Omega-3 fatty acids are perhaps the most popular dietary supplement to date. Everyone knows about the health benefits of Omega-3. These compounds have many impressive health benefits. We are sure that when you find out about them, you will certainly include more fatty fish in your diet, or maybe start taking Omega-3 supplements.
In our article, we propose to study in more detail the issue of the beneficial properties of omega-3 fatty acids, based on scientific facts and evidence. We will look at what Omega-3 is, what these fatty acids are good for, how to take it correctly, so as not to harm and there was a noticeable effect. We will examine these issues one by one, but let’s start with the fact that omega-3 fatty acids are the most important nutrient for general health. Your body does not produce them on its own, which means that they are “essential fatty acids” – you must consume them with food or as a dietary supplement.
When it comes to the beneficial properties of omega-3, you usually don’t even know where to start, because it is extremely rare for nutrients to have such a wide range of uses and positive health effects. The most common benefit of omega-3 fatty acids is to reduce the risk of heart disease, but this is not the only plus that has been learned to include large amounts of fatty acids in your diet. Omega-3 is beneficial for proper growth and development of the fetus, healthy retinal function, as well as for maintaining a healthy weight and much more. These acids support and promote optimal health for everyone.
The World Health Organization recommends omega-3 preparations as approved treatments for high triglycerides. As a rule, these are preparations containing EPA and DHA, which will be discussed later.
What is Omega-3 fatty acids and why they are needed
Omega-3 is a specific type of polyunsaturated fatty acids, that is, they contain more than one double bond in their chemical structure. “3” refers to where the first double bond occurs in the chemical structure (between the third and fourth carbon atoms).
The human body is able to synthesize saturated fatty acids, but it lacks the enzyme that will allow to form a double bond in the desired molecular position in order to create omega-3 on its own. That is why a person has to look for sources of omega-3 from the outside.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids found in foods: these are ALA, EPA and DHA.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): Plant-based omega-3 is found in leafy green vegetables, flax seeds, chia and rapeseed, walnuts, and soybean oils. ALA is known as short-chain omega-3, that is, the body must convert it to longer EPA and DHA to absorb it. This process is rather inefficient, since only about 1% of ALA consumed from food products is converted into the long-chain version that the body requires (although the female body absorbs a little more than 1%, but this is still not enough).
Eicosapentaenoic acid (Eicosapentaenoic Acid, EPA): is a 20-carbon fatty acid contained in fatty fish, algae oil, and krill oil. The body is able to absorb this Omega-3 fatty acid in its original form. Along with DHA, this omega-3, which the body needs in large quantities to ensure a healthy state.
Docosahexaenoic acid (Docosahexaenoic Acid, DHA): this 22-carbon molecule is also found in butterfish, krill oil and algae. The human body converts some DHA molecules back to EPA to keep them at fairly equal levels if you consume more DHA.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid balance
It is very important that in the human body fatty acids are in balance. For balancing unsaturated fatty acids, it is also necessary to obtain omega-6, another type of fatty acid, in order to function properly and prevent disease. The most healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is the 1: 1 ratio. Unfortunately, omega-6 fatty acids are found in much more foods that we eat daily in our diets. It is estimated that in the diet of a modern person the ratio is closer to 20: 1 or 30: 1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids come in the form of linoleic acid (LA) and are contained in sufficient quantities in meat and dairy products, eggs and vegetable oils – what we eat every day. The predominance of omega-6 fatty acids causes the development of inflammatory processes in the body. Therefore, to equalize the balance, it is necessary to take Omega-3 fatty acids.
According to a study conducted in the period from 2003 to 2008 in Western countries – most people do not get the required amount of omega-3 fatty acids. The official recommended daily intake for omega-3, unfortunately, does not exist. However, many doctors recommend eating fatty fish varieties 2-3 times a week to replenish the reserves of omega-3 fatty acids in the body.
“In general, most healthcare organizations cite a figure from 250 mg to 500 mg of EPA and DHA for daily use. This dosage is considered a reasonable amount to support human health without serious illness. However, people with heart disease (or people with a high risk of heart disease), depression, anxiety, neoplastic diseases, can take a much higher dosage – up to 4000 mg per day.”
Symptoms of deficiency of these fatty acids include: fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation. Also, these symptoms can be caused by an imbalance of omega-3 to omega-6, which can also lead to the development of inflammatory diseases over time.
