Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in several functions in our body.
Research shows that they provide us with several potent health benefits.
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most researched nutrients on the planet.
This guide answers questions like what is omega-3 and what does omega-3 does? We then examine the many health benefits of omega-3.
What is Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
As the name suggests, omega-3 is a type of fat. They are polyunsaturated fatty acids found in animal and plant sources.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and a-linolenic acid (ALA) are the three types of omega-3 fatty acids. ALA occurs in plants while EPA and DHA are found in mostly marine animals and some marine plants.
We talked briefly about each type in our article on fish oil.
Our bodies cannot produce Omega-3 fatty acids, so we have to get it from other sources. The most important types we need are EPA and DHA because our bodies can’t do much with ALA. ALA must be converted to EPA then AHA to become useful to us.
Therefore, the beneficial Omega-3s are those from animal sources. The best sources are oily fish like salmon, trout, sardines, tuna, mackerel, etc. If you don’t eat fish, you can use fish oil supplements to meet your needs.
The many benefits of Omega-3
1. Omega-3s May Lower The Risks of Heart Disease
Studies show that heart disease like stroke and heart attack are the biggest killers in the world (a).
Further studies show that omega-3 may improve some of the risk factors for heart disease (d).
Some of these risk factors include:
- High Blood Pressure – Studies show that people with hypertension (high blood pressure) can lower their blood pressure by taking omega-3 supplements or eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (e, f)
- Chronic Inflammation – Chronic inflammation is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. EPA and DHA omega-3s are essential for the proper functioning of our inflammatory system. The regular consumption of foods high in omega-3 can lower the risk of excessive inflammation and, consequently, the risk of heart disease (g, h, i).
- High Triglycerides levels – High levels of triglycerides in the blood can also cause heart disease. One of the benefits of omega-3 is its ability to lower triglycerides levels (j, k, l).
- HDL Cholesterol Levels – HDL cholesterols are the “good” cholesterols in our body. They can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can boost the levels of HDL cholesterol in the blood (m, n, o).
- Plague in Arteries – When plaque builds up in the arteries, they can raise blood pressure, which is bad for heart disease. Omega-3s helps prevent the buildup of plaque in the arteries (p, q).
- Blood Clots – The clotting of blood can raise your risk of heart diseases, especially stroke. Omega-3 can have a blood thinning effect, which prevents clotting (r, s).
Omega-3 fatty acids may also lower LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol in some people. But there is no consensus on this effect. Some studies find that it can lower LDL, some show that it has no effect, while others say it can even raise LDL levels (t, u).
Interestingly, despite all these benefits of omega-3 for the risk factors of heart disease, studies on fish oil supplements have failed to support claims that it can prevent strokes or heart attacks (v, w, x)
Conclusion: Studies show that the regular intake of Omega-3s can improve several risk factors for heart disease, but there is not conclusive evidence that omega-3 fish oil supplements can prevent strokes or heart attacks.
2. Omega-3 fatty acids May Help Prevent Depression and Anxiety Disorder
Clinical depression is a mental health disorder that is reaching epidemic proportions.
It is mostly characterized by persistent loss of interest and a constant feeling of sadness. These two symptoms can then develop into other behavioral and physical symptoms like low energy levels, inability to sleep, loss of appetite, loss of concentration and loss of self-esteem. It can also cause suicidal thoughts and lead to self-harm (y, z).
Anxiety disorder is also a mental health disorder characterized by fear, persistent worry, and anxiety. The symptoms can severely interfere with daily life (a1).
Several studies show that depression is less prevalent in people who take omega-3s regularly. Therefore, eating foods high in omega-3s or taking omega-3 supplements can help lower the risk of depression (b1, c1).
EPA omega-3 seems to be the most beneficial for depression of all the omega-3s (g1).
A study even suggested that it may be as potent as some anti-depression medications (h1).
Conclusion: Mental health disorders are the biggest reasons for suicide in the world. The benefits of omega-3 include its ability to improve the symptoms of two of the leading mental health disorders, clinical depression and anxiety.
3. Omega-3 May Be Good For Your Eyes
The omega-3, DHA, helps support the development of the eye. It is one of the constituents of our brains and the retina of the eye (i1).
