Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids: They are necessary for human health but the body can’t make them — you have to get them through food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafood including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils. Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. They have also become popular because they may reduce the risk of heart disease. It is recommended that everyone should eat fish (particularly fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon) at least 2 times a week. Fatty fish are the best source of omega-3s, which makes it harder for non-fish eaters to get sufficient amounts of these essential fatty acids. For vegetarians, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil, algae and chia seeds are some of the best alternative sources of omega-3s.
Below are ten benefits of including omega-3s in your diet:
1. Weight Loss
Population studies show a correlation between obesity and low levels of omega-3s. In one study of 124 adults, those with lower blood levels of omega-3s had higher BMIs and waist and hip measurements compared to adults with higher levels of omega-3s. They also provide metabolic advantages and stimulate hormones that help you control how much you eat and enable the body to burn fat as fuel. Omega-3s may also turn down hunger hormones and help to increase hormones related to feelings of fullness.
2. Improved Skin Health
Research shows that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help protect the skin from the sun’s harmful rays and from signs of photo-aging and damage, and omega-3s provide some of the same benefits too. Skin damage occurs most often from sunlight exposure and the response that is elicited on the cellular level. A recent study found that omega-3 fatty acids help protect skin cells from UV damage from sun exposure. Omega-3s may play also play a role in helping to prevent skin cancer.
3. Improved Mood
Evidence suggests that omega-3s may also help alleviate depression and other mental health disorders. Population-based studies show that people who eat more fish and seafood and have diets higher in omega-3s have reduced risk for depression and post-partum depression. A 2013 study published in Human Pharmacology also showed that DHA has a positive impact on aggressive behaviours and acts to help improve and stabilise mood when individuals are under duress.
Prevention of Wrinkles and Reduced Inflammation
Chronic, systemic inflammation is linked to many diseases and conditions —from heart disease, arthritis, bronchial issues to inflammatory bowel disease and signs of accelerated aging, like wrinkles. Studies show that when omega-3s are high, the body has an increased production of anti-inflammatory agents that help turn down the body’s inflammatory response.
5. Reduction in Blood Pressure
There is significant scientific agreement that omega-3s will help reduce your blood pressure. Studies show that people who eat more fish have lower blood pressure, compared to those who don’t each fish. Omegas-3s make blood vessels healthier and more flexible to help control blood pressure. A recent study also found that subjects taking high doses of fish oil supplements helped protect the heart from work-related stress.
6. Improved Eye Health
DHA omega-3 is concentrated in the retina, macula and other areas of the eye, and studies show that DHA plays an important role in healthy vision. In fact, DHA represents 93% of the omega-3 fats in the eye tissue.
7. Pain Relief
Omegas-3s have the ability to lower markers of inflammation that are linked to joint and muscle pain that is often managed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs, such as ibuprofen. In one study, 250 patients experiencing chronic pain took 1.2g of DHA/EPA daily. The results found that 60% of the participants said that their pain was improved, and 80% were satisfied with the level of improvement they received from taking fish oil.
8. Improved Bone Health
Multiple studies show that omega-3s can improve bone density and may help reduce fractures due to their bone-building effects. While too large of an amount of omega-6s in one’s diet will produce inflammation that increases bone loss, the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3s have been shown to stimulate markers for bone-forming cells while turning down the cells that promote bone loss.
9. Reduced Risk of Cardiac Events
One of the ways omega-3s reduce risk for cardiac events like, stroke and heart attacks, is by making the blood less sticky and likely to form blood clots or atherosclerotic plaques in arteries that can rupture and lead to strokes or heart attacks. Omega-3s are also involved with maintaining a healthy heart beat and rhythm to reduce risk of cardiac arrhythmias.
10. Improved Asthma
Asthma has been linked to many environmental and dietary factors that can act as triggers for episodes. Some studies show that people suffering from asthma have lower levels of omega-3s compared to those without the condition. Several studies show that diets that are rich in omega-3s (and lower in omega-6 fatty acids) improve outcomes among those with asthma. Omega-3s may even provide relief for exercise-induced asthma, the condition whereby people experience bronchoconstriction during exercise.