In 2009, the Harvard School of Public Health published a review of selected risk factors associated with specific deaths. According to their estimates, a small amount of omega-3 consumed is the eighth in the list of the most serious risk factors that contribute to death (1).
To get all the benefits of omega-3, it can be difficult for some people to consume the required amount of oily fish, especially with known risks associated with farmed fish (contaminated with heavy metals by pesticides). That is why the use of high-quality food additives omega-3 may be the best solution in this case.
Why is it useful to take Omega-3
Consider 11 known beneficial properties of omega-3 fatty acids for the body of women and men.
1. Good for heart health.
One of the most well-known benefits of omega-3 is how they have a positive effect on the risk factors associated with heart disease. This is one of the reasons why the American Heart Association very often talks about how important it is to include these fatty acids in your diet. Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death worldwide, but people who eat a balanced diet and eat fatty fish have surprisingly low incidence of these diseases, which is at least partially due to their high consumption of omega-3.
Although some studies found no correlations indicating that omega-3 significantly reduced the risk of stroke or heart attacks, other experiments suggest the opposite.
Reduced high triglyceride levels
The greatest amount of omega-3 is usually required by people with high levels of triglycerides, a major risk factor for heart disease. Omega-3 dietary supplements are effective prevention and treatment for lowering triglycerides.
Studies show that taking omega-3 fatty acids increases HDL “good” cholesterol, although some results also show a slight increase in “bad” LDL cholesterol. The ratio of HDL: LDL should be very close to 2: 1.
Reducing high blood pressure
A 2010 study showed that three servings of salmon every week successfully reduced blood pressure in overweight young people over an eight-week period. Although this is not definitive proof that omega-3 fatty acids lower blood pressure, this is an encouraging preliminary result.
Arterial plaque prevention
By preventing damage to the arteries, omega-3s can help your body prevent plaque formation that can impede the blood supply.
Reducing symptoms of metabolic syndrome
The group of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome includes abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and low HDL cholesterol. These risk factors indicate a high likelihood of developing heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. Numerous studies have shown that taking a dietary supplement omega-3 improves the symptoms of metabolic syndrome and can help protect you from related diseases.
Prevent the formation of blood clots
Omega-3 helps platelets not to stick together, which prevents the formation of blood clots, which can cause serious harm to the body.
2. Can fight with mental disorders and depression
There are a number of brain and mental health indicators that improve when people get good omega-3 fatty acid dosages.
Depression and anxiety
These common mental health problems are among the most common in the modern world, and the usual treatments for depression, for the most part, are disappointingly ineffective. However, people who regularly get large amounts of omega-3 are less prone to depression than those who lack fatty acids.
Several studies show that people suffering from symptoms of depression and / or increased anxiety see an improvement after adding omega-3 to their diet. At least there is one study comparing the effect of taking a standard antidepressant and omega-3 showed that fatty acid supplements are equally effective in combating the symptoms of depression.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Studies comparing omega-3 levels in children have found that patients with a diagnosis of ADHD have lower fatty acid levels than healthy children. The limited, but promising results confirm that there is some omega-3 intake efficacy to correct ADHD.
A meta-analysis conducted by the University of St. Louis Medical School showed that several studies examining the effects of omega-3 patients with schizophrenia showed moderately positive results, especially in the early stages of the disease.
The disease, also known as manic depression, is a complex and rather debilitating condition. There is some evidence that omega-3 benefits patients suffering from bipolar disorder by stabilizing mood.
Other mental illnesses
Some reviews have found correlations between omega-3 and reduced manifestations of aggressive behavior, antisocial behavior, and borderline personality disorder.
In small clinical trials, the potentially neuroprotective effect of omega-3 fatty acids on people with dementia — an age-related mental disorder, and even Alzheimer’s disease — was observed. It seems that a high level of omega-3 in the blood can help to slow down or even reverse some cognitive decline.
3. Have anti-inflammatory effect.
One of the reasons why omega-3 fatty acids can be so beneficial to health lies in their ability to reduce and suppress incipient inflammatory processes in the body. Inflammation is the basis of most diseases and is associated with the development of almost all major diseases, therefore, eating foods that have anti-inflammatory effect, you give your body to fight the disease without the use of serious medicines.
In particular, recent evidence suggests that adding omega-3 can reduce some inflammation caused by fat accumulation in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
4. Provides prevention and treatment of autoimmune diseases
An autoimmune disease is a poorly diagnosable type of disease state. Sometimes it is necessary to make up to 6-10 visits to the doctor so that the diagnosis is made and confirmed. This is due to the many symptoms caused by these conditions.
