Omega-3s are the powerhouse of fats. They are polyunsaturated fatty acids utilised for numerous normal body functions, including blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain.
There are three major types of omega-3 fatty acids. The first is alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, which is found in soybean, canola and flaxseed oils. It can also be found in walnuts and some green vegetables. These include Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and salad greens. The second and third types are eicosapentaenoic, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic, or DHA. Both are found in fatty fish. During digestion, the body is able to partially convert ALA to EPA and DHA. Omega-3s are especially important because the body cannot make them; therefore, we need to obtain them from food. Supplements are a great way to get your daily intake of omega 3s. Here are some important ways in which supplementing with omega-3s can improve your health.
Omega-3s and Inflammation
Of all the omega fatty acids, omega-3s have the most potent immunomodulatory activities. Furthermore, omega-3 fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are more biologically potent than ALA.
Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties; therefore, they may be beneficial in inflammation and autoimmunity management.
Diseases associated with inflammation, such as coronary heart disease, depression and cancer are caused by an increase in a pro-inflammatory cytokine called interleukin. Similarly, autoimmune diseases are caused by a high level of pro-inflammatory leukotriene, which is produced by an increase of omega-6 fatty acids (Simopoulos, 2002).
Omega-3 fatty acids stop inflammation in multiple ways. Firstly, omega-3s inhibit the formation of omega-6 fatty acids that are caused by pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. They also form several anti-inflammatory lipid mediators. Omega-3s suppress the activity of nuclear transcription factors. They also reduce the production of pro-inflammatory enzymes and cytokines (Kang, 2008).
High Cholesterol, Diabetes, and Blood Pressure
Individuals who get plenty of omega-3s in their diet, such as the Inuit Eskimos who eat large quantities of fatty fish, have healthy hearts, increased HDL cholesterol and decreased triglycerides.
Studies have shown that individuals who supplement with omega-3 supplements have similar low triglyceride levels. Individuals with diabetes are known to have high levels of triglycerides; therefore, omega-3 fatty acids may help lower the risk of developing complications from diabetes and may prevent some people from developing the disease.
Further research indicates that individuals with diets rich in omega-3s have lower blood pressure. Supplementing with fish oil supplements has been shown to reduce blood pressure in individuals with hypertension when 3 or more grams of fish oil supplements are taken daily.
Omega-3s and Heart Disease
Omega-3 fatty acids have a healthy effect on the heart. Studies show that fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and triglyceride levels. Individuals who consume a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have a lower risk of death, heart attack and stroke.
Moreover, omega-3s appear to slow the development of plaque and blood clots, which may help prevent and treat atherosclerosis, or the hardening of arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may help prevent stroke by stopping blood clots and plaque buildup in the arteries that can lead to the brain.
Furthermore, eating two servings of fish per week may reduce the risk of stroke by 50 percent. If you live in an area where fresh fish is not available, supplementing with an omega-3 supplement may be perfect for you!
Cognitive Health - Depression, Bipolar Disorder, ADHD, Cognitive Decline & Schizophrenia
Omega-3 fatty acids are imperative for brain health. Several studies conducted have shown that subpar intake of omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk for age-related cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Children who suffer from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been shown to have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Temper tantrums and sleep disturbances were indicated in a clinical study of nearly 100 boys who had low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet as compared to boys with high levels. Some studies even suggest that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may help improve behaviour symptoms in children with ADHD.
Omega-3s to Clear Up Skin Problems
While they do not replace sunscreen, fish oil supplements may help clear up dermatitis caused by sun sensitivity. A clinical study showed that 13 individuals with sun sensitivity induced photodermatitis exhibited improved skin health after taking fish oil supplements. Another study found that when taken with medicine, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation worked better at protecting individuals from psoriasis caused by the damaging effects of the sun.
Kang, J. (2008). Modulation of inflammatory cytokines by omega-3 fatty acids. Sub-cellular Biochemistry.
Simopoulos, A. (2002). Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 495-505.