With the increase in diseases like cancer, obesity, diabetes and other sicknesses, there has been a lot of emphasis on healthy living. This has been accompanied with a lot of support and advocacy for people to watch what they eat and consume more organic food to improve their health and prevent themselves from contracting all sorts of ailments that seem to be flying around these days.
One of such elements that seem to be recurring is the clamor for an increase in consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids, but ever stopped to wonder why all the fuss about Omega-3?
This begs the question: What exactly is Omega-3 and why is it so important? Continue reading to find out.
What Is Omega 3 Fatty Acid?
Well, for starters, Omega-3 fatty acids which are also referred to as w-3 or n-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that have a double bond in the hydrocarbon chain from the third carbon atom from the end of the carbon chain.
That is a just a fancy way of saying that they have unique connections that allow them to be more adaptable and interactive as fatty acids.
As to the origin of the name of this fatty acid, the carbon chain starts with the ‘alpha end’. The other or opposite end which closes the chain is the ‘Omega end’. The ‘3’ in Omega-3 stems from the fact that the first double bond can be found three carbon atoms from the ‘omega end’.
The double bonds present in Omega-3 fats are placed in such a special position that they can basically not be seen or gotten in other fats. This adaptability and interactivity characteristic of Omega-3 fats, although a major plus, makes them more susceptible to damage.
Omega-3 fats are a family of fatty acids which are necessary for human health. These fats have been known not only to be essential to human wellbeing but also instrumental in facilitating brain function as well as growth and development of the body. It’s a pity, however, that our bodies cannot produce them.
As such, we have to find a way to get them into our bodies. What better way to do this than through our diet? In order to successfully ensure that we consume the right amount of Omega-3, it is imperative that one knows the different types of omega-3 fats available and the right proportions in which our bodies require them.
Types Of Omega-3 Fats
There are different types of Omega-3 fats. The science of cooking has them pegged at 11. Of these 11, however, 3, in particular, stand out. They are Alinoleic acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Alinoleic acid (ALA)
Alinoleic acid or ALA, as it is popularly called, is often termed to be simpler than other Omega-3 fats. The human body is not capable of producing ALA on its own and so we have to consume foods that contain it in order not to be deficient.
It is an established fact that the body cannot make ALA. Notwithstanding, it can convert it to EPA and DHA, albeit at a low ratio. This means that after conversion it is never the same quantity. A large quantity of ALA, even with the presence of sufficient enzymes will produce a very small amount of EPA and DHA.
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA is another vital Omega-3 fat. Unlike ALA, EPA can be produced by the body. The body does this by converting the ALA it has consumed into active energy.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
The third Omega-3 fat, Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA is also essential to the body. It is present in virtually every cell in the body. The body stores it in large quantities in the brain and in the eye, particularly the retina. DHA can help guard against macular degeneration; which can lead to impaired eyesight or loss of complete sight.
What Are The Omega 3 Benefits?
Various organizations concerned with health and nutrition, including the World Health Organization, has campaigned for an increase in daily intake of Omega-3. Why is this? What makes Omega-3 fats special?
They are a vital part of cell membranes all over the body and influence the performance of the cell receptors in these membranes. They also connect to receptors in cells that control genetic function. Apart from these, Omega-3 fats provide quite a myriad of benefits to the body.
1. Omega-3 Can Help Reduce Depression
Over the years, there have been mixed conclusions about the ability of Omega-3 to relieve depression. Some studies revealed that people who combined omega-3 fatty acids with prescription antidepressants showed greater improvement in symptoms than those who took only antidepressants. Although some studies have found no benefit, Omega-3 has been known to reduce depression.
Five researchers (Sharupski KA, Tangney CC, Li H, Evans DA and Morris MC) published a report in the Journal of Nutritional Health and Aging in 2013. Their study was designed to test if a regular intake of a Mediterranean diet over time would have an impact on depression among older adults.
After an average follow-up of 7.2 years, they discovered that people with adherence to a Mediterranean diet, which is said to be rich in Omega-3 fats, had less likelihood of being depressed. They concluded that intake of such diet may help prevent depression in older age.
