone improvement and an improvement in general well being are often reported following fish oil supplements.

Although often rated as expensive Pharmacy Direct will ship three months supply of BLACKMORES COD LIVER OIL 1000mg capsules for about $60.00. That’s about $3.15 per week for a very much improved diet and possibly health as well.

Sharon Natoli a Director of Food & Nutrition Australia reports.

Research into omega-3 fatty acids consistently shows they can protect against, or help treat, a range of disorders and diseases including heart disease, some inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, and certain auto-immune disorders. They play an essential role in infant growth and development.

Omega-3 fats are found naturally in foods in two different forms – the plant form and the marine forms.

Walnuts, canola oil and soybeans are good sources of the plant-based omega-3, while the marine forms are mainly found in fish, shellfish and marine algae, but are also found in meat and eggs.

While the plant form of omega-3 may have its own particular health benefits, research shows it is the marine types that are particularly beneficial to health, and it is for this reason that fish oil is the type of omega-3 most commonly used to fortify foods.

Last year the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) made formal recommendations for omega-3 fatty acid intakes for the first time in Australia. The recommended daily adequate intake (AI) values for the plant form of omega-3 range from 0.8g-1.3g per day for adults; the marine form recommendations are for daily intakes of 90-160mg. The optimal intake levels recommended for the prevention of disease are higher, at 430mg a day for women and 610mg a day for men.

On average, dietary surveys show Australians meet the adequate intake levels. However, there is a need to increase sources of omega-3 in the diet to meet the optimal levels for disease prevention. As a result, the NHMRC recommends a moderate increase in the intake of sources of omega-3 fats from plant foods and from fish as a way to further improve the health of Australians.

The food industry is responding to the recommendation to eat more omega-3 fats by developing an increased variety of omega-3 fortified foods.

These include bread, eggs, fruit straps, cereals, pasta, milk and cheese.

A group of researchers at the Royal Adelaide Hospital has assessed the effects of consuming a variety of omega-3 fortified foods daily. Their results – in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2003;57:1605-12) and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2000;72:42-8) show that eating omega-3 enriched foods daily, in conjunction with natural sources of this nutrient, can increase levels of the omega-3 fatty acids in subject’s blood and tissues by two to three-fold.

The researchers conclude that incorporating omega-3 fats into a range of commercial foods provides the opportunity for wider public consumption of omega-3 fats with their associated health benefits.

However, in these studies, subjects were provided with many fortified foods daily including sausages, mayonnaise, salad dressing, dips, cooking oil and margarine to reach an average intake of 5.7g/day, significantly higher than the 1.3g daily intake of the average Australian diet.

So while levels in the body may have increased significantly, a significant variety of omega-3 enriched foods was required, as well as subjects eating foods naturally rich in omega-3 anyway.

When you consider that one serving of omega-3 fortified bread provides 121mg of omega-3, you can see that it makes a useful contribution to the daily optimal intake of 610mg for men. However, comparing this to the 3,000mg found in one serving of oily fish, it becomes significantly less valuable.

Overall, fortified foods can make a contribution to boosting daily omega-3 intakes, particularly for those who don’t eat fish.

But for maximum health benefits, it’s still important to include two oily fish meals a week, along with rich sources of plant omega-3 such as walnuts, canola, linseeds and soy and linseed bread to reach optimal intake levels for health and disease prevention.