Omega-3 fatty acids are a class of essential fatty acids that acts to lower the levels of cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoproteins) in the blood. (LDL cholesterol is the “bad” cholesterol.) They have many powerful health benefits for your body and brain. In addition to serving as energy for the muscles, heart, and other organs, they are the building blocks for cell membranes and energy storage for the body.
The recommended daily allowance is 250–500 mg combined EPA and DHA for healthy adults, with higher amounts recommended for certain health conditions. Omega-3s are found naturally in some foods and can also be found in fortified foods. Adequate amounts of Omega-3s can be achieved by eating a variety of Omega-rich foods. These include:
- Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
- Fish, especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines
- Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
- Fortified eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages, and many infant formulas to which Omega 3s are added.
- Omega-3 dietary supplements include fish oil, krill oil, cod liver oil, and algal oil (a source that comes from algae).
The health benefits of Omega -3s include:
- Children’s Health: Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy and early life is crucial for your child’s development. Supplementing with Omega 3s is linked to higher intelligence and a lower risk of several diseases. Getting adequate omega 3s during pregnancy benefits your child with higher intelligence, better communication and social skills, fewer behavioral problems, decreased risk of developmental delay and ADHD, Autism and Cerebral Palsy. (Citation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24581674).
- Anxiety & Depression: Omega-3 supplements may help prevent and substantially improve symptoms of anxiety and depression. EPA seems to be the most effective at fighting depression. (Citation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17685742).
- Vision Health: An omega-3 called DHA is a major component of your eyes’ retinas. Supplementing with DHA may help prevent macular degeneration, which can cause vision impairment and blindness. Citation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15555528
- Skin Health: Omega 3s help keep your skin healthy by preventing premature aging and safeguarding against sun damage. DHA keeps your cell membrane’s healthy while EPA manages oil production needed for skin’s hydration keeping it soft, moist, supple and wrinkle-free. EPA also helps to block the release of substances that eat away at the collagen in your skin following sun exposure. Citation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19335417
- Bones & Joint Health: Omega-3s can improve the health of your bones and joints. Studies indicate that omega-3s improve bone strength by boosting the amount of calcium in your bones. This leads to a reduced risk of osteoporosis. Omega-3s may also treat arthritis. Patients taking omega-3 supplements have reported reduced joint pain and increased grip strength. Citation: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9932142).
- Brain Health & Memory: Omega 3s can preserve memory and reduce risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s Disease or age related mental decline. (Citation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19523795).
- Heart Health: Omega-3s can improve your risk factors for developing heart disease. These include a reduction in triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, plaque in your arteries, blood clots, blood pressure and inflammation while simultaneously raising HDL (good) cholesterol. Citation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712371/).
- Mental Health: Low omega-3 levels have been reported in people with psychiatric disorders. Studies suggest that omega-3 supplements can reduce the frequency of mood swings and relapses in people with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may also decrease violent behavior. Citation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21721919)
- Improve Sleep: Good sleep is one of the foundations of optimal health. Studies tie sleep deprivation to many diseases, including obesity, diabetes and depression. Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with sleep problems in children and obstructive sleep apnea in adults. Low levels of DHA are also linked to lower levels of the Melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep. Studies that involved both children and adults revealed that supplementing with omega-3 increases the quality and duration of sleep. ( Citation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013386/)
- Reduced Risk of Cancers: Omega-3 intake may decrease the risk of some types of cancers. These include breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. (citation: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17493949 ).
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