Other studies have shown that a proper consumption of foods high in Omega-3 as well as nutritional interventions like Omega-3 supplements can cause a reduction in a person’s chances of falling into depression. In certain cases, when people with depression or anxiety start taking omega-3 supplements, their symptoms get better.
It appears that out of the essential omega-3 fatty acids; ALA, EPA and DHA, EPA is likely to be the best at fighting depression.
2. Omega-3 Can Improve Vision
Intake of foods that are high in Omega-3s can lead to improved vision. This is because of Omega-3, DHA, in particular, is one of the main components of not only the brain but the retina as well.
DHA is responsible for about 60% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids present in the retina. As such, a diet that is deficient in DHA might lead to bad eye health and in turn, problems with sight.
No wonder, therefore, that many children who are fed with a formula enriched in DHA sometimes have better eyesight than those who are not. Funny enough, increase in consumption of Omega-3 has been shown to have a correlation with decreased risk of macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is often a result of deterioration of part of the retina. It is currently considered as a disease with no cure. It is also one of the highest causes of vision loss and impaired sight.
3. Omega-3 may promote brain health
The brain stores Omega-3 in abundance because it is an important element in brain growth and development. Doctors often encourage parents to ensure that their infants are given formulas that are fortified with DHA.
One reason for this is that DHA accounts for about 40% of the polyunsaturated fats in the brain and infants need this for their brains to develop well. Pregnant mothers are also not left out. It is recommended that they take lots of Omega-3 to improve the growth of the fetus.
They do not stop this after birth but go a step further to guarantee brain health during the child’s early life. Ingestion of Omega-3 has been linked to improved cognitive performance, brain development, high intelligence as well as improved communication and social competence.
In addition, low levels of Omega-3 have been found in people with mental decline and disorders. Notwithstanding, research has shown a higher intake Omega-3 supplements can reduce the occurrence of their symptoms. This implies that that mood swings and relapses common with folks with schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and bipolar disorders can be reduced. Wonderful!
4. Omega-3 can prevent heart disease
One other benefit of Omega-3 is that it can help prevent heart disease by reducing the risk factors associated with it.
In recent times, strokes, heart attacks, and other heart diseases have become major causes of death around the world. What some people do not know is that in times past, Omega-3 had helped to reduce instances of such events.
Researchers noticed that when compared with other population, communities that eat a lot of fish had reduced rates of heart diseases. They narrowed this down to the intake of Omega-3 fats which fishes have a lot of.
In terms of heart health, Omega-3 fats are very essential. They have been shown to cause a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They can lead to a reduction in triglycerides and blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
They are capable of decreasing ‘LDL’ levels and raising good HDL levels. LDL is considered ‘bad cholesterol’ while HDL is ‘good cholesterol’.
Omega-3 can also prevent blood platelets from clustering together, thereby averting the development of harmful blood clots. Furthermore, they can help guard against plaque by keeping the arteries free from obstructions and damage. There is the chance that omega-3 fats can reduce inflammation by limiting the production of particular materials emitted during an inflammatory reaction.
As interesting as all these benefits sound, there is a sad tinge to it. The bitter truth is that there is no compelling proof to show that Omega-3 supplements avert strokes and heart attacks. The bottom line is that they can lessen the factors that might put one at risk of heart attacks or strokes but do not guarantee that one would not have them.
5. In children, Omega-3 can reduce symptoms of ADHD
Popularly called ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a performance disorder. People with this disorder often have problems with learning due to a short attention span. They are also known to exhibit high levels of impulsiveness and activeness.
Numerous studies have shown that when compared to their peers, children with this disorder have lower levels of Omega-3 fats. The good news is that, in children, fish oil and Omega-3 supplements are a very promising treatment. They are capable of bringing about a reduction in the symptoms of ADHD. This would help enhance their responsiveness, attention span and inherently, their ability to finish tasks assigned to them. So if you have a child with ADHD, an increase in Omega-3 fats might just be the answer to your problems, or not.
