11 Benefits of Omega-3 Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids get a fair amount of time in the press and a great deal of respect at this point. Do you know what omega-3 benefits could convince you to add more oily fish (or maybe a supplement) to your diet?

1. Good for Heart HealthOmega-3 benefits - Dr. Axe

One of the most well-known benefits of omega-3s is the way they positively affect risk factors associated with heart disease. That’s one reason the American Heart Association is very clear about encouraging people to get enough in their diets. (8) Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death worldwide, but communities who eat diets rich in fish have remarkably low instances of these diseases, which is at least partially due to their high omega-3 consumption. (910)

While some studies have found no correlation indicating omega-3s significantly reduce the risk of stroke or heart attacks, other reviews disagree. (111213)

Lowering High Triglycerides: The AHA recognizes that the highest amount of omega-3s is generally needed for people with high triglycerides, a major risk factor for heart disease. Doses of omega-3 supplements are associated with lowered triglyceride levels in patients with or without other diseases. (141516)

Regulating Cholesterol: Research finds omega-3 benefits cholesterol levels by raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, although some results also find a slight increase in LDL cholesterol. (1718) The ratio of HDL: LDL should be very close to 2:1.

Lowering High Blood Pressure: A 2010 study found that three servings of salmon each week successfully lowered blood pressure in young, overweight people over an eight-week period. (19) While this is not definitive proof that omega-3s lower blood pressure, it’s an encouraging preliminary result.

Preventing Plaque Buildup: Keeping arteries clear of damage, omega-3s may aid your body in preventing plaque buildup responsible for hardening and restriction of the arteries. (2021)

Reduce Metabolic Syndrome Symptoms: The cluster of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome includes abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and low HDL cholesterol. These risk factors are indicative of a high chance you might develop heart disease, stroke or diabetes. Multiple studies have found omega-3 supplementation improve the symptoms of metabolic syndrome and may help to protect you from the related diseases. (22232425)

Preventing Blood Clots: Its possible omega-3s helps your platelets not clump together, aiding in the prevention of blood clots that may cause major harm. (2627)

2. May Fight Mental Disorders and Decline

There are a number of conditions related to brain and mental health that seem to improve when individuals get good omega-3s.

Depression and Anxiety: These common mental health concerns are some of the most prevalent in the world today, and conventional remedies for depression are, for the most part, disappointingly ineffective. However, people who regularly get large amounts of omega-3s are less likely to be depressed than those who are deficient. (28)

Several studies suggest that people suffering symptoms of depression and/or anxiety see improvement after adding an omega-3 supplement to their routine, even in double-blinded, randomized, controlled trials. (2930313233) At least one study comparing a common depression medication found omega-3 supplements to be just as effective in combating depression symptoms. (34)

ADHD: Studies comparing omega-3 levels in children have discovered those with ADHD diagnoses have lower blood omega-3 fatty acids compared to healthy comparison subjects. (35) Limited but promising results seem to agree that there is some effectiveness of omega-3s for ADHD. (363738394041)

Schizophrenia: A meta-analysis conducted by the Saint Louis University School of Medicine found that multiple studies comparing omega-3s and schizophrenia found modestly positive results, specifically in the early stages of the disease. (42)

Bipolar Disorder: Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is a complex and sometimes debilitating condition. There is some evidence that omega-3 benefits bipolar sufferers by stabilizing mood. (43)

Other Mental Illness and Behaviors: Some studies have found correlations between omega-3s and a decrease in violence, antisocial behavior, and borderline personality disorder. (4445)

Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Mental Decline: Small clinical trials have seen a potential neuroprotective effect of omega-3 fats on people suffering from dementia, age-related mental decline, and even Alzheimer’s disease. It seems that high levels of omega-3s in the blood can help to slow or even reverse some cognitive decline. (464748)

3. Reduce Inflammation

One reason omega-3 fatty acids may be so beneficial to these many aspects of health could be that they help decrease system-wide inflammation. (4950515253Inflammation is at the root of most diseases and is related to the development of nearly every major illness, so by eating a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet, you give your body its best chance to fight disease like it was designed to do.

In particular, recent evidence has found that supplementing with omega-3s may reduce some inflammation caused by fat accumulation in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). (5455)

4. Linked to Preventing and Managing Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune disease is a sometimes frustrating branch of medicine — on average, it takes 6–10 visits to a doctor for autoimmune disease to be suspected as the root cause of the plethora of symptoms these conditions cause.

Characterized by the immune system attacking healthy cells, mistaking them for foreign intruders, autoimmune conditions include diseases such as type 1 diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis, leaky gut syndrome and many more.

