Increase fish oil in diet, doctors urge
For a country rich in fish resources and other mineral-rich foods, it is surprising to know that a lot of Filipinos are still not getting the proper nutrition.
“You may be surprised too, that this is true for a lot of Asian countries. What Asians eat nowadays pale in comparison in terms of nutrition to their Western counterparts, particularly when it comes to taking foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids,” says Prof. Andrew Sinclair, chair of the Omega-3 Academy Asia and chair of Nutrition Science at the Deakin University’s School of Medicine in Australia.
International guidelines recommend that an adult should consume 500 milligrams of fish oil per day. This can be achieved by eating 2-3 servings of oily fish per week. For people with heart disease, double this amount is recommended or 1,000 mg of fish oil per day).
“What Asians mostly eat are processed foods or those high in saturated fats, sugar and salt. And according to the World Health Organization, processed foods are to blame for the sharp rise in obesity levels and chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and dental disease,” Sinclair says.
He adds that studies have shown that awareness and understanding of Omega-3 among Asian consumers are significantly lower than their Western counterparts, particularly those living in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“Consumer awareness in these countries has been high for over 20 years. Our Asian consumers should follow suit,” Sinclair advises.
To help correct the situation, sanofi-aventis recently launched the Omega-3 Academy Asia, a professional body of medical experts in the Asia-Pacific region committed to increasing awareness and understanding of Omega-3.
The Omega-3 Academy Asia will be chaired by Sinclair, with members composed of Korea’s Associate Prof. Yongsoon Park and Prof. Nithi Mahonanda, Thailand’s Sallaya Kongsombonuech, a registered dietician; and from the Philippines, Dr. Tommy Ty-Willing, an endocrinologist; and Dr. Eugene Reyes, a cardiologist.
The Omega-3 Academy Asia will soon begin an investigation into the Omega-3 intake of people living in Korea, Thailand and the Philippines, conducting new clinical research and reviewing existing data.
Rachelle Gamboa, marketing manager of sanofi-aventis, which makes Cenovis Fish Oil, a dietary supplement that contains omega 3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), informed that the company’s Consumer Healthcare will also provide vital consumer and healthcare professional information and support to improve the health and well-being of people across Asia.
“Omega-3 fatty acid is important to our health. However, Omega-3 can’t be made by the body, so it needs to be obtained through our diets. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in foods such as fish and plants, with shellfish and oily fish providing the highest quantities,” Ty-
However, Ty-Willing notes that modern Asian diets are becoming increasingly convenience-based, with higher levels of saturated fats and decreasing amounts of fish, resulting in decreased Omega-3 intake.
Studies reveal that Filipinos are not getting the fish oil they need because the most popular fish dish, the galunggong, is not a very good source of Omega-3 and more often, it is in the form of daing or tuyo, which is highly salted.
Reyes notes the urgent need to educate Filipino consumers on Omega-3 to overcome current misperceptions.
“For example, only certain types of fresh saltwater and freshwater fish have high Omega-3 content, and extreme heat may destabilize Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Many consumers also don’t know how much Omega-3 should be consumed to benefit their health. This is why we have formed the Omega-3 Academy Asia,” he says.
He adds that there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that Omega-3 can have a positive impact on heart health, joint issues and brain development and that Filipinos should all strive to reach the recommended daily intake levels to optimize their health.
To address this challenge, experts suggest taking fish oil in its encapsulated form, like the odorless Cenovis capsule, which contains fish oil from three kinds of small fish: anchovies, mackerel and sardines, which all have a short lifespan, making them less exposed to pollutants and contamination in the seas.