6. Omega-3 may help avert cancer
The benefit of Omega-3 fatty acids also extends to the prevention of cancer. They have long been argued to reduce the threat of certain types of cancers. Worthy of note is that studies have been conducted that link people with Omega-3 status to a 55% lower risk of colon cancer.
In addition, Omega-3 intake has been connected to a reduced risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. Nonetheless, not all studies concur on this.
7. In children, Omega-3 fats can reduce asthma
Consumption of Omega-3 fats may reduce asthma. Research done over time, have associated omega-3 consumption to a reduced risk of asthma in children as well as young adults.
8. Omega-3 fats are beneficial to the skin
Regular intake of Omega-3 fats has been connected to improved skin conditions. DHA, in particular, accounts for the condition of cell membranes. These cell membranes, to a large extent are a structural component of the skin.
Having the right amount of DHA in the body brings about healthy cells. This helps to produce supple and wrinkle-free skin. EPA is also helping the skin in a number of ways, including; improving hydration, reducing aging, preventing some skin infections as well as managing oil production.
Omega-3s can also shield your skin from sun damage. EPA helps block the discharge of substances that destroy the collagen in your skin after exposure to the sun.
Also Read: How To Get Glowing Skin
9. Omega-3 can improve bone and joint strength
Omega-3 fats have been known to improve the skeletal system, especially the bones and joints. Research attributes this to the capability of Omega-3 fats to increase the quantity of calcium in the bones.
As such, a person with a very good Omega-3 status stands a lower chance of having skeletal disorders such as arthritis and osteoporosis. In certain studies, patients taking omega-3 supplements reported reduced joint pain and increased grip strength.
10. Omega-3 may reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome
Yes, metabolic syndrome. It is a syndrome that is characterized by the presence of three or more group of factors. In lay man’s terms it is sort of a collection of conditions. These conditions are linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
It covers but is not limited to; high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high fasting levels of blood sugar, high triglycerides and low HDL levels. The metabolic syndrome usually increases a person’s risk of developing other diseases. Therefore, it has become major public health concern.
Nevertheless, Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to those suffering from this syndrome. It can reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, and improve heart disease risk factors in people with metabolic syndrome
Other health benefits of Omega-3 fats include:
- Reducing risks in pregnancy.
- Minimizing circulatory disorders.
- Supporting cardiovascular health.
- Reducing migraines.
- Improving sleep.
- Alleviating menstrual pain
- Boosting immunity
What Is The Best Sources of Omega-3
Since the body cannot produce Omega-3 on its own, we have to depend on the food we eat and sometimes supplements, to provide our bodies with this vital element.
What Are The Foods High In Omega 3
Omega-3 can be sourced from both plants and animals.
Fish and seafood
The following fishes and seafood are all sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Lake trout
Consumption of fish that contain Omega-3 fats is not such a bad idea. The American Heart Association encourages people to eat fish twice in a week.
Nonetheless, there are certain things you should take into consideration. One of which is that some fatty fish are likely to contain high levels of toxins, including mercury. Tilefish, mackerel, swordfish, and shark are in this category. Indeed, shark. Chances are you might not even have thought about a shark or even access to such fish, still, you need to be aware of this.
Another is that fish raised on farms are likely to have higher levels of impurities. If you are operating on the ‘better-safe-than-sorry’ principle, then pregnant women and children should totally avoid farmed fish. Some health professionals recommend that in a week, one should not consume more than 7 ounces of this type of fish.
If you choose to go with salmon, there is something you should know. If you want one with higher Omega-3 content then you can choose to opt for wild salmon over farmed salmon as the wild ones contain more Omega-3 than farmed ones. You can also go for wild trout as it is also a safer choice.
Certain vegetables, especially green leafy ones, contain Omega -3 fatty acids. They are also rich in ALA. These vegetables include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Winter squash
Nuts, Seeds, and Oils
The following nuts, seeds, and oils have health benefits and are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids
- Pine nuts
- Macadamia nuts
- Chia seeds
- Flax seed
- Pumpkin seed
- Flaxseed oil
- Soybean oil
- Canola oil
- Mustard oil
- Walnut oil
- Cod liver oil
Tofu, which is made from soybean, is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Some grains and produce can be enriched with Omega-3 including bread, cereal, pasta, flour, and oatmeal.
