Omega-3 fatty acids have risen in popularity over the last few years and it’s not without reason. Although the list of health benefits and interesting tidbits could go on to fill a small library, here are the top 25 facts about omega-3 for a quick look into the most important aspects of one of the most beneficial health aids.
1. It’s an Essential Fatty Acid
As the term implies, these types of fatty acids are need in our diets. The play key roles in many of the processes that keep our bodies functioning at their best. However, we can’t make them on our own. Essential fatty acids, such as omega-3, can only be obtained through consuming them. Omega-3 is predominately found in cold water fish and, to a lesser degree, in plants and nuts. For those that don’t have a fondness for fish, omega-3 is also available in the form of supplements.
2. It balances the Omega 3 – Omega 6 ratio.
The majority of health agencies have recognized the benefits and importance of omega-3 and advise the steady inclusion of omega-3 into diets. These recommendations are especially advised for the western diet, where omega-3 is sorely lacking on average. This causes an imbalance in the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3. These two fatty acid types balance each other out. While omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. Due to this, it is advised to keep the intake of omega-6 and omega-3 equal.
3. It’s anti-inflammatory
This is the most important trait of omega-3 and the reason for many of the health benefits it offers. Omega-3 has been seen to significantly reduce inflammatory responses by decreasing the amount of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Inflammation, especially chronic inflammation, can cause damage to the body and lead to a multitude of severe health issues. By stopping excessive inflammation, omega-3 both protects against and relieves the symptoms of many chronic ailments.
4. It’s Neuroprotective.
Mostly due to omega-3 being anti-inflammatory, it helps protect the nervous system and the brain. It has been shown effective at preventing the progression of neuropathy in those with diabetes, limiting the damage to nerves that can develop over time. Within the brain, it protects against damage caused by stress and the chemicals released in response to stress. More importantly, it helps the brain heal. Omega-3 supplementation after traumatic brain injury has been seen to progress the rate of healing, leading a decreased risk of long-term damage and more positive prognoses.
5. It’s essential for a healthy brain.
DHA is found in large amounts within the brain. It is a building block for brain tissue and needed for the formation of new brain cells. A deficiency of DHA is associated with smaller amount of grey matter, which causes a decrease in the ability to process and learn new information. Children who had healthy intakes of omega-3 during the prenatal and early post-natal stages were found to have higher intelligence and less developmental problems as they grew up.
As mentioned in the last fact, omega-3 helps the brain heal quicker. This is due to the brain’s dependency on DHA to produce new cells. With an abundance of the fatty acid, new cells can be formed at a quicker rate to replace the ones that were damaged during the injury. In contrast, a deficiency of omega-3 slows down the rate of healing because there isn’t enough DHA to create new brain cells.
6. It relieves depression.
Depression is an extremely common ailment and there are a number of tips available for how to deal with it but many people would never suspect that something from a fish could be of any help. However, omega-3 has a strong antidepressant effect. An 8-week study found that patients who received omega-3 supplementation were doing significantly better than those that received a placebo. This effect is not only seen with adults. Studies involving the effects of omega-3 on childhood depression came to a similar conclusion. The children involved had a reduction of symptoms to such a degree that some of them were considered to be in remission from the disorder by the end of the study period.
A lack of omega-3 may actually be a contributing factor to the development of depression. Those who suffer from bouts of a depression were found to have lower levels of omega-3. It’s not solid evidence that an omega-3 deficiency causes depression, but there is a noticeable link which indicates that avoiding an omega-3 deficiency could lower the chances of experiencng depression symptoms.
7. It may slow down Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite years of research and trials, Alzheimer’s disease is still shrouded in mystery. We don’t know why it forms or how to cure it. Even the ability to slow down the disease appears to be out of reach, but it may not be for long.
