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Published on June 15, 2021

13 Health Benefits Of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Backed By Science)

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13 Health Benefits Of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Backed By Science)

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that the body requires for survival but is unable to produce on its own. It is, therefore, extremely important to get enough of these vital nutrients in your diet. There are three different types of Omega-3s. The first two types, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found mainly in fish. The third type, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in plant sources.[1]

Foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids include fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring. Plant sources of Omega-3s include flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and canola oil.[2] Fish oil supplements, commonly found in the grocery store, are also great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids for those who don’t like to eat any of these foods.

While most of us have heard of Omega-3 fatty acids before, their specific health benefits are not commonly known. There are so many incredible reasons to include Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. In this article, I’ll review many of the major Omega-3 health benefits you can expect from adding them into your diet.

1. Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Eating Omega-3 fatty acids in foods such as fish or nuts can lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular or heart disease. They do this by lowering triglyceride levels in the bloodstream. Triglycerides are a type of fat that occurs in the body and is the main contributor to body fat.[3]

2. Reduced Risk of Blood Clots

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 900,000 people could be affected by blood clots each year in the United States.[4] Having a diet rich in Omega-3s helps to prevent platelets in the blood from clumping together, which reduces the risk of blood clots.[5]

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3. Reduced Blood Pressure

Another Omega-3 health benefit is blood pressure reduction. High blood pressure is common among individuals in the United States, in large part due to dietary patterns. In a study conducted in Europe, consuming fish rich in Omega-3 such as salmon three times per week was shown to decrease diastolic blood pressure.[6]

4. Reduced Cholesterol

Along with high blood pressure, many individuals across the globe struggle with high cholesterol. It’s important to keep your cholesterol levels down as cholesterol is the building block for plaque formation in your arteries. Studies show that increased intakes of Omega-3s can lead to overall reduced cholesterol.[7]

5. Reduced Plaque in Your Arteries

As mentioned above, plaque formation in the arteries is caused by cholesterol in the blood. This plaque can cause a clot, which may lead to a heart attack.[8] Therefore, it’s extremely important to prevent plaque buildup as much as possible. Studies show that consumption of Omega-3s can help reduce plaque formation in your arteries, reducing the risk of a heart attack.[9]

6. Reduced Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

Two main causes of sudden cardiac death are severe ventricular fibrillation or terminal cardiac arrhythmia. Ventricular fibrillation occurs when, instead of pumping blood to the rest of your body, some of the chambers in your heart just quiver. This causes blood pressure to become too low and prevents blood from being delivered to your other organs.[10]

Moreover, a cardiac arrhythmia occurs when the heart pumps irregularly. This could mean that the heart is pumping either too fast or too slow.[11] Studies show that the risk of sudden cardiac death due to either of these causes decrease with increased levels of Omega-3s.[12]

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7. Improved Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Another important Omega-3 health benefit is improved rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. According to the CDC, between 2013-2015, about 23% of the US population was diagnosed with some form of arthritis.[13] This disease is chronic and painful. However, there may be some relief found in changing your diet.

A study published in the American Family Physician Journal showed that increased intakes of Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation in the body, leading to less stiffness and reduced tenderness in joints.[14]

8. Reduced Risk of Glaucoma

Glaucoma, which the Mayo Clinic defines as a “group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve,” is one of the leading causes of blindness for older adults.[15] This damage is often caused by increased intraocular pressure (IOP).

Studies showed that increased intakes of Omega-3s reduced intraocular pressure.[16] This indicates that increased intakes of Omega-3 fatty acids may help to prevent glaucoma later in life.

9. Reduced Risk of Cancer

Researchers have recently been studying the benefits of Omega-3 intakes on cancer prevention. Promising data from some studies has shown a reduced risk of colon cancer with increased Omega-3 intakes. Other studies on breast and prostate cancer have more mixed results.[17]

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10. Reduced Risk of Mental Health Disorders

Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important in brain development. Given this information, researchers have been looking into the association between Omega-3 intakes and mental health disorders. In one study, Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation reduced the risk of progression to a psychiatric disorder in individuals who were already at risk of developing one.[18]

Additional studies found that, in those individuals who already had Bipolar Disorder or Tardive Dyskinesia, supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids reduced symptoms. This was also the case for individuals with Schizophrenia when supplemented with EPA specifically.[19]

In 2017, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 7.1% of all adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode.[20] One study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that individuals with depression had lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, multiple studies found that intakes of Omega-3 fatty acids may improve symptoms of depression in the short term.[21][22]

11. Improvement in Infant Brain Health

Another significant Omega-3 benefit is that it improves infant brain health. One of the three types of Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, is known to be important in the development of the nervous system. During pregnancy, the fetus relies on the mother’s supply of DHA for brain development.