The golden mean of moderation is applicable in almost all situations. Nutrition is one of them. Oils and nuts though healthy, can be high in calories. As such, it is advisable that you consume them in moderation.
5 Top Best Omega-3 Supplements
Due to the fact that it is not quite easy to monitor consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids, quite a lot of people rely on supplements to boost their intake. For certain people with very low levels of Omega-3, eating food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids is sometimes not enough and so, they need supplements.
If you do not like fish, you can choose to take supplements. This serves the double advantage of enriching your body with needed elements and also sparing you the trouble of having to consume what you do not like.
Even if you do like fish, it does not hurt to increase your Omega-3 intake with supplements. There are quite a lot of such supplements available. These supplements often times, aid better absorption of the fatty acids into your system. You can choose to purchase any of the highest rated supplements including:
1. SmartyPants Kids Complete Gummy Vitamins: Multivitamin & Omega 3 DHA/EPA Fish Oil, Methyl B12, Vitamin D3, 120 count (30 Day Supply)
Made to suit kids, this supplement does not contain allergen or gluten. It is perfect for children who are three years old and older. Each bottle comes with a 30-day supply; there are 120 gummies in it and the daily dose is 4 gummies. It is enriched with vitamin D3 and B12. It also does not have artificial colors, preservatives or sweeteners.
This supplement is a triple strength fish oil derived from wild fish. It is purified with molecular distillation to keep it free from contaminants. Its’ soft gel system enteric coating also prevents fishy aftertaste.
Each serving (2 caps) of the fish oil contains 600 mg of EPA and 800 mg of DHA, making a total of 1,400mg of Omega-3 fatty acids. This is 3 to 4 times the amount of Omega-3 that many brands provide. It is fast-acting yet has a gentle effect.
This supplement is in form of soft gels that contain fish oil gotten from fish in open waters. It undergoes a purification process during production to keep it clean of mercury. It does not contain any artificial flavor, colors or preservatives.
Nordic Naturals is yet another top-rated supplement. Made from deep sea fish oils, this formula contains a total of 1280 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids. It is designed in form of soft gels and coated with lemon flavor to aid ingestion. Among its ingredients is rosemary extract which serves as a natural preservative.
This is a tasty gummy vitamin brand. Its natural berry lemonade flavor helps to masks any fishy taste. As an added bonus, it does not only contain Omega-3 fatty acids but is also fortified with vitamins A, C, D and E.
Fish Oil For Kids
When it comes to children, Omega-3 fats are vital for their psychological as well as physical development. American pregnancy has it that they are essential for early neurological and visual development of children.
Taking fish oils and supplements can help to improve a child’s number of red blood cell levels of Omega-3. Thus, combating behavioral problems and improving cognitive ability.
Choosing Fish Oil For Kids.
Quantity Of Omega-3 In The Fish Oil
Like all medications, the dosage is usually dependent on the concentration of the active ingredient in the product and the body mass of the user. For supplements, the amount is determined by the quantity of EPA and DHA in the fish oil.
You can check the supplement facts or ingredient section on the product container for this information. Not only that, the dosage is also based on the weight, age, and health status of the child. However, most fish oil supplements come with a prescribed dosage that should be followed.
Fishy Aftertaste? Not Really
Many fish oils leave a ‘fishy aftertaste’ in the mouth. If your child is one who does not enjoy eating fish, you would probably want to get a one that does not have that effect.
There are flavored fish oil brands, you can pick one of them. You surely do not want him/her to spit out the supplement behind your back. Neither do you want to be compelled to force it down his or her throat?
Gummy And Colors
Children are known to be attracted to colors. So choose one of the chewy flavored ones. Getting a fish oil that is shaped and coated like a gummy can aid your child’s acceptance and ingestion of the supplement.
For a smaller child, however, you can get liquid fish oil to save him or her the stress of having to swallow capsules.
Definitely No Contaminants
Again, checking the container of the product is advised in order to guarantee that the fish oil does not contain any form of impurity or ingredient that will not go down well with your child.
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