Omega 3 fatty acids are imperative for the betterment of the overall health. A human body is unable to produce omega 3 acids on its own and therefore these fatty acids are considered to be “essential” for the body and it is mandatory for one to consume it.
When a question is raised about the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids then we come to know, very rarely any nutrient possesses so many positive qualities as this compound does. It reduces the risks of a heart disease which is a commonly known advantage of omega 3. Besides this there many other plus points of including omega 3 as a part of the regular diet like improving retinal function, fetal development, weight management, the acids also support the overall well-being of an individual.
It has been approved by the scientists that 2 of the omega 3 formulations can be used for the treatment of high triglycerides. One of the two formulations contains only 1 compound whereas the other one contains the omega 3 fatty acids that are animal-based along with DHA and EPA.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid’s Structure
Omega 3s consists of more than just a singular double bond as their chemical structure, which makes it a particular form of fatty acid that is polyunsaturated in nature. The “3” in the term omega 3 depicts the specific location of the primary double bond in the chemical structure. Saturated fatty acids can be synthesized by the human body, but however the body does not possess the enzyme that has the capability of allowing the double bond to stick in the correct place so as to create omega 3.
There are 3 types of omega 3s found in edibles, EPA, ALA and DHA.
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): EPA can be found in algae oil, oily fish and krill oil. It is the 20-carbon fatty acid. The body is capable of synthesizing the EPA molecule in the original form. For actually imbibing the whole lot of benefits offered by the EPA and even DHA, one needs to consume food that contains high quantities of these compounds.
Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA): it is a form of plant-based omega 3. It is mainly found in green and leafy vegetables, chia seeds, flaxseeds and canola, soybean and walnut oils. This compound is a short chain of omega 3 which the body needs to convert into a longer chain of DHA and EPA for actually being able to synthesize ALA. However, this is an inefficient procedure where around 1% of the consumed ALA is finally converted to longer chains of EPA or DHA (in women this percentage is a bit higher).
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): DHA is found in krill oil, oily fish as well as algae oil, just like EPA. This is a 22-carbon molecule. If consumption of DHA becomes higher than the body converts the excess DHA into EPA to maintain equality between EPA and DHA.
Omega 3 Deficiency
Maximum people do not get the right amount of omega 3 fatty acids and for acquiring a suitable amount of it one can have 2 or more oily fish preferably of 3.5 ounces, per week.
Doctors prescribe a meal containing a combined amount of 250-500 mg of DHA and EPA, per day. This will be enough to sustain a healthy individual. But, people with more serious problems like severe heart diseases or other heart problems, cancer, anxiety and depression and possibly lot more conditions. In this case, benefiting from omega 3 is only possible if an individual receives greater doses of it, around 4000 mg every day for a specific heart disorder.
One can surely be deficient in omega 3 and there are certain symptoms of recognition of the condition. These symptoms include poor memory, fatigue, dry skin, mood swings, heart disorders, and depression as well as poor circulation. According to researchers, among the many aspects of risks that leads to death omega 3 deficiency ranks 8th in the list.
To get all the benefits from omega 3, one needs to be on a proper diet that includes food that has a high content of omega 3. But it can be tough for some people who cannot readily get hands such food items. It that case, one can resort to omega 3 supplements and a wholesome diet.
17 Rewarding Health Benefits of Omega 3s
Improves Eye Health
The major constitutional element of the retina and the brain is DHA. DHA is also a form of omega 3. Therefore, on being deficient of omega 3 one can suffer from vision problems. Even macular degeneration, a popular reason for permanently damaging the eyes and causing blindness, is reduced by a great percentage.
Helps in Promoting Brain Health at the Time of Pregnancy and Infant Life
We have seen that omega-3s are essential for brain health and growth. Omega-3s are also essential for the development of the infants. DHA constitutes 40% and 60% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids of the brain and the retina, respectively. Hence, if infants are given proper dosage of DHA-fortified formulae then they will have improved eyesight rather than the ones without it. During pregnancy, expecting mothers and their children both get benefited on getting sufficient omega 3s. The children are born with a higher level of intelligence, they possess better social and communication skills, the risk of delayed development decreases, behavioral problems are reduced, lesser risk of autism, ADHD as well as cerebral palsy.
Aids in Fighting Anxiety and Depression
In this world that we live in, depression is coming up as a very common mental disorder. The symptoms of this include feeling sad, feeling lazy and losing interest in life in general. Another extremely common disorder is anxiety. This is characterized by nervousness and constant worrying. Surprisingly, scientists have found out that when people have sufficient content of omega 3 fatty acids they are affected less by these disorders. Moreover, on taking the supplements, the symptoms get reduced. Among the 3 forms of omega 3 fatty acids, EPA fights against depression.
Supports in Lessening the Risk Factors against Heart Diseases
In the present scenario cases of death by strokes and heart attacks have increased immensely. Many years ago, researchers noticed that the communities that had fish as a part of their stapled diet were experiencing lesser heart attacks rather than those who did not. It was later discovered that this was partly due to the presence of omega 3 in fish. From then onwards, omega 3 has proved to be extremely helpful in reducing heart diseases.