A substance called ‘amyloid plaque’ is credited with the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The more amyloid plaque there is, the faster the disease seems to progress. Omega-3 supplementation was observed to reduce the amount of amyloid plaque in the brain. In one study, the reduction was as high as 50%. Obviously, this isn’t a cure, but it holds the potential of being able to slow the disease down. The effects of omega-3 on Alzheimer’s disease are still being studied and there isn’t much known yet, but the studies currently available indicate that omega-3 may offer a step towards a breakthrough.
8. It helps manage Parkinson’s Disease.
A progressive lack of dopamine production is the hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. Although dopamine is usually associated with mood and motivation, it is actually important for multiple functions within the brain. As is the case with Alzheimer’s disease, many aspects about Parkinson’s are still in the realm of the unknown and a cure has yet to be found. But, omega-3 has shown the potential to possibly slow down the disease. The mechanism by which omega-3 helps slow the disease down is by hindering inflammation. The brain experiences a large amount of inflammation with Parkinson’s and this damages the cells responsible for supplying dopamine. By lessening the inflammation, omega-3 protects those cells and keeps them dying off, allowing them to continue to produce dopamine.
9. It helps manage ADHD.
Individuals with ADHD were found to have a smaller amounts of gray matter than those without the disorder. It has been suggested that ADHD could be the result of an omega-3 deficiency during prenatal development when DHA is needed for the formation of gray matter. So, a healthy omega-3 intake could help prevent the appearance of ADHD symptoms. In those with already formed ADHD, a deficiency of omega-3 is associated with more severe symptoms. A study in 2007 showed that omega-3 supplementation lead to an improvement and lessening of the symptoms. Omega-3 doesn’t seem to be able to cure ADHD once it has already formed, but it can provide a helping hand when it comes to managing the disorder.
10. It supports a healthy Pregnancy.
Having a good omega-3 intake is extremely important for pregnant woman. During pregnancy, women are more susceptible to experiencing an omega-3 deficiency. Omega-3 is needed for the development of the brain and nervous system so a fetus has high demands for it. However, omega-3 is not only needed for the unborn child, but also for the expecting mother as well.
Omega-3 has the ability to improve blood flow, allowing a steady stream of nutrients and oxygen to reach the uterus. This lowers the chances of experiencing a miscarriage. These fatty acids have also been linked to a lower risk of developing preeclampsia – a condition that can prove dangerous for both mother and child. Within one study, it was found that women who did not have a high enough omega-3 intake were seven times more likely to develop the condition. Last but not least, omega-3 could help prevent preterm labor. Women with healthy omega-3 levels were found to have longer pregnancies than those without a decent omega-3 intake.
11. It boosts fertility.
With both men and woman, omega-3 can enhance fertility by battling the leading causes of infertility.
In women, polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis are often the culprits behind the failure to conceive. Omega-3 appears to be able to help manage both conditions. Polycystic ovary syndrome is marked by a hormonal balance that leads to women having high testosterone and low adiponectin levels, which causes infrequent or completely absent menstruation. With an omega-3 supplementation, the testosterone levels are reduced and the adiponectin levels were increased, making conception easier to achieve. Endometriosis hinders conception by causing irritation and inflammation that leads to scar tissue forming over time. When this happens around the reproductive organs, the result is usually infertility. By reducing inflammation and the damage it may cause, omega-3 prevents the formation of scar tissue and protects fertility.
In men, the leading causes of infertility are low sperm count, low sperm quality, and varicocele. Recent studies has found that omega-3 fatty acids play a large role in the production of sperm. A deficiency can cause a low sperm count and sperm that isn’t shaped correctly. By adding omega-3 into a man’s diet, it can improve sperm production and quality, leading to a higher chance of the little swimmers getting to their intended target. Varicocele is a condition where the vein along the spermatic cord becomes enlarged. While this often isn’t a serious condition, it can cause infertility in some cases because it can lead to sperm cells becoming damaged. Men with the most severe cases of varicocele were found to have an omega-3 deficiency. On the other hand, men that had a healthy omega-3 intake appeared to have more mild varicocele and had retained fertility.
