Omega 3: Now you know why fats are healthy for you


Last Updated August 23rd, 2019

What are omega 3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid.  There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids namely alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid.  They are essential for the normal functioning of metabolism.  They manage several health problems namely reducing the risk of heart disease, decreasing triglycerides count, as well as improving the levels of HDL.  

HDL is considered to be good cholesterol. Omega-3 fatty acids have various functions in the body, which includes providing energy to the muscles, heart, as well as other organs.  They also help in storing energy for the body. Fatty acids which are not utilized as energy end up being converted into triglycerides.

Probably the biggest benefit one can draw from omega-3 is that is a potent anti-cancer agent. Cancers, especially of the lymphatic system (Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma), arise due to weakened immunity and chronic bodily inflammation. Omega-3s can successfully bring down the level of these two factors in the body and are thus widely prescribed as a supplemental treatment agent to many cancer patients. These are also effective in treating and managing the symptoms of lipoma.

These triglycerides are then stored in the adipose tissue as fat.  The excess amount of fat accumulation may cause severe health problems and omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in managing these fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are not produced by the body but can be sourced from the diet.  There are several food sources available and include flaxseed oil, walnut, salmon, sardines, canola oil, spinach, etc.

What are the health benefits of omega 3?

Promote heart health

There are several factors contributing to the proper functioning of the heart.  An increase in the number of triglycerides, cholesterol buildup, increase in blood pressure, etc may affect the normal functioning of the heart.  

Omega-3 fatty acids are effective in managing heart problems. They reduce triglycerides and cholesterol levels. This helps in the reduction of plaque formation, which is known to obstruct the normal blood flow and cause pressure.  Reduction in plaque formation allows adequate blood flow and reduction in pressure. As noted earlier, omega-3 fatty acids manage the fats present in the body. This helps in the regulation of several diseases associated with fat accumulation.Omega-3 fatty acids are also helpful in preventing platelets clumping, which helps in preventing strokes.

Omega-3 treats psychological problems

There are several psychological problems that affect the normal functioning of the brain and include anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, etc.  Studies have indicated that people suffering from these psychological problems tend to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids and hence there seems to be a clear indication that reduced levels may lead to psychological problems.

Children suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder have shown good improvement in the level of concentration when supplemented with these fatty acids.  More serious psychological conditions such as bipolar disorder as well as schizophrenia too have shown positive effects with the addition of these fatty acid supplements. Studies have also indicated that omega-3 fatty acids are effective in delaying the onset of Alzheimer disease and dementia associated with old age.

Fight inflammation with omega-3

 The inflammation indicates the functioning of the immune system, which is protecting the body from harmful pathogens.  Inflammation is also caused internally within the body and may be caused because of various factors. One of the factors contributing to inflammation is with fat build up.  Generally, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are helpful in reducing the inflammation, but they are also associated with various side effects. Omega-3 fatty acid seems to be effective in fighting inflammation.  The omega-3 fatty acid is known to be as effective as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug without causing any side effects.

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Manage autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune disease is a medical condition where the body is attacked by the immune system considering it be a foreign body.  There are numerous types of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, ulcerative colitis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, leaky gut syndrome, etc.  The main problem associated with the autoimmune disease is that the diagnosis itself is a tedious process. Studies have claimed that reduced levels of omega-3 fatty acid may be one of the causes of autoimmune disease.  Studies have indicated that when a person consumes omega-3 fatty acid regularly during the early part of their lives are safer in avoiding this deadly disease. So, it is advised to consume foods containing omega-3 regularly to avoid autoimmune disease.

Fight cancer

There are different types of cancer as well as different stages of cancer.  A cancer diagnosis is generally considered to be fatal, but early diagnosis may provide a better prognosis.  Extensive studies have been conducted to know the effects of omega-3 fatty acid on cancer cells. Studies have indicated that it is known to halt the process of cell multiplication of malignant cells and halt the spreading of cancer in a certain type of cancers such as colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.  It is known to enhance the cancer-fighting abilities of curcumin that is present in turmeric.

Promote healthy bones

Healthy bones are essential for the normal functioning of a person.  Experiencing weak and brittle bones during adulthood may indicate a medical condition called osteoporosis.  The person affected by osteoporosis can experience pain, stiffness, as well as break a bone even with simple activities.  There are several factors which may cause this condition and particularly abnormal absorption of calcium from the gut. This causes the bone to gradually become soft and weak.  Studies have indicated that omega-3 fatty acid is known to enhance the absorption of calcium by enhancing the effects of vitamin D. Supplementing the diet with an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acid is helpful in promoting healthy bones.