Studies show that DHA supplementation during pregnancy has been shown to promote higher intelligence in the early years of a baby’s life. A mother eating enough DHA is, therefore, extremely important for the brain development of the child.[23]

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12. Reduced Risk of Diabetes

According to a study published in 2020, 15 people out of every 1,000 across the world have type I diabetes.[24] As a disease that is both difficult to manage and costly, it’s important for those who are pregnant to evaluate their diet to prevent their newborn from developing this disease. One change expecting mothers may want to make is adding more canola oil or salmon. Studies showed that increased intakes of Omega-3s in the first year of life led to decreased risk of type 1 diabetes.[25]

13. Weight Reduction

According to the CDC, from 2017 to 2018, 42.4% of Americans were categorized as obese. Additionally, 9.2% of the population of the US were categorized as severely obese.[26] Having a body mass index or BMI that falls within the obese or severely obese categories can also lead to other chronic illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes. Therefore, it’s extremely important to maintain a healthy weight.

Some studies have found that consuming Omega-3 supplements, along with consuming a healthy diet, improved body composition and reduced cardiovascular risk factors of participants.[27] Another study conducted found that, in overweight men, including fish oils as part of a healthy, calorie-restricted diet led to more weight loss over a 4 week period than did the diet alone.[28]

The Bottom Line

Including Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet clearly has many incredible benefits. From weight loss to improved cardiovascular and brain health to reduced risk of type I diabetes and glaucoma, the Omega-3 health benefits are endless.

If you’re thinking about adding some Omega-3 containing foods into your diet, we’re right there with you! But how much of these healthy fats should you be eating? For an individual without any history of heart disease, The American Heart Association recommends having two servings (6-8 oz) of Omega-3 containing fish each week. If you do have heart disease or high triglyceride levels, check with your doctor regarding serving sizes.[29]

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More About Omega-3 Benefits

Featured photo credit: Didssph via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard School of Public Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution
[2] Cleveland Clinic: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[3] WebMD: The Facts on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Data and Statistics on Venous Thromboembolism
[5] Cleveland Clinic: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[6] PubMed.gov: Moderate consumption of fatty fish reduces diastolic blood pressure in overweight and obese European young adults during energy restriction
[7] ResearchGate: Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and growth and development
[8] Harvard Health Publishing: Can we reduce vascular plaque buildup?
[9] PubMed.gov: Effect of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on endothelial function: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
[10] Mayo Clinic: Ventricular fibrillation
[11] Mayo Clinic: Heart arrhythmia
[12] ResearchGate: Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and growth and development
[13] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Arthritis-Related Statistics
[14] American Family Physician: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[15] Mayo Clinic: Glaucoma
[16] TVST: Oral Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Intraocular Pressure in Normotensive Adults
[17] PubMed.gov: Dietary fatty acids and colorectal cancer: a case-control study
[18] PubMed.gov: Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for indicated prevention of psychotic disorders: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial
[19] PubMed.gov: Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for indicated prevention of psychotic disorders: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial
[20] National Institute of Mental Health: Major Depression
[21] ScienceDirect: Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder: A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
[22] ScienceDirect: Short-term supplementation of acute long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may alter depression status and decrease symptomology among young adults with depression: A preliminary randomized and placebo-controlled trial
[23] PubMed.gov: Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children’s IQ at 4 years of age
[24] NCBI: Prevalence and incidence of type 1 diabetes in the world: a systematic review and meta-analysis
[25] PubMed.gov: Use of cod liver oil during the first year of life is associated with lower risk of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes: a large, population-based, case-control study
[26] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Adult Obesity Facts
[27] PubMed.gov: Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors
[28] PubMed.gov: Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content
[29] Cleveland Clinic: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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Published on October 19, 2021

13 Fish Oil Benefits For Women And Men

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13 Fish Oil Benefits For Women And Men

Fish oils are great sources of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids. Omega fats are essential, meaning that they can’t be synthesized in your body and have to be eaten in your diet. Omega-3 is synthesized by microalgae—not by fish—but accumulates in the tissue when they are eaten by fish and shellfish further up the food chain. Oily fish contains about 30% fat in their tissues, and this is where the omega fatty acids are found. There are many claims about omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils. But what is the evidence of the real benefits of fish oil for men and women? Can fish oils really improve your brain health, reduce your cholesterol, or help your heart?

Learn about the role of omega-3 as signaling molecules, in cell membranes, arthritis, and even eye disease. Find out the main benefits of fish oil for men and women and how to get enough.

What Are Omega Fatty Acids?

There are two types of fats or fatty acids that are essential and can’t be produced in our bodies: omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-3 can be broken down into three main forms: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Fish oils contain DHA and EPA omega fatty acids and are a good source of these essential fats.

13 Benefits of Fish Oil (Omega Fatty Acids)

There are several different health benefits of omega fatty acids. Below are the 13 most common fish oil benefits for men and women.

1. Structural Role in Cells

Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids have an important structural role, as they are needed for cell membranes. You have an estimated 724 trillion cells in your body, and that is a lot of cell membranes to keep healthy.