12. It helps manage Autoimmune diseases.
.Inflammation is the main mechanism for autoimmune disorders and their symptoms. As an anti-inflammatory, omega-3 can help lessen the severity of symptoms. In multiple sclerosis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, and many others autoimmune diseases, omega-3 supplementation has been seen to lower the disease activity, and improve the quality of life for those suffering from the diseases. Those who had omega-3 included in their diets had to be prescribed less medication on average, which cut down on the experience of negative side effects that can come with prescription medications.
13. It keeps skin healthy.
Although not the most obvious choice as a beauty product, omega-3 can help manage skin conditions and lead to a healthier looking complexion. The sun can wreak havoc on our skin. While it can give us a nice tan, too much exposure can also be damaging and lead to skin that looks dull and unhealthy over time. While wearing sunscreen is the most effective method to avoid sun damage, omega-3 intake can aid in protecting our skin as well. By reducing the inflammatory response of sunburn, it protects skin cells from becoming damaged in the aftermath of a day in the sun.
It has also been seen reducing the occurrences and severity of psoriasis. Omega-3 helps the skin retain moisture, which lessens the amount of redness and scaly splotches that are associated with bouts of psoriasis. The result of a study showed that 80% of the study participants with psoriasis experienced an improvement of their symptoms after omega-3 supplementation.
14. It manages Rheumatoid Arthritis
Omega-3 has a positive effect for all autoimmune disorders, but it appears to be exceptionally beneficial to those with RA. Over a dozen studies have shown that omega-3 supplementation leads to a reduction in RA symptoms. One of those studies found that morning stiffness was hindered from progressing in the participants that received omega-3 while the placebo group reported worsening stiffness. Supplementation was also linked to a fewer number of tender joints. EPA is the omega-3 that is responsible for the relief and RA patients with higher levels of EPA reported having to use over-the-counter pain medications less frequently.
15. Prevents Osteoporosis.
By helping to maintain bone mass, omega-3 can prevent osteoporosis from forming. A study conducted with mice resulted in a higher bone mineral density for the mice who were given omega-3 supplementation. This result is likely due to the ability of omega-3 to help the body absorb calcium, with contributes to bones staying strong, as well as helping them mend after injury. In addition to having the potential to prevent the condition, omega-3 may also help reverse bone loss in those already experiencing osteoporosis.
16. It lessens the severity of Asthma.
Evaluations have observed that patients with asthma tend to have lower omega-3 levels while having relatively high levels of omega-6. The higher omega-6 levels were associated with more severe cases of respiratory distress. This indicates that an imbalance in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio could be a contributing factor in the severity of asthma. A review of the available studies shows that omega-3 could have a protective quality when dealing with asthma and keep the attacks mild. Supplementation of omega-3 also led to an improvement of respiratory capacity, which could mean less frequent asthma attacks.
17. It stops hair loss.
In studies involving female pattern hair loss, omega-3 proved to be an effective tool. Not only did omega-3 stop the progression of hair loss, but it also helped the study participants grow back the hair that they had already lost. Hair density was significantly improved over a period of months with omega-3 supplementation. As an added bonus, the participants also reported that their hair felt softer and appeared shinier.
18. Supports Eye Health.
Much like with the brain, omega-3 is a building block for the formation of the eyes. DHA is an important component of the retinal photoreceptor membrane. Without DHA, especially during prenatal development, vision can be negatively affected. However, omega-3 isn’t important for the eyes solely during development. It has significant benefits for maintaining eye health as well. One of those benefits is aiding the function of the meibomian gland. This gland produces a protective oil that keeps the eyes from drying out. Occasionally, it can become damaged by inflammation, causing it to malfunction by producing oil that is too thick and causing a painful stye or not producing enough oil and causing irritatingly dry eyes. Omega-3 protects against the damage from inflammation, allowing the gland to function properly.