Reduce sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a medical condition where a person is unable to fall asleep as well as maintain the sleep for an adequate amount of time.  There are several reasons contributing to the onset of sleep apnea including abnormal diet, psychological stress, hormonal imbalance, etc.  Children too are not spared from this medical condition and one of the reasons responsible for this is because of the lack of omega-3 fatty acid.  Studies have indicated that low levels of omega-3 cause a decrease in the production of a hormone called melatonin. This hormone is responsible to make a person fall asleep.  Studies have indicated that when the levels of Omega-3 fatty acid are managed appropriately, there is appropriate secretion of the melatonin hormone. This increases the chances for a person to fall asleep and even sustain it for the appropriate time.  

Promote child development

Child development is important during the period of pregnancy as well as after birth.  A child’s development may vary depending on the amount of nutrition provided during pregnancy as well as during infancy.  Studies have indicated that women who were supplemented with an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acid during pregnancy are reported to have given birth to a healthy child with appropriate developmental milestones.  Studies have indicated that when there is a sufficient amount of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) consumed during pregnancy, the brain development and retinal development of the baby seems to be appropriate.  

This enables the child to perform better, have a good memory, and has the ability to grasp things faster. It is well known that breast milk is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acid and provides ample nutrition a baby requires. It also reduces the risk of developing ADHD in children, autism, etc.  Because of this reason, it is advised that women need to consume adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acid during pregnancy as well as after childbirth.

Prevent macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is a medical condition where the affected person experiences blurred vision as well as impaired central vision.  Macular degeneration is generally caused during old age. It is a gradual process where a person slowly tends to lose the effectiveness of the eyesight, which turns blur along with central vision loss.  Studies have indicated that Omega-3 fatty acid plays an important role in preventing the cause of macular degeneration. The retina present in the eye contains large amounts of DHA and EPA, which is helpful in maintaining the overall health of the retina.  Studies have indicated that omega-3 fatty acid is effective in reducing the onset of macular degeneration.

The best sources of omega-3s are …

The omega-3 fatty acid is found in both plant-based food as well as meat-based food.  

It has been noted that meat-based fatty acid is easily soluble and is digested easily by the body whereas fatty acid found in the form of ALA in plants is not easily soluble and requires a lengthy process for the body to convert ALA to DHA and EPA.  

Fatty fish seems to stand out among others in providing an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acid. Some of the foods containing omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Mackerel.
  • Salmon.
  • Walnuts.
  • Chia seeds.
  • Herring.
  • Flaxseeds.
  • Tuna.
  • Whitefish.
  • Sardines.
  • Hemp seeds.
  • Anchovies.
  • Natto.
  • Egg yolks.

As discussed earlier, fatty fish stands out among all these foods, as it is known to provide around 6982 mg of omega-3 fatty acid per cup.  Walnuts too provide a substantial amount of omega-3 fatty acid ranging around 2664 mg in a quarter cup.

There are also supplements available in the market and include salmon fish oil, cod liver oil, herring roe oil, algal oil, etc. The omega-3 fatty acid is generally safe when we consume it through our diet and is known to cause no side effects whatsoever.  Supplements are available in the market these days and there is some debate that some supplements may cause side effects. It is always advised to add a supplement only under the supervision of a medical professional and follow the instructions mentioned on the label.

Omega 3: The best supplement you can find

It is now quite clear that omega-3 has numerous health benefits.  They are effective in reducing the triglycerides levels and improve the HDL.  Since omega-3 is not produced by the body, it is important to supplement them through diet.  A ton of benefits is associated with the consumption of omega-3 rich foods. Some of the benefits include reducing inflammation, maintaining a healthy heart, improving brain function, as well as limiting the occurrence of autoimmune diseases.  

It is recommended to get sufficient omega-3 by consuming foods such as Alaskan salmon, herring, mackerel, etc. There are also several plant-based foods containing omega-3 which can be supplemented through diet. Supplements produced from animal-based are recommended as they are easily digested.  There are reports that these supplements may cause side effects, so caution is advised before adding a supplement to the diet.


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