Omega - 3 Fatty Acids

Omega - 3 Fatty Acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat considered 'essential' for human health because the body cannot manufacture them on its own. Fatty acids are the building blocks of fats, which, despite their misunderstood reputation, are extremely vital nutrients. Omega-3 consists of three types of fatty acids that are collectively referred to as omega-3's: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

ALA is found in foods of plant origin. The richest source of ALA is flaxseed, but it is also found in hempseed, canola oil, soybeans, soybean oil, baked beans, red kidney beans, chia seed oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, linseeds, walnuts, and walnut oil. ALA is also found in some green vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and salad greens. Once ingested, the body converts ALA into EPA and DHA, allowing it to be more readily used by the body. However, this conversion is NOT very efficient. That's why experts recommend including EPA and DHA sources in your diet as well. Both EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish, in small amounts in eggs, and in very small amounts in seaweed.

Heart Health
In 1970's, scientists noted that despite consuming high levels of fat, the only 5% Inuit Eskimo population in Greenland were affected with heart disease as compared to 40% of Americans. Since then, heart benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids have been well documented. Omega 3s has been shown to -
- Decrease risk of irregular heart beats (arrhythmias), which can lead to sudden cardiac death
- Lower triglyceride levels and elevate HDL (good cholesterol)
- Reduce blood clotting & decrease growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque (a thick build up of fats inside the blood vessels)
- Reduce blood pressure
The American Heart Association recommends including fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids in diet at least twice a week or 1 gram Omega-3 supplement per day of EPA+DHA for people suffering from heart ailments.

Mental Health
The human brain is made up of 60% fat of which predominantly is DHA. It helps to insulate nerve cells in the brain, allowing these nerve cells to better communicate with one another. Therefore, the brain needs more of these omega-3 fatty acids than any other organ in the body. 
Healthy young adults who increase their consumption of omega-3s can have better working memory, a team from the University of Pittsburgh reported in the journal PLoS ONE (October 2012 issue). 
Studies have also found people with low intake of Omega-3 DHA may be affected in cognitive decline and conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and ADHD.

Age-Related Vision Loss
A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science demonstrated that lab models fed with DHA did not accumulate the toxic molecule that usually builds up in the retina with age and therefore preventing age-related loss of vision.

Because people with diabetes often have high triglyceride and low HDL levels, Omega-3 fatty acids (from only fish oil) can help lower triglycerides and raise HDL which may also have beneficial effects on diabetic neuropathy and serum lipids as well as other diabetic complications such as nephropathy and macroangiopathy.

Rheumatoid Arthritis
Because Omega-3 decreases the production of inflammatory chemicals, it may help in decreasing inflammation, reduce joint tenderness and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis. The results of over 13 double-blind, placebo-controlled studies involving a total of more than 500 people suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may improve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Omega-3 may help maintain or increase bone mass because it can increase the effectiveness of calcium absorption in the body. The results of a study published in the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" in June 2005 show that omega-3 fatty acids enhance bone mineral density and may help to prevent bone loss. Analysis of studies involving omega-3 fatty acids, published in the March 2008 issue of "Medical Science Monitor" concludes that omega-3s likely have a beneficial effect on bone health and osteoporosis.

Menstrual Cramps
At least eight studies involving a total of 1,097 women have investigated the relationship between diet and menstrual cramps and have found that fish oil intake seemed to decrease menstrual pain. Omega-3 is believed to work by decrease prostaglandin levels.

A study at Indiana University found that adults with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma who took an omega-3-rich fish oil supplement daily for three weeks improved their post-exercise lung function by 64 percent, allowing a 31 percent decrease in their use of emergency inhalers.

Colon Cancer
Eskimos community who eat significant amounts of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids have a low rate of colorectal cancer. Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have found that eating omega-3 regularly can result in prevention of colon polyp formation in human studies. Animal studies and laboratory studies have also found that omega-3 fatty acids prevent worsening of colon cancer and daily consumption may help slow the progression of colon cancer in people with early stages of the disease.

Breast Cancer
Researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center have found that omega-3 fatty acids, as well as their metabolite products, stop or slow the proliferation of triple-negative type of breast cancer cells. Proliferation in those types of cells was reduced by as much as 90%.

Skin cancer
Scientists form University of Manchester, England, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (February 2013 issue) that consuming omega-3 fish oils increased immunity to sunlight and can help prevent skin cancer. Omega 3 can also help alleviate symptoms related to skin disorders like acne and psoriasis.

Fish oil capsules may interact with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin and aspirin. Side effects may include indigestion and bleeding. Fish oil should not be taken two weeks before or after surgery.

Always consult your health care provider before starting a supplement therapy