Omega-3 Fatty acid Benefits You Should Know About
Omega-3 fatty acids are surprisingly, still not very well-known, even after being advocated for many years.
Or, you might have been one of the lucky ones to have heard about it, but never really took the time to find out all the different ways it could benefit your health.
And trust us, there are a lot of ways Omega-3s can benefit your health.
In this blog post, we discuss what Omega-3s really are, their multitude of benefits, and other pressing questions you may be wondering about these miracle fats.
What Is Omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid. They are essential nutrients that the body cannot produce on its own, so they must be obtained through diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids have had a long history since they were first discovered. They were first identified in the early 1900s, and their health benefits were recognized soon after.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Omega fats were originally classified as "Vitamin F?"
And yet, even though they were identified this early on, it wasn't until 50 years later when it began to be recognized as important to health, with the first clue being the high density of DHA found in pig brains, and subsequently, the brains of most animals (ourselves included).
Omega-3 fatty acids are now known to play important roles in health and disease prevention.
What Are The Different Types of Omega-3s?
All Omega-3s are not the same. On the contrary; the name represents an overarching class that has several subtypes of fatty acids, each with its own distinct characteristics and health benefits.
The four main types of Omega-3 fatty acids are:
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid): This is a plant-based omega-3 that is found in flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, canola oil, and walnuts.
Stearidonic Acid: This omega-3 is found in blackcurrant seed oil and echium oil, although not often included in the list of the "big 3", is very efficient at converting to EPA.
The body can convert ALA into EPA or DHA, although this conversion is not very efficient.
(For context, only 1-9% is converted into DHA).
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid): This is a marine-based omega-3 that is found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
The body can convert EPA into DHA, but the conversion is not very efficient.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid): This is also a primarily marine-based omega-3 that is found in the same sources as EPA.
DHA is the most active form of omega-3 in the body and is the one we need the most of.
For this reason, you can see why most Omega-3 supplements are extracted from fish oil, (and often, referred to as just fish oil) since it is the best source of DHA.
What Are The Benefits Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
This is where it really gets interesting. There are so many benefits of Omega-3 fats on your health that there is a high likelihood you will want to start consuming more of it after seeing what they are.
Omega-3s Can Fight Depression and Anxiety
We've already mentioned the high concentration of DHA found in the brain, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that things can go wrong in states of deficiency. Omega-3s are especially beneficial for mental health. They can fight depression and anxiety, two common mental health conditions.
They can also increase brain function and protect against damage from ROS (reactive oxygen species). Omega-3s are also beneficial for cognitive performance and mood regulation, making them a total brain powerhouse.
Omega-3s Can Improve Eye Health
Omega-3s have been shown to improve eye health in a variety of ways. They can reduce the risk of dry eyes, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Additionally, they promote healthy lenses and help decrease inflammatory processes within the eye.
Omega-3s Can Promote Brain Health During Pregnancy and Early Life
Apart from their health-promoting effects on the adult brain, they also promote brain health during pregnancy and early life. They help with the development of the baby's brain and spine, as well as cognitive function later in life. There are many benefits to taking omega-3s, so it's important for pregnant women and new breastfeeding moms to include them in their diet.
Omega-3s Can Improve Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Omega-3 fatty acids are a valuable part of a heart-healthy diet. They can help reduce the risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Additionally, omega-3s support a healthy inflammatory response, which can keep your heart healthy overall. When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, omega-3s are an important part of the equation.
Although they are not marketed as a weight loss aid, they can assist with weight management by helping to reduce inflammation associated with excess fat and improve insulin sensitivity.
Omega-3s Can Reduce Symptoms of ADHD in Children
While it's best to include omega-3s in a child's diet from birth, supplements can also be a good way to supplement a child's intake. If taken regularly, omega-3s can help improve focus and attention, as well as help reduce hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
So, whether you're a parent of an ADHD child or not, adding omega-3s to their diet is a great way to give the brain the best possible chance of success.