Conclusion: Omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent macular degeneration, which is a common eye disease that can cause blindness.
4. Omega-3s Help The Brains of Unborn Babies and Infants Develop
Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for the development of the brain and eyes of infants and unborn babies.
Studies indicate that babies who eat foods high in DHA omega-3s tend to have a better eyesight and cognitive function than babies who don’t get enough omega-3s (p1).
- They may be more intelligent
- Lowers the risk of behavioral disorders
- Lowers the risk of early development problems
- Reduces the risk of conditions like cerebral palsy, ADHD and autism.
- Improved social and communication skills.
Conclusion: Pregnant women who take omega-3s can provide their unborn babies with plenty of health benefits that may help prevent common congenital, developmental, and chronic conditions like ADHD. It improves their eyesight and intelligence.
5. Omega-3 Fatty May Help Improve the Symptoms of ADHD in Children
Taking omega-3s during pregnancy may help prevent your child from developing ADHA, but studies show it can also improve the symptoms of ADHD in children.
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It is a chronic condition characterized by impulsiveness, an inability to pay attention, and hyperactivity.
Doctors have been giving children with ADHD omega-3 fatty acid supplements to help improve their symptoms (t1)
After evaluating the effects of different treatments on ADHD, researchers concluded that fish oil supplements showed the most promise (y1).
Conclusion: Several studies show that omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help improve the symptoms of ADHD in children and adolescents. Some people even prescribe it for treating ADHD in children. However, some scientists believe the evidence isn’t sufficient to support this claim.
6. Omega-3 May be Beneficial for Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of conditions that put you at a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. These conditions include high blood sugar, high blood pressure, excess body fat around the waist, and high cholesterol levels.
Studies show that Omega-3s could help improve the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. It can reduce inflammation and improve insulin resistance. It can also cause an improvement in the risk factors for heart disease in individuals with metabolic syndrome (z1, a2, b2).
Conclusion: Omega-3 fatty acids provide several health benefits for individuals suffering from metabolic syndrome. They can help prevent chronic inflammation, improve insulin resistance, and improve some of the risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
7. Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Be Beneficial For Mental Health Disorders
We’ve already discussed the benefits of omega-3 for some mental health disorders like clinical depression and chronic anxiety. But omega 3s can also provide benefits for individuals suffering from psychiatric disorders (c2).
People with aggressive and violent tendencies may also benefit from taking omega-3 fish oil supplements (g2).
Conclusion: Studies suggest that taking omega-3 supplements may help improve symptoms for people suffering from mental health disorders.
8. May Improve Cognitive Decline Due to Aging
As we age, our brain function seems to also deteriorate.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease mostly found in the elderly. It is characterized by memory loss and decline in mental function.
Conclusion: Omega-3 fatty acids may provide benefits for people with age-related cognitive decline.
9. It May Help in The Prevention of Some Cancers
Cancer is one of the most fatal diseases in the developed world. There are claims that Omega-3 fatty acids may help lower the risk of some types of cancers.
Conclusion: One health benefit of omega-3 could see it help prevent some types of cancers.
10. Omega-3s May be Beneficial For Your Liver
Some people develop a condition known as Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
It has become more prevalent as more people become obese. NAFLD is the leading cause of chronic liver disease developed countries (o2).
Conclusion: Omega-3 can provide health benefits for people with a type of fatty liver disease.
Other Health Benefits of Omega-3
Omega-3 May also provide benefits for the following diseases
- Depression – It may also help prevent post-partum depression
- High cholesterol
- Aging-related Cognitive Problems
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Post-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) – Only Omega-3s from Flaxseeds.
- Fibrocystic breast disease – Only Omega-3s from Flaxseeds
- Support for brain and nervous system function
- Multiple sclerosis
- Hot flashes – Only omega-3s from flaxseeds
- Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease in people considered to be at high risk.
- Pregnancy and Lactation
- Blood Clotting
- Sleep Improvement
- Skin conditions
The health benefits of omega-3 are many. They are critical for maintaining optimal health.
The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are from oily fish. It is recommended that you eat at least 2 servings of oily fish every week.
However, a lot of people don’t eat fish so they can get it by taking omega-3 fish oil supplements.
Fish oil supplements are also an affordable way to reverse omega-3 deficiency quickly.
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