Multiple studies have found links between high omega-3 intake and a decreased risk for autoimmune diseases or an improvement in symptoms. Some of these suggest the best protective effect comes when omega-3 fatty acids are consumed in high amounts in the first year of life. (56575859606162)

5. Associated with Lowered Cancer Risks

Through several epidemiological studies, in which researchers observe trends in large population samples over time, it seems possible that high levels of omega-3 fats may be associated with a lowered risk of certain cancers.

People who consume more long-chain omega-3s (DHA and EPA) seem to have a reduced risk of colorectal cancer, according to observations in Scotland and China. (6364)

After a large number of lab studies found that omega-3 fatty acids may be effective in slowing or reversing the growth of hormonal cancers, namely prostate and breast cancer cells, animal and human epidemiological studies have been conducted to see whether this effect occurred in real-life scenarios. The evidence is somewhat conflicting in some reports, but there is some evidence to suggest breast and prostate cancers may be potentially slowed (or the risk reduced) in people who eat a lot of oily fish and possibly those who supplement with omega-3. (656667)

A lab study in 2014 found that the pancreatic cancer-fighting impact of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, may be enhanced when combined with omega-3 fatty acids, encouraging further studies in animal and human models to investigate the potential of this combination. (68)

6. May Support Healthy Bones & Joints

The issue of osteoporosis is a major factor for older adults, affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide and resulting in osteoporotic fractures once every three seconds. (69)

Essential fatty acids, including omega-3s, are recognized in scientific research as able to increase the amount of calcium you absorb from your gut (partly by enhancing the vitamin D effect) and improve the strength of your bones and synthesis of bone collagen. (70)

Small randomized, controlled trials have seen an increase in bone density in older people with osteoporosis when supplementing with EPA, compared with placebo groups whose bone density decreased over time. (71)

Omega-3 fats may also impact the development of arthritis. As far back as 1959, studies were published about the effectiveness of cod liver oil on arthritic patients. In the 1959 study, 93 percent of participants “showed major clinical improvement.” (72) While there is no evidence that high omega-3 levels can prevent the development of arthritis, it seems clear that they can reduce inflammation that causes the typical bone and joint pain experienced in the disease. (73)

7. Might Improve Sleep Quality

Can’t sleep? That’s not good for your health! Getting healthy sleep allows your body to fight illness the way it was designed in addition to contributing to a large number of natural processes (digestion, hormonal balance, cognitive health and the list goes on…).

Children, in particular, seem to experience problems with sleep when they don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diets. In adults, low omega-3 levels are associated with obstructive sleep apnea. One reason for this may be that low omega-3s are linked to lower levels of melatonin, the hormone partly responsible for helping you to get to sleep in the first place.

The good news is that sleep deprivation tends to see improvement in patients treated with omega-3 supplementation in adults and children alike. (747576)

8. Beneficial for Infant and Child Development

It seems that infancy and childhood are some of the most important periods of time in a person’s life to get plenty omega-3s in their diet, probably because of the amount of long-chain fatty acids found in the brain and retina. It’s crucial for developing babies and children to get a good amount of DHA and EPA so their brains and eyes develop fully and properly. (77)

Pregnant moms need to be particularly aware of this, because children with mothers supplemented with omega-3s during pregnancy score better on mental processing, psychomotor, hand-eye coordination and audial processing tests at nine months and four years of age. These children also seem to have lowered ADHD risk. (787980)

While breast milk is a great source of omega-3 fats for nursing infants (as long as mom is getting a lot herself), formulas don’t always contain enough of the nutrient. DHA-fortified formula, on the other hand, can help formula-fed babies with both visual and cognitive development. (81)

It’s possible that supplementing with EPA and DHA could even help prevent cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders and asthma in some children. (828384)

9. May Fight Menstrual Pain

PMS cramps affect about 75 percent of menstruating women and, for some of them, become debilitating and affect work or home life. However, research shows that supplementing with omega-3s significantly affects menstrual symptoms, making them milder. (8586)

In fact, one study comparing ibuprofen and fish oil supplements during adolescent PMS found that the supplement actually worked better to relieve menstrual pain than the standard medication. (87)

10. Linked to Lowered Macular Degeneration Risk

Your retina contains quite a bit of DHA, making it necessary for that fatty acid to function. (88) The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, concludes that there is “consistent evidence” suggesting long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids DHA and EPA are necessary for retinal health and may help protect the eyes from disease. (89)

In particular, high omega-3 levels are significantly correlated with a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in those over 60 years old. (9091)

11. Support Healthy Skin & Slow Aging

In some of the same ways omega-3 fatty acids protect your bone density, they can also help your skin stay beautiful from the inside out. DHA and EPA both benefit your skin by managing oil production and naturally slowing aging. (92)

Some studies even show omega-3 benefits the skin by helping to prevent acne and related inflammation. (93)

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Source from: Dr.Axe

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