The Importance of Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the ‘essential’ fatty acids, meaning your body does not produce these naturally. At the same time, there are essential omega 3ï»¿ benefits. They are essential to your body’s growth and daily functions – so it is important to obtain omega 3’s from your diet, and/or a daily supplement.
Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, which means they have many double bonds in their chemical structure.
There are three primary types of omega 3 fatty acids: Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). DHA and EPA are mainly found in animal foods and algae while ALA is mostly found in plants.
Below are 8 additional, important, and science-based omega 3 benefits which you may not know about, but will definitely want to reap.
Omega 3 Benefits: #1 - Omega 3’s can Help Reduce Liver Fat
While liver problems may be linked in your mind with chronic drinking habits, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is quite common, affecting between 30-40% of adults in the United States. 1
According to the American Liver Foundation, NAFLD is a buildup of extra fat in the liver cells that tends to develop in people who are overweight, obese or who have diabetes. Symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, weakness, yellowing of the skin and eyes, swelling, itching or fluid build-up in the legs and abdomen and even mental confusion.
There is also a more severe type of NAFLD, called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH is also one of the leading causes of cirrhosis, a late-stage and irreversible scarring of the liver. 2
Lucky for Americans battling the obesity epidemic, and therefore higher risk of liver disease, one of the primary omega 3 benefits helps this situation.
Fish Oil Benefits: Supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids either through diet or supplements have been shown to help reduce inflammation in those with NAFLD. 3 4
Omega 3 Benefits: #2 - Omega 3’s Can Help Protect Eyes and Improve Eye Health
One type of omega 3, DHA, is a major component of the retina of the eye. Therefore, lacking the proper amount of DHA could lead to vision problems including dry eye syndrome and macular degeneration.
Several studies suggest that omega 3 fatty acids may help protect the eyes from these two problems, it may also help facilitate proper drainage of intraocular fluid from the eye, which also helps decrease the risk of high eye pressure and glaucoma. 5
In fact, one large European study which compared those who ate high levels of omega 3-infused fish at least once a week to those who didn’t found that those who ate more omega 3 had HALF the risk of developing neovascular ("wet") macular degeneration, compared with those who ate fish/omega 3 less than once per week. 5
Omega 3 Benefits: #3 - Omega 3’s Help Promote Brain & Eye Health During Pregnancy & Infancy
Omega 3’s, particularly DHA, is critical for brain growth and development during pregnancy and in infancy. DHA accounts for 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids needed in the brain and over 60% of the retina of the eye.
Studies performed comparing children who got enough omega 3’s during pregnancy have shown improvements in these growing children in a variety of different areas including: 6 7 8
1) Decreased risk of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy
2) Better social and communication skills
3) Less behavioral problems
4) Decreased risk of developmental delay
5) Higher intelligence
If you have not considered all the benefits of omega 3’s for yourself, it is at least important to keep these levels in mind during the growth and development of your children.
Omega 3 Benefits: #4 - Omega 3’s Can Help Fight Chronic/Long-Term Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection or injury, it is a way that the body helps heal itself and important to the therapeutic process.
On the other hand, inflammation that persists for a long time, without any illness or injury present, can be a problem. This is called chronic, or long-term inflammation and this type of inflammation can contribute to almost every other major chronic disease including the top 2 most deadly: heart disease and cancer. 9 10 11
With chronic inflammation, your body is essentially in a prolonged state of emergency, which as you can imagine can contribute to symptoms of constant exhaustion, skin problems like eczema or psoriasis, gas, diarrhea, bloating, and much more.
Thankfully, studies have consistently shown omega 3’s to help reduce inflammation. EPA and DHA are the omega 3s with the highest anti-inflammatory effect.
Omega 3 fatty acids have also been shown to help reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to the development of inflammation, including eicosanoids and cytokines. 12 13
Omega 3 Benefits: #5 - Omega 3s may Help Improve Joint and Bone Health
Arthritis and osteoporosis are two of the most common skeletal system disorders. Arthritis is a general term for conditions that affect the tissues surrounding the joints. Joints that are most commonly affected include knees, wrists, fingers, toes and hips.
