Explaining Omega 3’s

by Dr. Christopher Weaver | June 5th, 2013 | Fitness Expert

medicineOmega 3 Fatty Acids are one of the most talked about topics in the world of health and nutrition these days. Most people have heard that they are important for improved health, yet what exactly are Omega 3’s, and what are some of the specific health benefits that they offer?

In simple terms, Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential fatty acids that our bodies require for proper functioning. Our bodies cannot produce essential fatty acids; therefore, we must obtain these nutrients from the foods that we consume. Luckily, these days there are high quality Omega 3 supplements on the market, which are available at most vitamin, grocery, and department stores. These supplements typically contain two types of Omega 3 Fatty Acids called EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) which are found primarily in fish. There are also several plant sources of Omega 3’s including walnut oil, flax seeds, and chia seeds. These particular plant sources contain only ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid) which can be partially converted by the body into EPA and DHA. Most studies agree that the EPA and DHA from high quality fish sources present the most health benefits. There are some algae based Omega 3 supplements available that provide EPA and DHA, which are a great option for vegetarians and vegans.

The list of health benefits offered by Omega 3 Fatty Acids is impressive and certainly worth considering. Among these include their ability to reduce inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to many serious health conditions and diseases including obesity, asthma, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, and cancer. Omega 3’s are also linked to reducing depression, and some research has found that they may increase the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.
There is evidence that they can also help to lower triglyceride levels in the blood, thereby substantially lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish per week, such as albacore tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel. DHA in particular is important for eye and vision health and can help to reduce the risk of a condition called macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults over the age of 50.

There are a couple of considerations to keep in mind regarding Omega 3 Fatty Acids. First, consuming a high amount of Omega 3 supplements can have a thinning effect on the blood, thereby increasing the risk of bleeding in some individuals. Secondly, some fish and seafood can potentially contain a high level of mercury. Mercury can lead to serious health conditions; therefore, it is important to be aware of the types of fish you eat and which fish have a higher risk of mercury contamination. As with any dietary supplement, it is important that you speak with the physician or trusted healthcare provider prior to adding to your diet.

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