The Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Everyone has likely heard of omega-3's, but what exactly do they do? In this blog we will cover what they are, the important roles they play in our bodies, the numerous health benefits, as well as the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Our body cannot naturally produce them on our own so it's important to be eating a proper diet in order to met the recommended amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Firstly, it is important to understand the different types of omega 3- fatty acids. There are 3 main types: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) the most common omega-3 fatty acid in your diet, Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which is the most important omega-3 fatty acid in your body. DHA is a key structural component of your brain, retina, and numerous other body parts. ALA primarily occurs in many plant foods whereas EPA and DHA occur in animal foods, fish being the best source.
Omega-3 fatty acids have numerous health benefits. They are one of the most researched nutrients; here are some of the health benefits of consuming omega-3's:
The leading cause of death in the United States per year is heart disease.(1) It is noted that in primarily fish eating communities their incidence of heart disease is much lower than other places in the world. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce risk factors for heart disease by the following:
- Reduce triglycerides (~15-30%) (2)
- Help reduce blood pressure (3)
- Increase HDL (the "good" cholesterol) (4)
- Help prevent blood clots (5)
- Decrease plaque build up in arteries and prevents hardening (6)
- Reduce production of substances released during body's inflammatory response (7)
As stated before, DHA is a major component of the retina in your eye. When your diet is lacking DHA, vision problems may occur. Increased omega-3 consumption is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration (one of the world's leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness). (8)
Anxiety and Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world and many people suffer from varying forms of anxiety on a daily basis. Studies have shown that people who consume omega-3's on a daily basis are less like to be depressed (9). As well as people who are already suffering from depression and anxiety saw their symptoms improve after implementing omega-3's into their diet (10). EPA appears to be the best at fighting depression. One study even found EPA as effective against depression as a common antidepressant drug. (11)
Inflammation is a natural and necessary bodily response. Although, chronic inflammation which persists for extended periods of times can cause issues. Chronic inflammation is noted in almost every chronic illness including cancer and heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids are shown to reduce the production of molecules and substance linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines (12).
Bone and Joint Health
Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis are two common disorders that affect your bones and joints. Studies have shown that omega-3's can improve bone strength by boosting the amount of calcium in your bones, which would reduce the risk of osteoporosis. (13). Patients taking omega-3 have reported reduced joint pain and increased grip strength.
DHA is a structural component of your skin and responsible for the health of cell membranes. Healthy cell membranes result in soft, moist, and wrinkle-free skin. EPA also benefits the skin in several different ways, including the following: (14)
-Managing oil production and hydration of your skin
-Reducing premature aging of your skin
-Reducing the risk of acne
-Protect skin from sun damage
These are just a few of the many benefits of omega-3 consumption, other benefits include: promoting brain health during and after pregnancy, reducing ADHD symptoms in children, fighting autoimmune diseases, improving mental disorders, fighting age-related mental decline, improve sleep and many other health benefits.
So those were just some of the many things omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for, but where do we get these fatty acids? FISH! There are few different options on how to consume omega-3's but by far the most beneficial way is through whole foods. Here's a list of the top 12 sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Other options include fish oil, processed fish oil and reformed triglycerides. All of these options have health benefits but by far the most beneficial is omega-3 fatty acids consumed from whole fish.
Some people don't enjoy the taste of fish or don't eat it enough to ensure they are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet, that's where fish oil supplements come in. Although they are not as effective as eating fish, they are still very beneficial to your health. When searching for a omega-3 supplement there are few things you should consider. You want to make sure the supplement contains enough EPA and DHA, a lot of supplements are deceptive on the actual amount of these substances in their products. To date there is no official set standard of how much omega-3 you should intake on a daily basis. Based on an average of a few different organizations though, a recommended MINIMUM of 250-500 mg combined EPA and DHA each day for healthy adults. However, higher amounts are often recommended for certain health conditions. Make sure you are reading the ingredients list and looking for EPA and DHA amounts per serving! Below are a few omega-3 supplements we recommend:
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most studied and most recommended nutrients in the world. They provide so many health benefits for numerous conditions as well as people just looking to improve their overall health! I highly recommend you give omega-3's a chance in your diet, whether it be in fish form or supplements, adding this to your diet will be beneficial to your health!