Blood Pressure: Omegas 3s are helpful in reducing blood pressure in people who have high blood pressure.
Triglycerides: Triglycerides can be reduced within the span of 15%-30% with consumption of omega 3s.
Plaque: Omega 3 hinders the formation of plaque that can harden and restrict arteries by keeping them free from damage and smooth.
Blood Clots: Omega 3 prevents the clumping of blood platelets to one another therefore, preventing the possibilities of any unhealthy and dangerous blood clots.
Inflammation: During an inflammatory response, omega 3s decreases the release of some substances which lessens inflammation.
HDL-Cholesterol: omega 3 has the capability of raising the good HDL cholesterol levels.
In some cases, omega 3 is also seen to reduce the bad LDL cholesterol but in many other cases it is found not to work in a similar fashion but in the opposite way.
However, with all the good qualities that omega 3s possess, there can be no guarantee that a heart attack or a stroke can be surely prevented with its help.
Reduces the Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of disorders. These disorders include central obesity or what we call bell fat, high triglycerides, increased level of blood pressure, insulin resistance and low levels of HDL. In concern of public interest, this syndrome needs to be cured because it can give rise to or increases the risk of contracting various other diseases. It includes diabetes and heart disease. Omega 3s has the capability of reducing inflammation and insulin resistance, therefore, improving the condition of the heart in people suffering from metabolic syndrome.
Reduces Signs of ADHD among Infants
ADHD stands for Attention Deficit hyperactivity disorder, a behavioral disorder. It can be distinguished by hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. Studies have established that infants with ADHD have decreased the quantity of omega 3 fatty acids in their blood when compared to the healthy contemporaries. This situation can be tackled by taking omega 3 supplements. Omega 3 is helpful in improving attentiveness and the capability of completing tasks. It reduces impulsiveness, aggression, hyperactivity and restlessness. Recent studies have found the evidence for various treatments for ADHD. Fish oil was found to be very effective in curing this.
Helps In Fighting inflammation
Inflammation is absolutely crucial as it helps in repairing damage and fighting infections inside the body. But, at times, inflammation continues for a lengthier period of time even if there are no infections or injuries in the body. This situation is known as chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation may contribute to nearly every chronic disease which includes cancer and heart ailments. Here, omega 3 acids have the potential to reduce the yielding of substances and molecules related to inflammation, like the cytokines and the inflammatory eicosanoids. Research has constantly shown the connection between higher levels of omega 3 and reduced level of inflammation.
Helps In Improving Mental Disorders
Deficiency of omega 3 in people may as well lead to psychiatric disorders. Therefore, for coming out of such a situation, one needs to get proper omega 3 supplements. These supplements can decrease relapses in an individual suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, it also handles the problem of mood swings. If a person is showing violent behavior, omega 3 fatty acid supplements can give relief from it.
Benefits in Fighting Mental Decline With Regard To Ageing and Alzheimer’s Disease
Ageing can lead to decline in mental health and thus cause the malfunction in the brain functions. For resolving such a problem, the intake of omega 3 is essential for reducing mental decline as a result of ageing. Omega 3 can also help in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, analysis has brought forward that people who consume fatty fish are regarded to possess increased amounts of gray matter which is responsible for processing memories, information and emotions.
Serves In Fighting Autoimmune Diseases
The autoimmune disease is the disease in which the immunity system of the body mistakes healthy bodily cells with foreign cells and hence attacks them. The best example of this is type 1 diabetes. In this situation, the cells of the pancreas, producing insulin, are attacked by the immune system. Omega 3 thus fights most diseases of this sort and is essential for the younger section of the life. Studies have shown that consuming sufficient amount of omega 3 in the initial years of life is related to decreased risks of a handful of autoimmune diseases that include, autoimmune diabetes found in adults, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Other diseases that can be cured or prevented by omega 3 are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis and Crohns’s disease.
Assists in Preventing Cancer
Omega 3 fatty acids have been claimed for a long time to be able to prevent the incurable disease. Cancer can be deadly if it spreads uninterruptedly inside the body. Nevertheless, it has been proved that people who include omega-3 rich foods in their regular diet have 55% lower chances of contracting colon cancer. It also has been connected to the possibility of lowering the chances of having (in men) prostate cancer and (in women) breast cancer. But, there are some studies that have a different viewpoint.
Reduces Asthma Mostly in Children
A chronic lung ailment called Asthma has the symptoms like shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. Extreme asthma attacks are really dangerous. This disease is caused due to swelling and inflammation in the passages of air leading to the lungs. The rate of children with asthma has heightened because of the excessive pollution. Omega 3, therefore, is considered to have the capability of lowering the chances of having asthma in young adults and children.
Helps In Reducing the Fat in Liver
The non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can be very harmful to the body. This disease has crept in due to obesity which is spreading like an epidemic nowadays and this chronic disease is now being considered very common. Omega 3 supplements can reduce inflammation and liver fat in people suffering from NAFLD.
