Winter Oil Change

Using the proper engine oil in our vehicles during the harsh Canadian winter ensures optimal driving performance for the conditions. We take that for granted. Doesn’t it also seem logical to consider the quality of the oils that we put into our bodies during that same winter season?

Oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids (or “healthy fats”) have many potential health benefits for humans. As our bodies are unable to produce these healthy fats, we must obtain them either through our food or through supplementation. The two most important and studied omega-3s, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are found in the body oil of deep-water fish such as anchovies and sardines.

Omega-3 intake through the diet or supplementation is important all year-round, but there are several reasons that make winter intake of these fatty acids particularly important:

1. Heart health – During the winter months and especially during the holiday season, Canadians tend to eat heavier meals.  These meals, high in sugar, grains, carbohydrates, alcohol and unhealthy saturated animal fats can lead to high levels of blood triglycerides which are linked to heart disease. Further, most Canadians are less active during the winter months due to the cold climate.  These dietary and activity factors combine for a less-than-optimal environment for heart health.

Omega-3 intake can help maintain cardiovascular health. Studies have shown that omega-3 intake of over 1000 mg per day can help to lower blood triglycerides.1

2. Mood balance – Canadian winters are long. Canadian winters have few hours of sunshine. Canadian winters are cold and keep people inside for extended periods of time. These conditions are a recipe for the “winter blues” where sufferers feel lethargic and sleep excessively. This phenomenon is recognized as a disorder called seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

While the “sunshine vitamin” vitamin D and light therapy are known to help relieve SAD symptoms, omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, can also provide support the maintenance of a more balanced mood.2

3. Joint pain – Cold winter weather can increase the intensity of joint pain in those with inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties and in amounts of 3000 mg per day can reduce joint pain in conjunction with conventional therapies.3

4. Dry skin – During the winter season, many Canadians experience dry, itchy skin due to the lower environmental humidity. Skin can become rough, flaky and even cracked, causing discomfort. The omega-3 EPA helps to reduce inflammation and replenish dry skin. Omega-3s have even been studied for helping to reduce symptoms of the skin condition psoriasis.4

How do you get omega-3 fatty acids in your diet?

Fish, fish oil and eggs are natural sources of EPA and DHA. Vegetable sources like flaxseed, hemp and nuts contain ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which the body can convert into DHA.

Most North Americans do not get nearly enough fish in their diets. This deficiency, combined with the fact that many fish are high in contaminants such as mercury, lead and PCBs, has made refined fish oil supplements a viable addition to the diet of Canadians.

How do you find a safe omega-3 fish oil supplement?

While all high-quality fish oils are processed in order to remove the majority of contaminants that are present in the fish, testing to further confirm safety is a must. How can one confirm which fish oil supplement is safe? Consumers can visit the website of the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) program to see testing results and quality ratings for a wide-variety of fish oil supplement brands. Visit to see independent testing results that cover safety from contaminants, oil freshness, and EPA and DHA content. Look for a five-star oil, the highest rating awarded by IFOS, to get an optimal fish oil for your families’ use this winter.

1.    “Fish Oil” (Monograph). Natural Health Products Directorate. Health Canada.
2.    “Fish Oil” (Monograph). Natural Health Products Directorate. Health Canada.
3.    “Fish Oil” (Monograph). Natural Health Products Directorate. Health Canada.
4.    Vanderhaeghe, Lorna R., Karlene Karst. “Healthy Fats for Life.” Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd. Page 125.