Autoimmune conditions, the main characteristic of which is the disruption of the immune system when it begins to “attack” healthy cells, include diseases such as type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, intestinal permeability syndrome and a lot others.
Numerous studies have found a link between a high level of omega-3 consumption and a decrease in the risk of developing autoimmune diseases or an improvement in the symptoms of their course. Some of them suggest that the best protective effect occurs when fatty acids are consumed in large quantities during the first year of life.
5. Reduces the risk of developing tumor diseases.
Research among large populations of people for a long time confirms the ability of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the likelihood of certain types of cancer.
According to observations in Scotland and China, people who use omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) are less likely to develop colorectal cancer.
After many laboratory studies have shown that fatty acids can be effective in slowing or reversing the growth of hormonal malignant tumors, namely prostate cancer and breast cancer, epidemiological studies have been conducted in animals and humans to make sure that this effect occurs. be in real life. In some reports, the data is somewhat contradictory, but there is evidence that breast and prostate cancer may be slowed down (or reduced risk) in people who eat a lot of oily fish or take omega-3 as a dietary supplement.
A laboratory study in 2014 showed that the effects of zinc, the active ingredient in turmeric, can be enhanced in combination with the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which further studies animal and human models to analyze the potential of this combination.
6. Useful for healthy bones and joints.
The problem of osteoporosis is often found among the elderly, who number hundreds of millions worldwide. Osteoporosis increases the risk of bone fractures tremendously.
Unsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3, are recognized in scientific studies that can increase the amount of calcium that is absorbed by the intestines (improves when taken with vitamin D3) and enhances bone strength and bone collagen synthesis.
In small studies, there was an increase in bone density in elderly people with osteoporosis with the addition of EPA compared to the placebo groups, whose bone density decreased over time.
Omega-3 fatty acids can also affect the development of arthritis. As early as 1959, studies were published on the effectiveness of cod liver oil for patients with arthritis. In a 1959 study, 93% of participants demonstrated significant clinical improvement. Although there is no evidence that high levels of omega-3 can prevent the development of arthritis, it seems clear that they can reduce the inflammation that causes pain in the joints.
7. Can improve sleep quality
If you have a sleep disorder, this indicates a malfunction in the body and entails other health problems. Healthy sleep allows the body to fight the disease with the help of natural processes in the body like digestion, hormonal balance, cognitive reactions.
Children often have trouble sleeping when they do not get enough fatty acids in their diet. In adults, a low level of omega-3 is associated with obstructive sleep apnea. One reason for this is that the low fatty acid count is associated with lower levels of melatonin, a hormone that is partly responsible for helping the body fall asleep. The good news is that according to research, sleep can be established with regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids – in both adults and children.
8. Useful for children’s growth and development.
Infancy and childhood are among the most important periods of time in a person’s life when you need to get a lot of omega-3 in your diet, because these acids directly affect the growth and functioning of brain cells. It is imperative that children and adolescents receive a good amount of DHA and EPA so that their brains develop properly.
Pregnant women should be especially aware of this, because children whose mothers used omega-3 during pregnancy learn better, have better psychomotor and cognitive indicators, hand-eye coordination. These children also have a low risk of developing ADHD.
While breast milk is an excellent source of fatty acids for infants (as long as the mother herself receives a lot), artificial formula does not always contain a sufficient amount of nutrients. On the other hand, omega-3 enriched mixtures can be a good solution for children in their early years.
There are studies confirming that taking EPA and DHA may even help prevent cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, and asthma in some children.
9. Can alleviate pain during PMS and menstruation.
Spasms during PMS occur in about 75% of women, and for some of them they become debilitating and affect work or home life. However, studies show that taking omega-3 significantly affects the symptoms of the menstrual cycle, making them softer.
In fact, one study comparing ibuprofen and fish oil supplements in adolescent PMS showed that the supplement did work better to ease menstrual pain than standard medicine.
10. Reduce the risk of macular degeneration
The retina contains quite a lot of DHA, which makes it necessary for this fatty acid to function. The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, concludes that there is “consistent evidence” suggesting that DHA and EPA long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential for retinal health and can help protect eyes from disease.
In particular, high levels of omega-3 significantly correlate with a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years of age.