The two most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own health tissues, misinterpreting them for foreign entities. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disease that usually develops by repeated overuse of the joint and may be exacerbated by carrying around extra body weight. 14
Research indicates that consistently getting the right amount of omega 3’s can increase the amount of calcium in the bones, and thus improve bone strength. Overall, this can reduce risk of osteoporosis. 15 16
Next, studies show that omega 3’s may also help with multiple types of arthritis. Patients who have added omega 3 supplements have often reported increased strength in their affected limbs as well as reduced joint pain. 17 18
Omega 3 Benefits: #6 - Omega 3’s can help Reduce Menstrual Pain
Menstrual pain: even the mention of it can make some women cringe and double-check their calendars to see when it is on it’s way. Menstrual pain begins in the lower abdomen and pelvis and often radiates throughout the muscles of the lower back and even down the legs and thighs.
Good news ladies! Studies have consistently shown that women who consume more ’s repeatedly report milder bouts of menstrual pain. 19 20
One study even found that an omega 3 supplement, taken during times of menstrual pain, have helped reduce the severity of the pain at that time – some reported, it to reduce the pain even more-so than ibuprofen. 21
For women who suffer with this frustrating and painful dilemma monthly, omega 3 supplements are definitely worth a try!
Omega 3 Benefits: #7 - Omega 3s may Improve Sleep
Sleep. It is precious, and highly important to the growth, development and overall health of your body. Sleep plays an important role in healing and repairing heart and blood vessels. So much so, that ongoing sleep deficiency has been linked to an increase risk of kidney disease, obesity, depression diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure – and the deadliest killer of all: heart disease. 22
All of this said, it is important to get enough sleep to feel your best and to be in your best health.
Studies in both adults and children have shown that supplementing with omega 3’s can improve both the length and quality of sleep. 23 24In fact, additional studies show that not getting enough omega 3 DHA is also linked to lower levels of melatonin, a hormone which helps you fall asleep in the first place. 25
So, if you are having a hard time falling asleep or sleeping deeply and peacefully once you do, try an omega 3 supplement if one
Omega 3 Benefits: #8 - Omega 3 Fats can Improve Skin Health and Complexion
If you are someone who has shopped for topical skin creams, lotions, and treatments, you know how many options there are – and that many of them are very similar. On the other hand, have you ever tried treating your skin from the inside-out?
DHA is a structural component of healthy skin. It is the “‘ingredient” which helps maintain health skin cell membranes. Which, in turn, results in soft, supple, wrinkle-free skin.
EPA is another important component which helps the skin to maintain hydration, healthy oil production, premature aging and helps to prevent acne and other skin blemishes. EPA also helps block substances that eat away your collagen after overexposure to the sun. 26
So, before you go reaching for the next over-the-counter topical treatment. Start by evaluating your skin on a cellular level, is your skin getting enough DHA and EPA? Omega 3 can help. Try a consistent routine of omega 3s and watch to see what improvements you may see shining through a healthy complexion.
How Much Omega 3 Do You Need?
How much omega do you need to take daily to reap the omega 3 benefits above? Most health organizations recommend a minimum of 250-500 mg of omega 3 fatty acids per day for adults and for children, anywhere from 700-1,200 milligrams depending on their age.
Fish Oil Benefits / Omega 3 Benefits through Diet
With all the above benefits, you can see why a regular and steady intake of omega 3s is important for your entire family.
So, how do you ensure you are getting enough omega 3s? Omega 3s can be supplemented through a consistent diet of omega 3 rich foods, or else through a daily supplement.
If you’d prefer to add them to your daily diet, foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids include: fatty fish, walnuts, avocados, and flax seeds, to name a few.
Check out our Complete omega 3 Shopping Guide for more ideas and options on stocking up on omega 3 rich foods at your local grocery store.
If you aren’t sure that your diet will consistently provide the right amount of omega 3s however, an omega 3 supplement may very well be a good option.
Click here to see our top-7 reviewed omega 3 supplements.
Or, do you have another one you’d recommend?