19. It can prevents and fight Cancer.
One of the main factors in the development of cancer is inflammation. Chronic inflammation damages cells over time and if the DNA of the cell gets damaged, the cell can become mutated and cancerous. So, one of the ways to protect against cancer is stopping inflammation and that is one area where omega-3 excels. It protects cells by lessening inflammation, preventing the reoccurring damage that can become dangerous. A higher intake of omega-6 combined with a lower intake of omega-3 is the perfect situation for inflammation to get severe. An imbalance of the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is linked to a higher risk of developing cancer and of developing more aggressive forms of cancer.
Omega-3 also provides aid in fighting cancer. In combination with standard cancer treatment, omega-3 was seen to enhance cancer-combating regiment. In a handful of studies, omega-3 supplementation led to a decrease in the size and number of cancerous tumors. The rate of the cancers spreading was slowed down and in some cases, it was stopped completely.
20. It’s essential for heart health
‘Heart-healthy’ is the perfect term to describe omega-3 fatty acids. The effectiveness that omega-3 has in preventing heart disease is so potent that even the American Heart Association praises it. When included as a steady part of a diet, omega-3 drastically lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. It does this by reducing abnormal heartbeat and preventing both blood clot formation and the build up of plaque in the arteries. Omega-3 also protects blood vessels from being damaged by inflammation, resulting in an overall healthier vascular system.
21. It lowers Blood Pressure
This attribute is one of the reasons omega-3 is heart-healthy. High blood pressure is one of a couple factors that can lead to abnormal heartbeats. Omega-3 is highly effective at lowering blood pressure and this has been seen in multiple studies involving patients with hypertension. High blood pressure commonly goes unnoticed and untreated. By having a healthy intake of omega-3, undetected high blood pressure can be stopped before it even becomes serious. This effect of omega-3 appears to be more potent when in combination with lowering omega-6 intake.
22. It lowers Diabetes risk
Omega-3 can lower the risks of developing both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 typically occurs in children and is often the result of islet autoimmunity, which is where the immune system attacks the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. In a couple studies, omega-3 was seen to prevent islet autoimmunity and lower the chances of a child forming Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes has a few causes, but the leading cause is obesity. In combination with exercise, omega-3 can be a helpful weight loss tool. It regulates appetite, which can prevent overeating and make it easier to shed weight. This can lower the risk of developing obesity-related diabetes.
23. It improves your Lipid Profile
The term ‘lipid profile‘ refers to the amount of triglycerides, lipoproteins, and cholesterol present in the bloodstream. There are a few different types of lipoproteins: Very Low-Density Lipoprotein (VLDL), Low-Density Lipprotein (LDL), and High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL). These are created when triglycerides bind with cholesterol. High levels of VLDL and LDL are considered bad because they are linked to cardiovascular issues. HDL is considered good because it keeps VLDL and LDL in check.
Omega-3 can change the lipid profile by decreasing the amount of triglycerides present, causing a reduction in VLDL and LDL. It also reduces the presence of apolipoprotein B, which is the protein that bind triglycerides and cholesterol to make VLDL and LDL. Omega-3 only slightly raises the amount of HDL so its main benefit is the reduction of the more trouble-causing lipoproteins.
24. It improves exercise performance.
Exercise is an important element in staying healthy but it can occasional feel like a daunting chore when we don’t see results right away. While omega-3 isn’t going to make someone physically fit after one work out, it can help you get the most out of your exercise regiment. A common hindrance to muscle growth is cortisol, which is released during periods of both emotional and physical stress. Omega-3 prevents this hindrance by reducing the amount of cortisol release and by stimulating muscle protein synthesis.
Due to improving blood flow, omega-3 also helps prevent fatigue from occurring mid-work out, allowing you to exercise longer and not feel wiped out halfway through. Additionally, by providing good blood flow and reducing inflammation, it helps ease the post-exercise soreness known as DOMS so that you can recover from a strenuous work-out more quickly.
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