How much do you know about omega-3? Chances are, you know that it is very beneficial for heart health and that it’s typically found in fish. The truth is, there’s more to omega-3 than that, both in terms of health benefits, and sources. Omega-3 can be obtained from many plants and animals. Furthermore, there are many types of omega-3, three of which are particularly important. This is because they contribute most notably to heart health, but also our overall bodily health in other ways as well. The three types are Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA).
Two of those three types, EPA and DHA, are found in animal sources, including krill and fish. On the other hand, ALA is generally found in plant sources, such as flaxseed, and hemp, along with others. While all three types are beneficial, typically EPA and DHA are more heavily favored, because omega-3s from animals tend to offer us more significant health benefits. On top of that, the way our bodies function makes it much easier for us to absorb EPA and DHA. ALA, by comparison, is a little more difficult for us to make the most of. That being said, there is no reason to *not* take in ALA; just bear in mind it is ideal to also take in EPA and DHA whenever you consume ALA.
Because of the health benefits that they provide, it is not at all difficult to find omega-3 fish oil supplements in department stores, pharmacies, and nutrition clinics. Ideally, you can obtain sufficient omega-3s from your diet, but if you can’t, the supplements can make it much easier to maintain an adequate concentration of omega-3’s, specifically DHA and EPA, if you aren’t getting them naturally from your dietary habits. You probably have some understanding of the benefits of omega-3, but there are quite a few ways that the body can benefit from appropriate levels of all three of these omega-3 varieties.
It goes without saying that omega-3 is great for heart health. For example, one Italian study found that individuals who had experienced heart attacks were able to greatly reduce their odds of suffering additional heart attacks by regularly supplementing their diets with fish oils. How does omega-3 help the heart? It increases the level of HDL cholesterol (the good kind) in the body, and at the same time, decreases the level of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). This leads to the reduction of buildup in the arteries that would otherwise make it more difficult for the heart to pump blood.
Both HDL and LDL cholesterol are closely related to triglycerides, and therefore, heart disease. This is because bodily processes break down and reassemble triglycerides, putting them with HDL and LDL to store excess energy in the form of fat. However, if there are too many triglycerides left in the bloodstream, the circulatory system may be negatively affected. Regular intake of omega-3 can directly reduce triglyceride levels in adults; specifically, it seems that fish oil supplements have the greatest effect on those who possess very high triglyceride levels. Essentially, high HDL and low triglyceride levels are best for health.
Arteries and Vessels
Omega-3s don’t just help the heart; they also strengthen the arteries and the blood vessels of the body’s circulatory system. Specifically, research has found that omega-3s may play an important role in keeping blood vessels open. This is particularly true in patients who have had blockages or collapses that required surgery to correct. When taken three weeks before angioplasty, as well a month or so following it, omega-3s have been shown to prevent recurrent blood vessel blockage. This is likewise true for coronary bypass; in this case, the artery is more likely to remain open as a result of omega-3.
Bone HealthRelated: 8 Signs That Osteoporosis May Be Ravaging Your Bones
When it comes to keeping the bones in our bodies strong and healthy, we know that it’s important to keep an adequate intake of calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D. However, the strengths of these nutrients can be further amplified by omega-3 supplements. There is some research to suggest that omega-3 can not only contribute to a slowing of bone loss but can also help increase the density of bones; specifically, an increase of bone density in the hips, femurs, clavicle or vertebrae (spine) can prove beneficial for the elderly, who often fracture such bones as a result of falling down.
Omega-3 is also critical for early brain development and preserving mental health as well. For example, there is some early research that suggests omega-3 fish oil supplements can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is thought that the supplement can improve the attention span, mental function, and behavior of children between the ages of eight and thirteen years old. Furthermore, additional research indicates that fish oil and evening primrose, taken together, can have a positive impact on the mental function and behavior of children between the ages of seven and twelve. Omega-3 could be an alternative to medication.
Bipolar disorder is another mental condition that seems to respond well to taking supplements of omega-3. It’s believed that taking fish oil supplements along with the more conventional treatments for bipolar disorder may have a positive impact on the symptoms of depression. This is because the cell membranes of brain cells are partially composed of omega-3s, and combined with vitamin D, omega-3s may boost the brain’s serotonin levels, which leads to an overall increase in mood. However, even assuming this is the case, thus far there has been no indication that omega-3 supplements can help with mania and its symptoms.Related: 9 Subtle Signs of Bipolar Disorder
You don’t need to suffer from a mental condition like bipolar disorder or ADHD to benefit from omega-3 supplements. As mentioned earlier, omega-3 is essential for the development of the brain and the nervous system. They are helpful in the creation and expansion of neural pathways between the brain cells. Better brain health is linked to improved memory and motor skills, as well as superior cognitive function. There is research that suggests, taken in the right amounts, fish oil supplements can delay or decrease the risk of dementia. Research also indicates that omega-3 deficiencies lead to problems with brain health.
One additional benefit of omega-3 is that it helps relieve pain. This makes it something of a boon among those with one or more painful chronic illnesses, or others who regularly experience pain. There is research indicating that fish oil supplements can help soothe menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea). Women suffering from painful periods can help alleviate them by taking fish oil, alone, or with vitamin B-12. Either way, this leads to a reduced need for pain medication. Other examples include relief from pain caused by osteoarthritis, or psoriasis.
There is some evidence to suggest that omega-3 may be able to help patients with inflammation find relief. As it stands, there is some measure of anti-inflammatory activity in DHA and EPA omega-3s. Furthermore, research has revealed that there is a decrease in inflammation signs found in the blood after omega-3s have been consumed. Specifically, it is thought that omega-3s may have a hand in reducing the pain and inflammation found in patients diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, although it is also speculated likely that any such benefit will require months of regular omega-3 intake before a noticeable effect is achieved.Related: All You Need to Know About Debilitating Arthritis Pain
As you can see, omega-3s are quite essential for healthy living. To be sure that you are getting enough, try to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, along with moderate amounts of lean meats; fish is especially helpful to the diet. If you are having trouble getting omega-3s from your diet, there are supplements available that may be taken daily for results, but there is no true substitute for true, healthy living.