Omega 3 are essential fatty acids necessary for normal functioning of human body. Unfortunately, Omega 3 can not be produced by human body and could only be obtained from other sources. Salmon, Tuna, Halibut, Algae, krill are food items which contain Omega 3. In recent years, Omega3 has gained immense popularity for its benefits in lowering risk of heart diseases. According to American Heart Association, consuming fatty fish at least twice a week is beneficial for heart health. Omega 3 consumption is also associated with other health benefits, though strongest evidence relates to heart health.
Omega 3 benefits
Omega 3 for Heart Health: For preventing heart diseases, a diet rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (which includes omega-3) and low in saturated fat is advised. Omega-3 consumption has been well associated with decreased heart disorders. There exists strong evidence from clinical research which suggests that EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) present in two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil help in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease. Fish oil is known to also reduce triglycerides and lower risk of heart attack, abnormal heart rhythm, stroke. Two servings of fish per week could lower risk of heart attack by 50 percent. However, consumption of more than 3 grams of omega 3 fatty acids per day may increase risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
Omega 3 for Inflammation: Omega 3 fatty acids help in reducing inflammation and may reduce risk of chronic diseases such as arthritis, cancer, heart ailments.
Omega 3 for Cognitive strength: In brain, Omega 3 fatty acids are very concentrated and are believed to aid brain memory and performance.
Omega 3 consumption during pregnancy: It is essential for women to consume omega 3 during pregnancy since its deficiency during pregnancy may lead to vision/nerve disorders in infants. Fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, depression, heart disorders, poor blood circulation are common symptoms of Omega 3 deficiency.
Omega 3 for cholesterol balancing:
Studies have shown that people who consume high amounts of omega-3 tend to have high HDL and low triglycerides. Fish oil supplements have also shown to reduce triglyceride levels. Omega 3 vegetarian food source, Walnut, contains ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid) which gets converted to Omega-3 in body. Walnut has been known to lower triglycerides/cholesterol in people with high cholesterol.
Omega 3 for Hypertension: Clinical studies have shown that Omega 3 acid helps in lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension. In an analysis of seventeen clinical studies, it was found that consumption of 3 grams or more fish oil every day may help in lowering high blood pressure. However, such high doses should not be taken without physician's direction.
Omega3 Vs. Omega6: Omega 6 are essential fatty acids most of which tend to enhance inflammation, unlike omega3 fatty acids which tend to reduce inflammation. A healthy balance between Omega3 and omega6 fatty acids in diet is key to a good health. In a typical mediterranean diet, there exists a healthy balance between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. People who follow mediterranean diet are less likely to develop heart diseases as per various studies conducted. Mediterranean diet is rich in omega 3 fatty acids from whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, fish, garlic and moderate red wine. A typical American diet contains 14 to 25 times more omega-6 than omega 3, which is extremely unhealthy according to nutritionists.
Omega 3 Dietary Sources: Omega 3 fatty acids can primarily be obtained from fish, plant and nut oils. EPA and DHA are found in salmon, mackerel, halibut, tuna, sardines and herring cold water fishes. Flaxseeds, Canola oil, Flaxseed oil, Soyabean, Soyabean oil, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed oil, Walnuts, Purslane, peril seed oil, and Walnut oil are good sources of ALA. ALA obtained from vegetarian sources such as flaxseeds needs to be converted to EPA and DHA in body. However, this conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA does not happen effectively in many people. Vegetarian sources of ALA Vs. Sea sources EPA/DHA remains a debate for nutrition community worldwide. It is advisable to keep Flaxseed, flaxseed oil, fish, and krill oils refrigerated. Freshly (within 24 hours of consumption) ground flaxseeds could be consumed so that ingredients remain active.
Fish oil may contain harmful contaminants such as mercury and other heavy metals, dioxins, PCBs. Therefore, good quality of fish oil must be purchased from reputed companies which sell fish oil capsules which do not contain any contaminants. Also, one should not consume more than 3 grams daily of omega-3 from capsules without the recommendation of nutritionist as it may increase risk of bleeding. Fish oil supplements may be associated with increase in fasting blood sugar levels of people with type 2 diabetes, therefore in such condition fish oil supplement may only be consumed under supervision of a healthcare practitioner.