Omega-3s Can Fight Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural response that takes place in our body every single day. However, in uncontrolled excesses, it can lead to chronic diseased states.
They can help to fight inflammation by reducing the production of inflammatory cytokines and eicosanoids. Additionally, omega-3s can help to modulate the immune response and protect against damage from ROS.
Omega-3s Can Reduce Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a group of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. These risk factors include abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and dyslipidemia.
Omega-3s can help to reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation. Additionally, they can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, all of which contribute to a lowering of metabolic co-factors that lead to the dreaded syndrome.
Omega-3s Can Fight Autoimmune Diseases
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a number of health benefits, one of which is the prevention of autoimmune diseases. How do they do this?
Omega-3s work to modulate the immune response and reduce inflammation. Auto-immune diseases are often the result of an overactive and trigger-happy immune system, so omega-3s can be a valuable tool in preventing these devastating and incurable diseases.
Omega-3s Can Fight Age-Related Mental Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease
Guess what? Yet another big brain benefit.
Omega-3s have been shown to be beneficial in the fight against age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease. This is likely due to their anti-inflammatory properties, as well as their ability to promote neuronal function and support healthy brain aging.
In Alzheimer's' large portions of the brain develop beta-amyloid plaques. These plaques are thought to play a role in the development and progression of Alzheimer's. Omega-3s have been shown to help reduce the production of the protein that causes these plaques.
Omega-3s May Help Prevent Cancer
You can't ever truly eliminate your risk of cancer. But what you can do is take steps to lower your risk as much as possible.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate cancer. How do they do this?
It is thought that omega-3s work to modulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, two key players in the development of cancer.
Omega-3s Can Reduce Fat in Your Liver
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition characterized by the accumulation of fat in the liver. It is a common condition, affecting an estimated 30% of the world's population.
Omega-3s can help to reduce the amount of fat in your liver by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation, both hallmarks of fatty liver. Additionally, they can help to protect the liver from damage caused by oxidative stress and reduce triglyceride levels.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Improve Sleep
One of the most important ways that omega-3s can improve sleep is by calming the mind and body. This can lead to better mental health and a better sleep-wake cycle.
Omega-3s can also help to improve sleep by reducing inflammation and promoting healthy brain function. Additionally, they can help to reduce the symptoms of conditions that can cause sleep problems, such as ADHD and depression.
Combine with non-habit forming natural sleep aides such as melatonin for deeply restorative sleep!
Omega-3 Fats Are Good For Your Skin
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for healthy skin. They help to protect it from sun damage and pollutants, promote better blood flow, and improve skin complexion and elasticity.
Not to mention that the lipid content of the skin is increased when omega-3s are added to the diet, which can help to keep skin looking plump and youthful, and limit water loss via evaporation.
Omega-3 Fats Can Slow Down The Aging Process
Reducing the rate of oxidative and inflammatory processes is a great way to slow excessive and premature aging, but what if there was a way to actually promote longevity?
Omega-3 fatty acids may offer just that. The way they do this is by slowing down the rate of telomere fraying.
Telomeres are the segments of DNA at the end of chromosomes that shorten with each cell division. This shortening is a marker of aging, so by slowing down telomere fraying, omega-3s can potentially promote longevity.
Each telomere has a limited number of divisions before it can no longer function properly, so by slowing down the telomere fraying process or helping to restore these telomeres,omega-3s may actually help to extend the lifespan.
They May Lower Blood Pressure
Omega-3s can help to lower blood pressure by reducing triglyceride levels and improving endothelial function.
Endothelial dysfunction is a major contributor to high blood pressure, so by improving endothelial function, and vascular flexibility, you can help control blood pressure.
Reduced Blood Clotting
Heart attacks and strokes are mediated in large part by inflammatory processes and excessive platelet aggregation, or the formation of blood clots.
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory and antiplatelet effects, which can help to prevent these conditions.
