In this fast changing world, we are caught up with a lot of things – work, expectations, failures, worries, and others. At the end of the day, no matter how many tasks we have accomplished, we may still feel that we could have done more. Remember, we only have one body. Self-protection is crucial to enjoy life. We must protect it. In order to do that, we can start with treating our body with supplements to boost its functionality. Choosing the kind of food we take helps us maintain a healthy mind and body.
Fish fat has brought good news to our table for it is believed to be the richest source of Omega-3 fats which are very essential to our body. Our body cannot innately produce these fats but they can be acquired from our diet. Omega-3 fatty acids (also called omega-3 fats and n-3 fats) are found in fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flax seeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables (1). Omega-3 fats are a key family of polyunsaturated fats. The three main Omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found mainly in plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), found in fish and other seafood (2). As many as 96,000 people die each year in the United States due to lack of Omega-3s in their diets, according to research led by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal (3). Today, increasing number of people appreciate the inclusion of Omega-3 in their diet because of its amazing health benefits.
Here are five proven benefits of Omega-3:
- Improves mental disorders. It is essential for normal brain function. Your brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, and much of this fat is Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, for one, is rich in Omega-3 and can prevent the onset or improve the symptoms of some mental disorders (4). A study reveals that it is useful in preventing and improving depressive symptoms (5), (6). Omega-3 oil supplements might reduce symptoms of anxiety for some people based on a published meta-analysis study (7). It can easily travel through the brain cell membrane and interact with mood-related molecules inside the brain and with its anti-inflammatory actions, it helps relieve depression (8). EPA and DHA reduce anxiety and depression in patients with physical medical conditions. EPA is shown to have therapeutic effects of EPA on post-traumatic stress disorder, and both anger and anxiety in patients recovering from substance abuse (9).
- Prevents cancer. Inflammation, sometimes persists for a long time, even without an infection or injury, can be chronic and can post a dangerous sign of a serious body infections. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce this inflammation. A paper published in the Journal of Mammary Gland Biology and Neoplasia suggests that fatty acids, such as the ones found in fish oil, could prevent breast cancer cells from growing and spreading (10). With its anti-inflammation properties, Omega-3 fatty acids can help cure cancers link to inflammation such as colorectal, liver, lung, prostate among others. Studies observe a significant connection between higher Omega-3 intake and reduced inflammation (11), (12), (13). While there is evidence that both Omega-3s from plants and marine sources are protective against cancer, a study is conducted to find out which form is more effective and the result indicates that EPA and DHA were eight times more effective at preventing the development of breast cancer tumors than ALA (14).
- Enhances eye health. Omega-3 plays an important role in eye health. DHA is naturally concentrated in the retina of the eye and is thought to promote healthy retinal function (15). The results of several studies, including one published in the February 2001 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) indicate that eating larger amounts of fish or Omega-3s may help promote macular health. Another study also reveals that it can help reduce dry eye syndrome, a chronic eye disease caused by a decrease in tear production or increase in tear evaporation (16). Dr. Bajart says that while DHA will not reverse retinal damage, it may help preserve vision, and relieve dry eye and chronic inflammation of the eyelids (17). Another very interesting benefit of Omega-3 is it can contribute to infant vision development. According to an analysis of several studies conducted by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and published in the journal Pediatrics, the healthy pre-term infants who were fed DHA-supplemented formula showed significantly better visual acuity at 2 and 4 months of age, compared with similar pre-term infants who were fed formula that did not contain the Omega-3 supplement (18).
- Boosts bone and joint health. With its anti-inflammatory properties, it is an effective aid for joint pain. Fish oil, a source of Omega-3, is a well-known alternative for joint pain relief. Studies have shown a beneficial effect of Omega-3 fatty acids on bone mineral density and supplementing the diets of growing rats with Omega-3 fatty acids results in greater bone formation in rats (19). Evidence further suggests that fish body oil can improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (20). These fatty acids push the body to produce chemicals that help control inflammation, hence, help ease stiffness caused by inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis (21). A study shows a consistent evidence that EPA and DHA from marine sources had a positive effect on joint swelling and pain can help improve morning stiffness in the joints, another symptom of rheumatoid arthritis (22).
- Alleviates menstrual pain. Fish oil helps lower inflammation. A few studies have found that women who took fish oil had less menstrual pain than those who took placebo (23). However, it is important to note that Omega-3 fatty acids may raise the risk of bleeding, especially for people who take blood thinners such as clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), or aspirin (24). A study conducted on a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial found that consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 reduced menses-related pain in menstruating women (25). Another study reveals that Omega-3 and vitamin E supplements significantly reduced menstrual pain compared to placebo where the group that received the combined vitamin E and Omega-3s experienced a greater positive effect on menstrual pain compared to the other groups (26). Prostaglandins caused period pains increasing your body’s sensitivity to pain and can cause your muscles to spasm and are termed “bad” prostaglandins. High intakes of saturated fats can encourage your body to produce bad prostaglandins, highly inflammatory substances that can cause swelling and pain in the pelvic area and with Omega-3 essential fatty acids, your body produce the anti-inflammatory ‘good’ prostaglandins (27).
Final Thoughts on Omega-3
Keeping our body healthy should come first. Omega-3 fatty acids are very essential to our health. They are helpful as an addition to prescribed medications or other treatment. Try Omega-3 in your diet and see the amazing effects it does to your body. If you don’t eat a lot of fatty fish, then you may want to consider taking an Omega-3 supplements. There are a lot of these supplements in the market. Be careful in choosing the right supplements and dose for you.