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2. Energy Source

Both omega-3 and -6 are sources of energy, just like any other fat source. This means they can be used alongside energy from carbohydrates to power your body, providing energy for essential functions and exercise.

3. Signaling Molecules

Omega fatty acids are used to form signaling molecules called eicosanoids, comprised of prostaglandins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes that have extremely important functions within our bodies.

Prostaglandins

There are many different prostaglandins with wide-ranging roles, such as the sensation of pain, inflammation, regulation of pregnancy and birth, control of blood pressure, secretion of stomach acid, contraction, and relaxation of smooth muscle.

Thromboxanes

Thromboxanes regulate blood clotting by causing constriction of blood vessels and the aggregation of platelets (so they stick together), which are early steps in blood clotting.

Leukotrienes

Leukotrienes are involved in immune function by attracting immune cells, such as neutrophils, to sites of inflammation. They also constrict bronchioles in the lungs and make capillary walls permeable.

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4. Prevent Heart Diseases

Cardiovascular events are diseases related to blood vessels, such as clots, rhythm problems, and heart attacks. Studies have found that ALA may reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.[1][2]

5. Decrease Cholesterol and Triglycerides

Triglycerides are part of your cholesterol profile. Higher levels are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Studies have found that there is an inverse relationship between omega-3 and triglyceride levels.[3] This means that an increased intake of omega-3 led to a decrease in triglycerides and that higher doses of omega-3 led to a greater effect. This effect was stronger in people who already had raised triglycerides.

One of the ways of decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease is by lowering your cholesterol. One study found that EPA and DHA decreased triglycerides by about 15% and reduced the risk of coronary artery death and coronary events, which are illnesses of arteries supplying the heart.

6. Improve Brain Health

A grouped meta-analysis has not found any link between omega 3 and dementia, but more information is needed to see if omega-3 can prevent cognitive decline. Learn more about this here: How Fish Oil Boosts Your Mental Clarity And Brain Power

7. Help With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Omega-3 supplements have been found to benefit the clinical outcomes of rheumatoid arthritis and may even delay the need for medications.[4][5]

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8. Decrease Progression of Osteoarthritis

A large prospective study in patients with wear and tear (osteoarthritis OA) found that a higher intake of total and saturated fat was associated with an increased risk of worsening OA, whereas a higher intake of unsaturated fats was associated with decreased progression of OA measured via X-rays.[6]

The current opinion is that the metabolic products of omega-3 fatty acids are less inflammatory than those produced from omega6 fatty acids. Western diets are associated with an imbalance of omega-3 and -6 such that instead of levels of omega-3 being higher than omega-6, the reverse is more commonly seen.

9. Prevent Autoimmune Diseases

There is also limited evidence that omega-3 supplementation may benefit people with other types of autoimmune arthropathies like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), but more research is needed.

10. Good For Eye Health

The macula is part of the retina at the back of the eye, and although it is tiny—only about 5mm across—it has a very important role in vision. It is responsible for our central vision, most of our color vision, and the fine detail of what we see. Getting enough omega-3 is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, one of the world’s leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness.[7][8]

11. Boost Your Mood

It is suggested that omega-3 may play a role in the prevention and treatment of depression. However, meta-analyses of the data have not confirmed clear benefits. Instead, more research looking at the effect of supplementing omega-3 in people with depression is needed.[9]

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12. Lower Blood Pressure

The evidence of the benefit of omega-3 fatty acids on high blood pressure (hypertension) is mixed with large-scale studies showing either no effect or a small reduction in risk of hypertension.[10][11] Omega-3 fats do have other health benefits, though. They are unlikely to do harm and are easily incorporated into your diet by eating oily fish twice a week and seeds, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and nuts.

13. Help With Fertility

Omega-3 appears to have a role in a healthy gamete (eggs and sperm) formation with consumption associated with increased probability of pregnancy and live birth rate.[12][13][14]

Where Are Omega Fatty Acids Found?

If you are allergic to fish or don’t eat it, how can you get enough omega-3? There are other sources of ALA is found in plant oils, such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. DHA and EPA are found in oily fish, fish oils, and krill oils. DHA and EPA are synthesized by microalgae, not by the fish, but they accumulate in the tissue when they are eaten by fish and shellfish further up the food chain.

Final Thoughts

While there is evidence of the benefits for eye health, arthritis, improved cholesterol, and heart health, evidence to support the benefits of fish oil in helping high blood pressure, protecting brain health, and preventing dementia are less convincing.

Studies have found a “whole food effect” where eating oily fish appears to be more beneficial than supplementing with a fish or cod liver oil. There are also other plant-based sources of omega-3. Although some of these studies suggest that the more omega-3 the better, there is a limit to the recommended dose of supplements unless prescribed by your doctor.

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Omega-3 supplements may interfere with warfarin, due to its anti-platelet role in clotting, so it’s best to check with your doctor before starting a supplement.

Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel via unsplash.com

Reference

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