Omega-3 fatty acids have gained a lot of publicity as an increasing number of studies link them to various impressive health benefits. Do you know the facts about these fatty acids and why they’re important for your health? Here’s what you need to know.
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of healthy, unsaturated fats. There are three different types – ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Your body needs these fatty acids to function properly but it cannot produce them on its own, so they must be consumed.
What are the Benefits of Omega-3s?
Omega-3s are great for both your physical and mental health as they have a number of positive effects on the body. Here are some of their many benefits:
- They lower your triglyceride (blood fat) levels, improving your cholesterol and reducing your risk of heart disease.
- They improve your joint health and reduce the stiffness and tenderness caused by arthritis or osteoporosis.
- They reduce inflammation in the body, which means they help with illnesses or conditions where inflammation is a key component, such as asthma or Crohn’s disease.
- They seem to lower your risk of depression, as research has shown that depression is less common in cultures where omega-3s play a more significant role in diets.
- Some research suggests that omega-3s may help to prevent memory loss and protect against dementia.
If you would like to find out more, listen to Dr Chris talking about this subject on the video below.
What are the Best Sources of Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are primarily found in certain types of fish – usually oily fish. This is where you get EPA and DHA from. Good sources include:
- Lake trout
While regularly eating fish is the best way to get the omega-3s you need, it’s not the only way. ALA is found in nuts and seeds, including:
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
- Canola or rapeseed oil
- Soybean oil.
It’s always best to get the nutrients you need from your diet rather than from supplements if you can. However, people with certain health conditions or dietary requirements may be advised to take omega-3 supplements by their doctor.
Omega 3 Supplements: Can They Keep You Looking and Feeling Younger?
Omega-3 fish oil supplements have enjoyed considerable popularity in recent years. According to recent figures, sales of these supplements comprise a fifth of the UK’s substantial £700 million dietary supplement industry.
Omega-3s have been touted as one of the most effective supplements available on the market, offering a wide range of physical and mental benefits, to supposedly help us feel better and look better too. But what are the facts about this ‘miracle’ product?
The Benefits of Omega 3 Supplements
In remote fishing communities, such as that of the Inuit people, fish oil has been an integral part of their diet for centuries. However, it’s only in recent years that scientists have become interested in the perceived health benefits of a diet rich in fish oil.
In the 1960s, scientists studying the Inuit people noticed that, despite their diet being so high in fat, they were less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. Research seemed to indicate that this was due to regular consumption of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fat, which helps protect the heart.
Further research proved that these oils helped to reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol and raise ‘good’ cholesterol in the body, and also make the blood less likely to clot, improving blood flow.
Additional Health Benefits?
In addition to this, it’s also thought that Omega-3 supplements may help reduce the risk of certain cancers, help to reduce symptoms associated with inflamed bowels and prevent the onset of dementia.
It’s also thought to improve the condition of skin and hair, helping to make you appear younger. According to a study conducted at the University of California and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Omega-3s can also help combat cellular aging, particularly in ‘patients with coronary disease.’
The study concluded that this ‘raises the very real possibility that an abundance of omega-3s in the diet could offer protection from cellular aging for all people – whether they have heart disease or not.’
However, other research has emerged, indicating that Omega-3 supplements may actually be detrimental to your health. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle discovered links between taking Omega-3 supplements and increased risk of prostate cancer, leading them to conclude that: ‘There really is no evidence that taking dietary supplements is beneficial to health, and there is increasing evidence that taking high doses is harmful.’
In addition to this, a study carried out by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore found no correlation between use of Omega-3 supplements and prevention of dementia.
Should You Take Them or Not?
At present, there is no definitive research available that concludes whether Omega-3 supplements are beneficial to helping you look and feel younger and healthier, or actively detrimental. However, scientists do seem to unanimously agree that eating Omega-3 fatty acids in their natural state, for example, in oily fish, do offer health benefits.
You should aim to eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids two to three times a week. While it’s great to up your intake with nuts and oils too, these are best eaten in moderation because they can be high in calories. As long you stick to a healthy balanced diet, you should get all of the omega-3s you need to keep your body functioning healthily.
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