Improves Joint and Bone Health
Arthritis and osteoporosis are really common disorders which affect the bones in the skeletal system. Omega 3 is found to be effective in improving bone health and increase its strength by intensifying calcium in the bones. This definitely reduces the chances of osteoporosis. Patients that have omega 3s in their diet are reportedly healthier and experience lesser pain in their joints and have heightened grip strength.
Aids in Alleviating Menstrual Pain
Women experience menstrual pain which is felt in the pelvis and lower abdominal areas, which sometimes extends to thighs and the lower back. It negatively affects the quality of the daily life of an individual. Nevertheless, the women under the dosage of omega 3 supplements or omega 3s in their diet are found to experience milder menstrual pain. In some studies, omega 3 had proved to be increasingly effective in treating excessive menstrual pain, even more than ibuprofen.
It is very important to have a good night’s sleep for a good health. Sleep deprivation can be associated with a lot many diseases which include diabetes, obesity and depression. Trouble in sleeping in children, as well as obstructive sleep apnea seen in adults, can be linked to low omega 3 levels in the body. DHA deficiency is associated with decreased level of hormone melatonin that helps in falling asleep. Both adults and children can enjoy long hours of quality sleep if they take omega 3 supplements on experiencing disturbed sleep.
Assists In Solving Skin Problems
DHA is responsible for a healthy skin because it is the skin’s structural component. DHA protects the cell membranes, that constitute a huge portion of the skin, and also keeps them healthy. A soft, supple, wrinkle-free and moist skin are signs of wholesome cell membranes. Even EPA is beneficial for the skin in many ways. The following functions are performed by EPA:
- Hair follicles are protected from hyper keratinization.
- Prevents acne
- Prevents ageing of skin before time.
- Hydration of skin is maintained.
- Manages production of oil in the skin.
Omega-3s also protects the skin from any kind of sun damage. EPA blocks any release of the material corrode the collagen in the skin on exposure to the sun.
What Foods are Rich in Omega 3s?
The following list has names of foods that have a high percentage of omega 3s. (4000 mg/day):
- Walnuts: in ¼th of a cup, 2664 mg (66%)
- Atlantic mackerel: in 1 cup cooked, 6982 mg (174%)
- Chia seeds: in 1 tablespoon, 2457 mg (61%)
- Alaskan Salmon: in 3 ounces, 1716 mg (42%)
- Herring: in 3 ounces, 1885 mg (47%)
- Albacore Tuna: in 3 ounces, 1414 mg (35%)
- Flaxseeds: 1 tablespoon, 1597 mg (39%)
- White fish: in 3 ounces, 1363 mg (34%)
- Hemp seeds: in 1 tablespoon, 1000 mg (25%)
- Sardines: in 3.75 ounces/1 can, 1363 mg (34%)
- Anchovies: in 2 ounces/1 can, 951 mg (23%)
- Egg yolks: in ½ cup, 240 mg (6%)
- Natto: in ¼th cup, 240 mg (10%)
Some remarkable foods contain omega 3s in abundance. Depending on the limitations and diet of an individual, they can also opt for supplements which contain the same nutrients, instead of direct consumption.
3 most preferred supplements of omega 3s are:
- Cod liver oil: in 1 tablespoon, 2664 mg (66%)
- Salmon fish oil: in 1 tablespoon, 4767 mg (119%)
- Algal oil: in 1 softgel, 400 mg (10%)
Many sources recommend mammalian oil, krill oil, green-lipped mussel oil and ALA oil. However, the 3 options above are safer and more sustainable.
What are the Side Effects of Omega 3s?
Bleeding. Individuals, who suffer from bleeding disorders or those who take medications for thinning blood like Coumadin, should remain cautious before consuming omega 3 supplements. Omega 3 fatty acids tend to increase the bleeding, moreover, bloody urine and nosebleeds are linked with high doses of omega 3 fatty acids.
Intestinal Discomfort. Nausea, intestinal discomfort and an unpleasant aftertaste are characteristic side effects related to omega 3 supplements. This happens more with the fish oil. Other side effects that affect the intestines are burping, diarrhea, heartburn, acid reflux and lastly abdominal pain and bloating. Omega 3 supplements should be taken along with meals this will minimize the after effects. The dosage should be lose to begin with and needs to be increased gradually with time.
Hypotension. many studies had been carried out as a result of which it has been found that omega 3 supplements can result in hypotension or low blood pressure. People with high blood pressure levels are benefited by omega 3 supplements that help to lower blood pressure levels. However, when an individual is already suffering from hypotension and taking medications for the same then taking of omega 3 supplements will not be a good idea.
High Blood Sugar. the blood sugar level increases with increasing intake of omega 3 supplements. The fish oil has high omega 3 content and thus reacts with diabetic medications that are used to lower the blood sugar level. There are no long-term effects, yet proven of consuming omega 3 supplements, on the blood sugar level. However, a diabetic needs to consult a doctor before consuming any omega 3 supplements.
Allergy. cod liver or salmon oil have a high content of omega 3 fatty acids, these are taken as omega 3 supplements. For people who are allergic to or sensitive towards fish consumption then they should bar themselves from taking omega 3 supplements or even fish with oils. Fish oil or omega 3 supplements can cause abnormality of liver functions, rashes and other psychological problems.