11. Maintains healthy skin and fights signs of aging.
As well as fatty acids protect bone density, they can also help the skin to remain beautiful from the inside. DHA and EPA benefit the skin by controlling the secretion of sebum and, naturally, slowing aging. Some studies have even shown that omega-3 benefits the skin by helping prevent acne and other inflammations.
How to take Omega-3
There is no recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids. However, most doctors and nutritionists agree that at least 2 servings of fish (preferably fatty) 150 grams each week are a good start to include fatty acids in your diet. This will be about 500 mg of EPA and DHA every day. For the treatment of diseases it is recommended to use up to 4000 mg depending on the appointments of your doctor. For the prevention and treatment of heart disease, it is usually prescribed to take 2000 mg of omega-3 every day for 3 months.
Some high-quality omega-3 supplements will have less EPA / DHA, but will also include digestive enzymes. Combining omega-3 with the digestive enzyme mixture, the absorption of fatty acids will be maximized.
Keep in mind that alpha-linolenic acid, which is contained in products of plant origin, requires a lot of body energy to convert to EPA and DHA. Therefore, if you follow a vegetarian diet and do not eat fish, and also do not accept supplements, you are recommended to use a greater number of herbal products with omega-3 in order to satisfy all the needs of the body.
Omega-3 supplements should be taken during meals, regardless of the time of day – can be taken both in the morning and in the evening.
Omega-3 in food
The percentages indicated below are based on a rate of 4000 mg per day.
Atlantic mackerel: 6982 mg per 1 cup of boiled fish (174%)
Walnuts: 2664 mg in 1/4 cup (66%)
Chia seeds: 2457 mg in 1 tbsp. (61%)
Herring: 1885 mg 100 gr. (47%)
Alaskan salmon (wild): 1716 mg per 100 g. (42%)
Flax seed: 1597 mg in 1 tbsp. (39%)
Long-finned tuna: 1414 mg per 100 g. (35%)
White fish: 1363 mg per 100 g. (34%)
Sardines: 1363 mg in 1 can / 120 gr. (34%)
Cannabis seeds: 1000 mg in 1 tbsp. (25%)
Anchovies: 951 mg in 1 can / 60 gr. (23%)
Egg yolks: 240 mg per 1/2 cup (6%)
There are some incredible foods that contain large amounts of fatty acids, but depending on your diet and restrictions, you can also use a dietary supplement that contains these nutrients.
Among the nutritional supplements omega-3, which can be taken every day, stand out:
Salmon fish oil: 4767 mg in 1 tbsp. (119%)
Cod liver oil: 2664 mg in 1 tbsp. (66%)
Algae oil: 400 mg in 1 capsule (10%)
Some sources also recommend krill oil, mammalian oil (made from a sealing ring), ALA oil, and green leaf oil with a target. However, omega-3 from fatty fish and seaweed are considered the safest.
The best thing about omega-3 products and supplements is that omega-3 fatty acids do not have any known drug interactions or side effects, according to reliable sources.
The American WebMD portal lists some moderate and minor drug interactions with extremely high use of omega-3, including interaction with birth control pills, drugs for high blood pressure, anticoagulants (to slow blood clotting) and Orlistat, a slimming drug.
– Omega-3 is a type of essential fatty acid required by the human body for the excellent performance of a large number of natural system functions.
– Most people today do not consume enough fatty acids and / or have the wrong ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 (the correct ratio is about 1: 1, but many people have a ratio of up to 20: 1).
– There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids – alpha-linolenic (ALA), eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA). The first is a medium chain fatty acid and must be converted to EPA before being absorbed by the body, but only about 1% of the ALA consumed can be absorbed. EPA and DHA have more accessible forms for the human body and are precisely the subject of most scientific research on omega-3.
– Scientists have figured out and continue to figure out – what are useful fatty acids. They are associated with a ton of great health benefits. Some of the most notable beneficial properties are: strengthening heart health, preventing or improving symptoms of mental illness or reducing cerebral circulation, reducing inflammatory diseases, and reducing the risk of developing autoimmune diseases and cancer.
– The best way to get enough omega-3 is to eat foods rich in these nutrients, such as Atlantic mackerel, herring, and Alaskan salmon. Plant foods with a high content of fatty acids contain only ALA, so they need to be consumed in much larger quantities in order to get the same effect as EPA and DHA. You can also take omega-3 nutritional supplements made from fish oil.