Omega-3s May Promote Joint Health
Degenerative joint disorders are a fairly common occurrence, especially as we age. These disorders are characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, which leads to pain, stiffness, and loss of mobility.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help to promote joint health by reducing inflammation and improving joint comfort. Additionally, they can help to delay the progression of degenerative joint disorders like osteoarthritis which have a heavy inflammatory component.
Omega-3s Can Alleviate Menstrual Pain
Tired of using NSAID painkillers to manage menstrual pain? Try Omega-3s!
Omega-3 fatty acids can help to alleviate menstrual pain by reducing the production of prostaglandins and improving blood flow.
Prostaglandins are hormones that are released during menstruation and contribute to the sensations of pain and cramping.
Additionally, they can help to improve the symptoms of PMS, such as bloating, mood swings, and irritability.
May Reduce Frequency And Severity Of Asthmatic Attacks
If you suffer from asthma, you know that it can be a real pain to manage. Asthma attacks can be triggered by a number of things, such as allergies, cold weather, or exercise.
Omega-3s may help to reduce the frequency and severity of asthmatic attacks by reducing the production of inflammatory mediators such as leukotrienes.
Additionally, they can help to improve lung function and reduce bronchial hyperresponsiveness, which is when the airways overreact to triggers and narrows, making it difficult to breathe.
Of course, if you have asthma, it's important to consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medication regimen as Omegas are just one management adjuvant and not likely to be a stand-alone therapy.
May Boost Reproductive Health And Fertility
Omega-3s can also boost reproductive health. One way they do this is by improving the quality of cervical mucus.
Cervical mucus provides a hospitable environment for sperm, and Omega-3s can help to make it more fluid, which makes it easier for sperm to travel through.
Additionally, omega-3s can improve the quality of eggs and help to reduce the risk of preterm labor.
May Support Gut Health
Omega-3s can also support gut health. One way they do this is by reducing inflammation in the digestive tract.
This can help to reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Then, there's a supportive action on probiotic bacteria that live in the gut. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help to keep the gut healthy.
Omega-3s can help to improve the growth and activity of these probiotics, which can further support gut health.
How Much Omega-3 Should You Get Daily?
The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease consume 1 gram of EPA and DHA per day, while people who are at high risk for heart disease should consume 2 grams per day.
For general health, the American Dietetic Association recommends consuming 0.5 to 1 gram per day.
Athletes sometimes take much more than this (up to 4g), as some research suggests that omega-3s can improve exercise performance. However, there is still more research needed in this area.
Foods High in Omega-3s
If you're looking to increase your intake of omega-3s, there are a few foods that are especially high in these fatty acids.
Some good sources of omega-3s include:
·Fatty cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines
· Chia seeds
If you don't eat fish, or you're looking for an omega-3 supplement, you can also take fish oil capsules. Just be sure to choose a high-quality product that has been third-party tested for safety and purity.
Risks and Side Effects
While omega-3s offer a number of health benefits, there are also some potential risks and side effects to be aware of.
Heartburn and indigestion are common side effects of fish oil supplements. If you experience these, try taking your supplement with a meal or reducing the dose.
Fish oil can also thin the blood, so it's important to check with your doctor before taking it if you're on blood-thinning medication such as warfarin (Coumadin).
Additionally, some people may be allergic to fish or fish oil supplements. If you experience any allergy symptoms after taking omega-3s, stop taking the supplement and see your doctor.
Pregnant women and children should also be cautious when taking omega-3 supplements. Pregnant women should avoid shark and swordfish, as these fish may contain high levels of mercury.
Children should also avoid these fish, as well as king mackerel. Pregnant women and children should also limit their intake of albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week.
Omega-3 supplements are generally considered safe, but it's always best to talk to your doctor before taking any new supplement, especially if you have a chronic health condition.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an absolutely essential part of our diet, and yet, many people don't even know this.
Their necessity cannot be replaced by any other nutrient, which is why we have to get them from our diet.
There are many good sources of omega-3s, and you should try to include a few of them in your diet every day. If you don't eat fish, consider taking a fish oil supplement.
It will pay dividends along the way, and you'll be happy you started getting more today.