What are Omega 3
Omega 3 are essential fatty acids that offer key health benefits to our bodies. These fatty acids cannot be produced by our bodies and therefore must be taken through diet or dietary supplements.
In this article we will explore the benefits of omega-3s, food sources, and supplementation of these nutrients in our diet.
Benefits of omega 3
Omega 3s have a wide range of health benefits. Scientific research has shown that these fatty acids are especially important for the heart, brain and the overall health of our bodies.
Here are some of the benefits brought:
- Heart health:
omega 3 may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two servings of fish per week, particularly fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, which are rich in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
These fatty acids can help reduce blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides, and can also help prevent blood clots in the arteries.
In addition, omega 3 may help reduce inflammation, which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Cognitive functions:
omega 3 may also play an important role in brain health. EPA and DHA are particularly important for proper brain function and can help improve memory, learning, and mood. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that omega-3s may also help reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
Omega 3s are critical for fetal development during pregnancy.
DHA fatty acids, in particular, are important for the formation of the baby’s brain and eyes.
Studies have shown that adequate Omega 3 intake during pregnancy can reduce the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.
In addition to the above benefits, omega-3s can provide a number of benefits for the overall health of our bodies. For example, they can help improve eye health, skin health and immune system function:
- Eye Health:
omega-3s can help prevent age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in Western countries. In addition, omega-3s may reduce the risk of dry eye syndrome, a condition that affects many people who spend many hours at the computer.
- Skin health:
omega-3s can help keep skin healthy and hydrated, helping to prevent dryness and wrinkles. In addition, omega-3s can reduce skin inflammation and help prevent acne and other skin conditions.
- Immune system:
omega-3s can play an important role in maintaining the health of the immune system, helping to reduce inflammation and prevent some autoimmune diseases. In addition, omega 3 may help reduce the severity of symptoms of some chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Finally, although we will not dwell on it in this article, we like to mention that omega-3s can also help improve sleep quality, reduce inflammation of the gums, and improve respiratory health.
Dietary sources of omega 3
Dietary sources of omega-3 can be divided into two categories: sources of long-chain fatty acids (EPA and DHA) and sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
- Sources of EPA and DHA:
best sources of EPA and DHA are fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and trout. These fish are also a good source of high-quality protein and vitamin D. However, it is important to choose fish that are low in mercury and other toxic substances.
People on a vegan or vegetarian diet can get EPA and DHA through dietary supplementation of seaweed.
- Sources of ALA:
ALA is found mainly in oilseeds such as flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds, as well as in nuts and seaweed. However, ALA must be converted to EPA and DHA within our bodies in order to exert its benefits, and this conversion process is not always very efficient. Thus, although plant sources of omega 3 are important, it can be difficult to get enough EPA and DHA from the vegetarian or vegan diet alone.
In addition to fatty fish, there are also some less common animal sources of omega 3, such as crustaceans, eggs, cod liver, and seaweed, which make up the food of marine animals.
There are also some food products fortified with omega 3 on the market, such as milk, bread and margarine. However, it is important to read the labels of fortified products carefully to ensure that the omega-3 content is indeed present and of high quality.
In general, to get enough omega 3 from the diet, it is important to consume a variety of omega 3 sources, both animal and plant sources.
Omega 3 supplementation
If you cannot get enough omega 3 from your diet, you can supplement it through dietary supplements. However, it is important to be careful when choosing supplements, as quality can vary greatly among products.
In particular, there are three types of these supplements on the market, which are distinguished by their source:
- Fish supplements:
fish supplements are the most common source of omega 3 in capsule or liquid form. These products contain EPA and DHA already present in fish and can be useful to supplement the diet. However, it is important to ensure that fish supplements are of high quality, free of contaminants, and do not exceed recommended doses.
- Algae supplements:
for people on a vegan or vegetarian diet, algae supplements can be a useful alternative for obtaining EPA and DHA. Seaweed is the richest source of omega 3 and can be taken in capsule or powder form.
- Krill oil:
krill oil is another source of omega 3 that can be used as a dietary supplement. This oil contains EPA and DHA in the form of phospholipids, which are said to be more easily absorbed by our bodies than the long-chain fatty acids found in fish.
Let us now answer some frequently asked questions:
- Can Omega 3s reduce the risk of depression?
Studies have shown that Omega 3s can have a positive effect on depression symptoms, particularly EPA and DHA fatty acids. However, further studies need to be conducted to confirm these results.
- What are the best sources of Omega 3 for children?
Fish is one of the best sources of Omega 3 for children, as EPA and DHA fatty acids are important for cognitive and visual development. However, it is important to choose fish that are low in mercury and other pollutants.
- What are the benefits of omega 3 for pregnancy?
Omega-3s can play an important role in pregnancy, as they can contribute to the development of the fetus’ brain and nervous system. In addition, omega-3 may help reduce the risk of preeclampsia (commonly known as “gestosis,” which involves excessive elevation of blood pressure) and premature births.
- Are there any side effects of omega-3 supplements? If yes, which ones?
Side effects of omega-3 supplements are generally mild, but may include headaches, nausea and diarrhea. In addition, fish supplements can interact with some anticoagulant medications, so it is important to consult your doctor before taking these products.
- What are the recommended doses of omega 3?
Recommended doses of omega 3 vary according to age, sex, and general health status. However, the American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two servings of fatty fish per week to get enough EPA and DHA.
- Can I get enough omega-3 from the vegetarian diet? Can Omega 3s be taken by vegetarians as well?
Plant sources of omega 3 such as oil seeds, nuts, and seaweed are important for health, but it may be difficult to get enough EPA and DHA from the vegetarian or vegan diet alone. ALA fatty acids found in some plant sources can be used by the human body to produce EPA and DHA. However, it is important to make sure that you are taking sufficient amounts of ALA to ensure adequate Omega 3 intake. In these cases, it may therefore be useful to consider omega-3 supplementation.
For further study, we cite some scientific sources in the following:
- Mozaffarian D, Wu JHY. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;58(20):2047-2067. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109711040043
- Stonehouse W, Conlon CA, Podd J, et al. DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97(5):1134-1143.
- Calder PC. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes. Nutrients. 2010;2(3):355-374. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257651/
- Swanson D, Block R, Mousa SA. Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA: health benefits throughout life. Adv Nutr. 2012;3(1):1-7.
- Bernasconi AA, Wiest MM, Lavie CJ, et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in prevention of mood and anxiety disorders. Clin Psychopharmacol Neurosci. 2019;17(3):203-213. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6737357/
The benefits of omega-3s are undeniable, and a balanced diet that includes fatty fish, oil seeds, and seaweed can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve cognitive function, and prevent inflammation in the body.
However, for some people it may be difficult to get enough omega 3 from diet alone, and in these cases it may be useful to consider omega 3 supplementation through dietary supplements.
Always remember to choose high-quality products, consult your doctor or nutritionist before taking supplements, and follow the recommended doses.
If you are interested in purchasing a quality omega-3 supplement that meets the functional and quality requirements described in the article:
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