Did you know healthy fats are vital to your health and well-being?
Discover the important role healthy fats play within the body and find out how you can boost your levels while maintaining that important omega 3 : omega 6 ratio…
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May 13th 2019 By
Table of Contents
What is Omega 3?
Most people use the simplified term “omega 3”, but in fact, these nutrients are called “omega 3 fatty acids” (or ω-3 fatty acids / n-3 fatty acids). They are polyunsaturated fatty acids (which means that they have multiple double bonds in their chemical structure), meaning you can describe them as “healthy fats”.
Omega -3 fatty acids are named “essential” because our body cannot synthesise them. They are essential for human metabolism and physiology; therefore, we must obtain them through diet. The liver’s capacity of fatty acids synthesis is very limited, resulting in supplementation being the most efficient method of elevating omega-3 blood levels.
There are three main compounds in this category: α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA can sometimes be used to create EPA which will then transform into DHA.
You can find Omega fatty acids in flaxseeds, soybean, canola oils or fatty fish (SMASH-salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring).
What are the benefits of omega 3?
Omega 3 fatty acids are vital for your health and well-being. They are components of phospholipids, so they play a structural role in every single cell membrane in your body, with higher concentrations in the retina, brain and sperm cells.
See below the top 5 benefits of omega 3
1. Boosts the immune system
Omega 3 fats are used for generating eicosanoids, which are signalling molecules with roles in immunity and the cardiovascular, endocrine and respiratory systems. It has been shown that the eicosanoids derived from omega-3 have mainly anti-inflammatory effects, lowering blood markers of inflammation (C-reactive protein, interleukine-6, TNF alpha), whilst those derived from omega-6 have pro-inflammatory roles, enhancing the anti-infection fight.
2. Improve cardiovascular health
A crucial function of these nutrients is benefiting the cardiovascular system. Having an optimal blood level of healthy omega 3 fats lowers your blood pressure and heart rate, preventing arrhythmia. They also have an antithrombotic effect, stimulating normal blood flow. This helps with the prevention of certain diseases such as varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis.
Overall, studies proved that supplementing with more than one gram of omega 3 fatty acids for over a year may have a protective role. Omega 3 can benefit against myocardial infarction, cardiac death and sudden death because they significantly diminish atherosclerosis and other metabolic syndrome risk factors as noted above.
3. Fights Autoimmune Diseases
Omega 3 lowers blood triglycerides and helps fight some of the autoimmune diseases, such as type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease among others.
4. Fights against ageing
Omega 3 fatty acids can prevent macular degeneration (which leads to vision difficulties and blindness), mental decline and Alzheimer’s symptoms, and even protect the skin against sun damage.
5. Prevention of cancer and inflammatory diseases
Having healthy levels of Omega 3 in your diet can reduce the risks of some cancers (breast, prostate, colon) or asthma.
Omega 3 also has a whole host of other wide-ranging benefits including; ensuring optimal amounts of sleep, help alleviate menstrual pain, diminish liver fat, maintain a healthy appetite and, on a general note, improve one’s life quality.
Who could benefit from supplementing omega 3?
1. Unsaturated fatty acids found in foods are prone to oxidation and rancidity so most of us would benefit from supplementing with these particular nutrients. However, this is important if you have a dietary deficiency or if you do not maintain a balanced diet.
2. People who are cautious about fish containing mercury (which in high quantities is toxic for our body). Fish oil softgels are purified when transformed into supplements providing you with peace of mind.
3. Omega 3 is vital for pregnant women and children as it is essential for the brain and nervous system development. You can also link an optimal blood level to higher intelligence.
Can you take too much omega 3?
You can absorb Omega 3 fatty acids like any other lipids, which means they can also be stored in your adipose tissue, building their levels up if we ingest them in excess. An excessive build-up can lead to some unwanted side effects including high blood glucose levels, low blood pressure or diarrhoea.
You can use omega 3 fatty acids extensively for various functions. If you take the supplement as noted on the label and advised by a healthcare professional, you can easily avoid the side effects.
What are omega 6 and omega 9?
Omega 6 fatty acid or linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid obtained from vegetables (nuts, avocados, olives, oils) which can play a role in lowering cholesterol blood levels. As mentioned previously in this post, you need omega 6 for pro-inflammatory eicosanoids synthesis, playing a part in the energy formation cycle.
In contrast, omega 9 or the oleic acid, is not an essential fatty acid (you can produce this within the body). It has a significant implication in your metabolic health, replacing some saturated fats (which have more harmful effects).
A good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 would be 4:1, but you will need to seek medical advice before supplementing as the doses must be modified to fit your particular needs.
- Harvey, Richard A., Ph. D. Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. Philadelphia :Wolters Kluwer Health, 2011. Print.