What’s the big deal with omega-3s?

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for your health, especially your heart, lungs, blood vessels, immune and endocrine system. There are three main omega-3 fatty acids – docosahexaenoic (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Your body can’t produce omega-3, so you have to get it from your diet. Omega-3 rich foods include oily fish such as salmon, herring and sardines, oysters, anchovies, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and soybeans.
Here are the nine health benefits of omega-3 that you’ll wish you knew about earlier.

Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s
Studies from the Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, the University of California and DSM Nutritional Products Ltd suggest that a high omega-3 intake is linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline. Another study has suggested that taking supplements may be most beneficial during disease onset, although there is not enough conclusive evidence to suggest it may be used as a treatment.

Protects your skin
Omega-3 fatty acids help to manage oil production and hydration, preventing dry skin and premature ageing, and protects your skin from sun damage.

Improve heart health
Regular consumption of omega-3 has multiple benefits for your heart, which include improving risk factors for heart disease. Furthermore omega-3:

  • can lower your blood pressure
  • increase levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol
  • prevent plaque from building up in your arteries
  • reduce triglycerides by 15-30 per cent
  • And help to reduce the risk of blood clots by preventing platelets in the blood from clumping together.

Despite researchers finding a lower rate of heart attacks and strokes in coastal towns, where people consume a large amount of omega-3 in fish, there is no conclusive evidence that omega-3 supplements will protect against a stroke or heart attack.

Help depression and anxiety
A study found that people who regularly consume omega-3s are less likely to be depressed. And another study found that people who suffer from depression and anxiety could alleviate their symptoms by taking omega-3 supplements.

Help fight autoimmune diseases
Omega-3s have been shown to help combat a number of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis and type 1 diabetes.

Improve symptoms of metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome describes a number of conditions, including high blood pressure, central obesity, insulin resistance, low ‘good’ HDL cholesterol levels and high triglycerides, and can increase your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Omega-3 has been shown to reduce inflammation, heart disease factors and insulin resistance.

Improves eye health
Omega-3 has been linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. According to Healthline, a type of omega-3 called DHA is an important structural component of the retina in your eye. Not having enough of this omega-3 may cause problems with your vision.

Help mental disorders
A study found consistently low levels of omega-3 among people with psychiatric disorders and another suggested that omega-3 supplements may reduce violent behaviour. Omega-3 supplements have also been shown to reduce the number of mood swings and relapses experienced by people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Reduces risk of cancer
Regular omega-3 consumption has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. In fact, another study showed an up to 55 per cent reduction in colon cancer for people who consume the most omega-3.

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Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

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