Omega-3 fatty acids or polyunsaturated fatty acids are fats that are needed for normal heart and brain function and can not be produced by our own bodies. They are commonly found in the fats of fish and certain types of seeds and nuts, like flax seed and walnuts. The benefits of these fatty acids are many and should be included in our diets on a daily to weekly basis, through either food or supplementation.
There are two types of Omega fatty acids:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
EPA is found in fatty fish and is most commonly referred to when people talk about Omega-3. Contrary to popular belief, the fish do not produce these fatty acids in their body on their own but obtain it from the algae that they consume.
DHA is a main component of the human retina, sperm cells and the cerebral cortex in our brains. 40% of all the PUFA’s (polyunsatura
ted fatty acids) in our brains consists of DHA and it makes up 60% of the PUFA’s in the retina.
One of the main functions and health benefits of Omega-3 in the body is supporting a normal metabolism. There are also many claims that Omega-3 is beneficial in fighting heart and cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke and depression among other things.
While there is no definite proof of every claim, there is still a lot of strong evidence from many studies and research over the years that support the beneficial claims about these fatty acids. Some of these are proven.
The health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids
EPA, in particular, have positive effects on the body’s inflammatory response. It can relieve pain from arthritis, prostatitis, cystitis among other conditions through regulation of the body’s inflammatory cycle.
Improved brain function and cognitive effects
In adults, DHA can lead to improved memory, reasoning and focus.
Prevention of disorders
Studies have shown that children and adults with ADD or ADHD can have improved life quality. Positive effects have also been documented in patients with dyslexia, dyspraxia and compulsive disorders.
One of the most commonly mentioned of the health benefits of Omega-3 is improved cardiovascular health. The fatty acids help lower bad cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure while increasing the amount of good cholesterol.
Prevention of heart attacks and stroke
When plaque builds up inside the arterial walls it can lead to thrombosis, or blood clots. When a clot forms in the brain it blocks blood flow and causes a condition known as a stroke. When it blocks an artery, it leads to a heart attack.
Omega-3’s have blood thinning properties and help prevent a clot from ever forming.
Prevention of breast, colon and prostate cancer
Fish oils have shown to prevent three common types of cancer, breast, colon and prostate cancer, by stopping the alteration of normal healthy cells into cancerous ones.