Benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids: Check details here

The human body can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials. That is not the case for omega-3 fatty acids (also called omega-3 fats and n-3 fats). These are essential fats—the body cannot make them from scratch but must get them from food. Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables. Having a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent heart disease, protect brain and eye health, and contribute to fetal development. This article will elaborate on the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids.

What are Omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for a number of functions in the body. There are three main omega-3s:

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)

EPA and DHA come mainly from fish, so they are sometimes called marine omega-3s.

ALA is found in vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, and some animal fat, especially in grass-fed animals. The human body generally uses ALA for energy, and conversion into EPA and DHA is very limited.

How do Omega-3 fatty acids help the body?

Omega-3 fatty acids are an integral part of cell membranes throughout the body and affect the function of the cell receptors in these membranes. They provide the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. They also bind to receptors in cells that regulate genetic function.

Likely due to these effects, omega-3 fats have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and may potentially play protective roles in cancer and other conditions.

The strongest evidence for a beneficial effect of omega-3 fats has to do with heart disease. These fats appear to help the heart beat at a steady clip and not veer into a dangerous or potentially fatal erratic rhythm.

Omega-3 fats also lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve blood vessel function, and, at higher doses, lower triglycerides and may ease inflammation, which plays a role in the development of atherosclerosis.

Benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have many powerful health benefits for the body as well as the brain. In fact, few nutrients have been studied as thoroughly as omega-3 fatty acids.

Scientists have linked omega-3 to a number of health conditions. The following sections outline some of these conditions and some other health benefits that omega-3 may provide.

  1. Lowers risk of heart disease: Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils may help prevent heart disease and stroke.
    Omega-3 may help manage triglyceride levels, cholesterol, and high blood pressure. A 2013 study found that people who took fish oil supplements for longer than 1 month had better cardiovascular function during mentally stressful tests. According to AHA eating fish, and especially oily fish at least twice per week may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  2. Helps fight mental disorders and psychiatric conditions: Although more research is needed as to the exact correlation between mental health and omega-3 intake, there appears to be strong evidence that these fats can help to reduce depression and anxiety for many people. EPA, in particular, has shown promising results as a treatment for mild-to-moderate depression.Studies suggest that EPA and DHA could help treat various neuropsychiatric conditions. These include:
    • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
    • post-traumatic stress disorder
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • depression
    • dementia
    • schizophrenia
    • cognitive decline, including memory loss

    Some studies have suggested that omega-3 supplementation may help prevent cognitive decline, especially in older adults. However, their results are not conclusive.

  3. Enhances eye health: DHA, a type of omega-3, is a major structural component of the retina of the eye. In a 2012 study, mice that received omega-3 supplements for 6 months appeared to have better retinal function and a lower risk of age-related vision loss than mice that did not receive the supplements.Optometrists often recommend taking omega-3 supplements to support eye health, even though scientific evidence does not always support their use for this purpose. In some cases, eating a healthful diet may be more beneficial than taking supplements, according to some experts.In 2019, for example, scientists who looked at the data of 4,202 people in Holland found that those who consumed fresh fruits and vegetables and 2 weekly servings of fish were less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration compared with those who did not.
  4. Promotes prenatal and infant brain development: The nutritional value of seafood is of particular importance during fetal growth and development, as well as in early infancy and childhood.Women who are pregnant or breastfeed should consume 226.7 to 340.2 grams of seafood per week from a variety of seafood types that are low in methyl mercury as part of a healthy eating pattern and while staying within their calorie needs. Omega-3s are crucial for brain growth and development in infants. It has been noted that infants fed a DHA-fortified formula have better eyesight than infants fed a formula without it.Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy is associated with numerous benefits for the child, including
    • Higher intelligence
    • Better communication and social skills
    • Fewer behavioral problems
    • Decreased risk of developmental delay
    • Decreased risk of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy
  5. Helps fight inflammation: In 2012, researchers noted that fish oil appeared to help stabilize atherosclerotic lesions due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Macrophages, which are immune cells that live in all tissues and organs, play a key role in coordinating inflammatory reactions in the body and monitor everything that happens in the tissues. Macrophages can be more or less potent in activating inflammatory reactions. Autophagy which means “self-eating” is a key process for degradation of dysfunctional or unnecessary proteins and other components within our cells. Omega-3 fatty acids activates the autophagy and specifically affects some proteins that transform the signals from the environment. Furthermore, it was found that omega-3 fatty acids dampen many inflammatory mechanisms within the macrophages.

Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids

Animal based sources:

  • oily fish, such as sardines, tuna, and salmon
  • other seafood, such as oysters and shrimp
  • eggs, especially those fortified with omega-3
  • fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil

Plant based sources:

  • flaxseed oil
  • chia seeds
  • canola oil
  • soybean oil
  • walnuts
  • kidney beans

Are omega-3 supplements safe for consumption?

While including seafood or other plant based sources of omega-3 in your diet is healthy for the most part, whether omega-3 supplements are beneficial is uncertain. If you are considering omega-3 supplements, it is imperative that you consult with your health care professional first. Since there is a chance of omega-3 supplements increasing the effects of anti-coagulants, or interacting with other drugs, or even a chance of allergies, supplements for it should always be taken after consulting with a doctor.


NOTE: The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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