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The importance of Omega-3 essential fatty acids

Friday August 8, 2014 at 8:36am
The importance of Omega-3 essential fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are essential to human health but cannot be manufactured by the body. For this reason, omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained from food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other marine life such as algae and krill, certain plants (including purslane), and nut oils. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least 2 times a week. It is advised that pregnant women and mothers, nursing mothers, young children, and women who might become pregnant not eat several types of fish, including swordfish and mackerel. These individuals should also limit consumption of other fish, including tuna, salmon, and herring. They can take omega-3 fatty acids in quality dietary supplements that are certified mercury-free by a reputable third-party retailer.

Omega-3 is made up of three different types of fatty acids

There are three major types of omega-3 fatty acids that are ingested in foods and used by the body: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Once eaten, the body converts ALA to EPA and DHA, the two types of omega-3 fatty acids more readily used by the body. Extensive research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. These essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be particularly important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioural function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include extreme tiredness (fatigue), poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 consumption must be balanced

It is important to maintain an appropriate balance of omega-3 and omega-6 (another essential fatty acid) in the diet, as these two substances work together to promote health. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and most omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. An inappropriate balance of these essential fatty acids contributes to the development of disease while a proper balance helps maintain and even improve health. A healthy diet should consist of roughly 2 - 4 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids. The typical American diet tends to contain 14 - 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, and many researchers believe this imbalance is a significant factor in the rising rate of inflammatory disorders in the United States.

The Mediterranean diet naturally contains a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

In contrast, however, the Mediterranean diet consists of a healthier balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and many studies have shown that people who follow this diet are less likely to develop heart disease. It also contains another fatty acid, omega-9 fatty acids, which have been reported to help lower risks associated with cancer and heart disease. The Mediterranean diet does not include much meat (which is high in omega-6 fatty acids) and emphasises foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic.



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