The Importance Of Omega 3s For Health

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The food we eat - or don’t - can impact our health in many ways, lets take a look at how foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can keep us healthy and mitigate (or even reverse) a broad range of health issues.

What is an Omega-3 Fat?

Omega-3s, also called polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), are fatty acids that are essential for human health, but the body can't produce them. You have to get the omega-3s you need through food.

They are commonly found in fish, such as:

  • Salmon

  • Tuna

  • Halibut

And other seafood that include algae, krill, some plants, and also certain nut oils.

Omega-3 fatty acids have a crucial role in healthy brain function, as well as normal growth and development. They have become popular recently because consuming these fatty acids may significantly reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

Types of Omega-3s

As I mentioned earlier; you can get the omega-3s from both plant and animal sources. Plants like flaxseed, chia, and hemp, all provide a type of omega-3 called alpha-linonleic acid (ALAI). Animal sources, on the other hand are where we find eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA); the type of PUFA that has demonstrated significant cellular health benefits. While ALA is converted into EPA and DHA in your body – it only does so at very low levels. Even consuming large quantities of ALA will only result in a small increase in EPA and DHA levels in the body (and only when there is a sufficient level of enzymes present). Ideally, to enjoy the full health benefits of omega-3 consumption, you will want to focus on getting it from animal sources.

Omega-3 Regulates Your Triglyceride Levels

Omega-3 fatty acids are remarkable for their triglyceride-reducing properties. No other fatty acids like omega-6, monounsaturated or saturated, will match the triglyceride-busting effect of omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids are almost ten times more potent for triglyceride reduction than any other food oil.

Evidence suggests that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil reduce triglyceride levels by:

  • Reducing VLDL production in the liver

  • Accelerating chylomicron and VLDL elimination from the blood

  • Omega-3s charge up the cellular mechanisms needed to convert fatty acids into energy

Additionally, study findings published online in the medical journal The Lancet show that fish oil is more effective than the prescription drug Crestor for lowering triglyceride levels.

DHA Can Maximize Your Kids Intelligence

This study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that supplemental omega-3 had significant positive effects on children from three to five years of age in:

  • Rule-learning and inhibition tasks

  • The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test at 5 years of age

  • The Wechsler Primary Preschool Scales of Intelligence at 6 years of age

There have been several other studies conducted, and every one has found a direct correlation between omega-3 intake and cognitive ability in children.

Fish Oil for Heart Health

Omega-3 fatty acids can promote heart health by reducing inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation in the body can damage your blood vessels over time; it’s this damage that can result in heart disease and strokes. Evidence also indicates that Fish oil helps prevent, and even treat, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by retarding the development of plaques and blood clots, which will ultimately clog arteries.

Prevent Osteoporosis

A new study in mice seems to confirm that omega-3 consumption will prevent and treat osteoporosis in humans by boosting bone health. The study, published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry claims that fish oil supplementation resulted in a higher bone mineral density (BMD) in the tested mice, whereas the mice that didn’t receive supplemental omega-3s did not experience any improvement in BMD.

Relief from the Symptoms of Asthma

People suffering from asthma have an imbalance between the molecules that retard inflammation and those that increase inflammation. Steroids are commonly prescribed as a treatment because they control the inflammation - relieving symptoms, but not curing the disease itself. Disturbingly, according to some research, it appears that steady corticosteroid use will, in some cases, reduce the body's natural ability to fight asthmatic inflammation. Omega-3s have been shown to convert to unique pro-resolving mediators that can halt inflammation without suppressing the immune system like corticosteroids.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative condition. It gradually damages areas of the brain needed for memory, cognition, speech, and behavior. Alzheimer's commonly affects the aged; affecting 10% of people over age sixty-five and almost half all people over eighty-five. But is Alzheimer's disease an inevitable part of aging? Researchers have noted that it's far less common in certain populations that eat lots of fish.

Recent research has shown that increasing dietary intake of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA from fish oils increases the rate that the body breaks down the beta-amyloid plaques implicated in Alzheimer’s disease while helping maintain, and in some case improve cognitive function. The high-DHA diet delivered a massive (70%) drop in levels of beta-amyloid protein in the brain compared to the other groups in the study.

Arthritis and Omega-3 fatty Acids

According to an article in Arthritis and Rheumatology; patients taking a fish oil supplement showed marked improvements in the symptoms of arthritis from a number of baseline measurements that included the number of painful joints. Ultimately, some patients who took fish oil were able to stop NSAID use without experiencing further pain.

Weight Loss

Individuals who used supplemental fish oil omega-3s experienced a reduction in abdominal body fat according to this study published in PLOS One. Although fish oil did not result in a statistically significant level of weight loss in the test subjects – it did reduce the amount of abdominal fat that the subjects carried before increasing their omega-3 consumption. The take away is that even if omeg-3s may not reduce total body weight; they can slim you down where it counts most for your appearance (and health).

Omega-3s are Essential for Your Health

The science is settled; not only are the omega-3 fatty acids found in seafood an essential component in a healthy diet – omega-3s also provide a cornucopia of health benefits that can improve:

  • Brain health and function

  • Heart and circulatory health

  • Help keep lungs healthy by controlling inflammation

  • Mitigate the effects of age on the brain

  • Keep bone and joints healthy

  • Maintain a healthy distribution of fat in the body

Eat omega-3 rich foods or use a quality fish oil supplement and enjoy improved health and fewer age-related health issues.