Essential Facts About Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial to our health in many ways. Studies have shown that conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, depression, heart disease, and high cholesterol levels, among many others, benefit from the intake of omega 3s. Here are the omega 3 basics you need to know.
Essential Facts About Essential Fatty Acids
- Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are used by the body for proper functioning. These fatty acids, like DHA, EPA, and ALA, are not naturally produced by the body or are converted inefficiently from ALA to EPA and DHA, but they can be derived from our diet.
- The health benefits we can derive from the intake of omega 3s include reducing inflammation (in blood vessels, joints, etc.), thinning the blood, and aiding in cell function.
- Among the several types of omega 3 fatty acids, the crucial ones are DHA and EPA. The primary sources for these are certain fatty fish and fish oil. DHA may also be derived from algae oil. ALA is found in plants, like flaxseed, and is partially converted in the body into DHA and EPA.
- Some evidence has shown that DHA and EPA have better established health benefits compared to ALA, which is mainly a source of energy.
- Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil can lower blood pressure and triglyceride levels, to as much as 50%.
- Omega 3 fatty acids reduce the risk of heart disease. People who have had a heart attack also reduce their risk of a repeat when they take omega 3 supplements. Fish oil may reduce arrhythmia and eating fish at least once a week also decreases the risk of a stroke.
- Omega 3s have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing stiffness and joint pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. They also amplify the effects of anti-inflammatory medicine.
- Studies have shown that populations with higher omega 3s in their diets have lower incidences of depression. Fish oil may reduce the depressive symptoms of people with bipolar disorder and may also boost the effectiveness of antidepressants.
- Pregnant women who take DHA and EPA supplements boost the development of their babies, especially their visual and neurological development.
- Omega 3s from food or supplements have been shown to improve bone density, which may alleviate some symptoms of osteoporosis.
- Fish oil may help improve lung function of people who suffer from asthma.
- Some studies suggest that fish oil may reduce the symptoms of ADHD in young children and improve their cognitive development.
- Preliminary research has suggested that omega 3s have the potential to help protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
- Although still under study, omega 3s may also have the potential to benefit other medical conditions like Crohn’s disease, lupus, some cancers, kidney damage from diabetes, obesity, skin conditions, and painful periods.
The Facts about Omega 6
- Omega 6 is another fatty acid that is important to balance out the intake of omega 3. Primary sources for omega 6 include many oils, meats, and processed foods.
- It has been argued that an imbalance in the intake of omega 6 and omega 3, with the balance tipping towards omega 6 intake, may cause disease. On the other hand, other experts believe that this imbalance is insignificant and that omega 6 fatty acids also have the potential to provide a lot of health benefits that should be looked into further.
- Although not all experts agree on whether or not the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio is important, it is widely accepted that an increase of omega 3 fatty acids in your diet can only benefit you.
- It is still always better to derive your omega 3 fatty acids from natural food sources instead of supplements.
- The best sources of DHA and EPA are anchovies, bluefish, wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, sturgeon, tuna, and lake trout. Having fish in your weekly diet at least twice is recommended.
- ALA, on the other hand, can be derived from walnuts, flax and flaxseed oil, olive oil, soybean oil, and canola oil.
- Keep in mind that some sources of omega 3 fatty acids, like oils and nuts, while being beneficial to your health in some ways, should still be taken in moderation because they are high in calories too.
- The best DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acid supplement is krill oil and fish oil. DHA can also be derived from algae oil supplements. ALA, which can be derived from plant-based supplements, does not show to provide the same health benefits.
- A healthy dose of DHA and EPA from fish oil is 1 gram daily. With a doctor’s supervision, the dosage can be increased for people with certain medical conditions. High doses of omega 3, particularly EPA, may also increase the risk of bleeding, especially in people with bleeding conditions. Again, doctor supervision is required.
- Indigestion and gas are common side effects of fish oil; supplements with an enteric coating might alleviate these symptoms.
- While fish are the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids, you should also be aware that some types of fish have contaminants in them and should be avoided, especially by children and pregnant women. Wild swordfish, tilefish, and shark are likely to have high levels of mercury and other toxins. Contaminants may also be present in farm-raised fish. If you do want to have these fish in your diet, a maximum of 7 ounces a week is safe.
- Free-range poultry and beef are also great sources of omega 3 fatty acids, and are better choices than the grain-fed variety.
- It always wise to consult with your doctor, especially with regards to taking supplements. Depending on your overall health condition, he would be the best person to recommend the correct daily dosage for you. This is especially important for children and pregnant and breastfeeding women.