Top 4 reasons to take omega-3s – Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that the body cannot make, so must be supplied through diet and/or supplementation. These fatty acids are naturally found in foods such as fish and flaxseed, as well as in dietary supplements, such as fish oil. The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) play a critical role in many of the body’s functions including mood balance, eye health, brain development, and cognitive function.
Omega-3s are also essential to cardiovascular health, inflammation management, healthy liver function, and many others. In fact, according to study results that were published in 2009, out of 12 dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic “preventable causes of death”, omega-3 fatty acid deficiency ranked as the sixth highest killer among Americans. With this in mind, let’s explore the top 4 reasons why omega-3 supplementation is an absolute must.
Omega-3s For Heart Health
Omega-3 fatty acids have potent anti-inflammatory properties, which research has shown can help prevent and/or mitigate several risk factors associated with coronary heart disease, including hypertension, high levels of triglycerides, and high LDL cholesterol. This explains why the American Heart Association has long recommended that people eat fish rich in unsaturated fats at least twice a week because of the robust heart health benefits they offer. Unfortunately fish and shellfish today often contain high levels of mercury, more specifically methylmercury, a heavy metal that when concentrated in the body can cause impaired neurological development, affecting cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual-spatial skills. As such, it makes infinitely more sense to take a daily high-quality omega-3 supplement to optimize heart health and protect against heart disease, given omega-3 fatty acids are associated with improved survival rates post-heart attack according to some research.
Omega-3s For Brain Health
Omega-3s, most notably docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, are essential for brain and eye development. Additionally, DHA plays a significant role in mental health throughout life. In the brain (which is composed of 60% fat), DHA is important for cellular membrane fluidity, function, and neurotransmitter release. Indeed, research indicates that a low intake of omega-3s increases the risk of numerous mental health issues, including ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, and various mood disorders. Given this, it should come as no surprise that many studies have shown that omega-3 supplementation has shown promise for improving numerous mental health conditions.
A very compelling study from 2012 involving children aged 6 to 12 years with ADHD found “statistically significant improvements” in restlessness, aggressiveness, completing work, and academic performance in those taking an omega-3 supplement daily. Just as interestingly, there is good evidence that omega-3 supplementation may not only help prevent dementia but may also improve or delay the decline in memory and ability to carry out everyday tasks in people with dementia.
Omega-3s For Skin Health
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to nourish the skin and help maintain a smooth, elastic texture, as well as help prevent and/or minimize the signs of photo-aging (wrinkles). Omega-3s have also been found to help regulate cutaneous oil production, improve hydration, prevent breakouts, help soften rough, dry skin, and soothe irritation and dermatitis. Many of these benefits can be attributed to omega-3’s ability to attenuate inflammation, most notably skin inflammation, thanks to their well-documented anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, the polyunsaturated fatty acids in omega-3s have been found to improve the symptoms of many skin conditions including atopic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and allergic skin reactions.
One especially beneficial application for omega-3s is to reduce the skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays, and in turn, improve one’s resistance to sunburns by up to 136%.
Omega-3 supplementation is also ideal for adolescents and adults suffering from acne by decreasing skin inflammation, thus preventing or reducing acne lesions.
Omega-3s For Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal defence mechanism of the body and is required to protect cells and tissues from infection and other insults by attacking pathogens as well as initiating tissue repair processes to restore homeostasis (balance) at infected or damaged sites. Indeed, inflammation is indispensable when it functions appropriately; however, when inflammation runs rampant (chronic inflammation), tissue and organ damage can ensue. Chronic inflammation is associated with almost every chronic Western illness including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and many others.
Fortunately, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation has been shown to reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines, which reduce inflammation throughout the body and protect tissues.
Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your practitioner prior to taking herbs or nutritional supplements.
Many functions depend on an adequate intake of omega 3s. Ensuring that you’re getting the appropriate amount of both EPA & DHA is essential to overall well-being as well as heart, cognitive, and skin health, as well as keeping inflammation at bay. When shopping for an omega 3 supplement, look to see where the omegas are sourced, that it’s clean from any contaminants and heavy metals, and it’s third party tested & organic. There are a wide variety of fish-sourced and plant-based omega 3 supplements, so there’s a flavour and format for everyone!
Roos Jonsin is a Canadian naturopath and researcher dedicated to helping people live healthier lives through education about vitamins, herbs, and nutritional supplements. Roos also consults with suppliers and manufacturers with product development and marketing. National Nutrition is Canada’s leading health & nutritional supplements store, also voted as the Best Health Food Store in Canada by the experts at Canadian Health Food Association.