21 Powerful Omega-3 Benefits That Improve Heart Health, Inflammation Diseases, Insulin Resistance, Bone Strength, Psychological Ailments and Infant Health
Fat isn’t just bad. Fat can be very healthy as long as it’s the right kind of fat.
By ingesting natural fats from certain healthy food sources you can really reap some powerful omega 3 benefits which is what this article is all about.
I’ll give you so many benefits of eating omega-3 that I’m sure you’ll be convinced of the true power of these natural healthy fatty acids.
Some of the benefits of eating omega-3 have been subject to thorough research for many years and are well proven. Scientists have discovered many, many correlations between eating omega-3 and improving many troublesome health conditions.
However, despite this, the study of the power of omega-3 is only in its infancy relatively speaking. The scientists are often not sure exactly WHY omega-3 seems to help – what it does precisely and why. They can just see an effect.
So the following years will probably – and hopefully – reveal many more strong benefits from ingesting omega-3 than the ones mentioned on this page.
Now before diving into the benefits of omega-3, let take a quick look at those crucial omega-3 fatty acids; what all the hype is about and where we might find them.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Which Ones Are the Best?
In certain types of food you’ll find high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which are so important for your bodily health. (If you want to see an illustrative food chart with 20 foods high in omega-3, you can go here.)
Now, there are three different kinds of fatty acids (EPA & DHA plus ALA) that you find in different kinds of food. However, some fatty acids are more beneficial for your body than others.
EPA and DHA Fatty Acids Pack More Punch
In meat, particularly certain types of fish (especially fatty and oily) like wild caught salmon, sardines, anchovies, herring, tuna (and certain whitefish (cod, pollock)) you’ll find high levels of the extremely healthy omega-3 fatty acids:
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
These crucial omega-3 fatty acids are ONLY found in meat and particularly seafood.
Thus even though fish has the highest EPA and DHA concentration you can also find a decent level of omega-3 in oysters and a little bit less but still okay dosage in e.g. shrimps and crabs.
The ALA Fatty Acid Is Necessary but Less Potent
Now, what about plants then?
The good news is that certain types of vegetables, seeds and nuts do contain a fairly high amount of omega-3. Plants high in omega-3 are e.g. flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, broccoli, cauliflower, soybeans, tofu and winter squash just to mention a few.
The less good news is that the type of omega-3 fatty acid that you can find in plant sources is the less efficient fatty acid:
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
According to certain studies, the body needs all three kinds of fatty acids – but EPA and DHA – also called the marine omega-3 – are the most important.
Omega-3 Works at Cellular Level and Is Thus the Starting Point of Many Bodily Functions
Omega-3 fatty acids constitute a part of the outer cell surfaces (cell membranes) in our body and thus affect the efficiency of cell receptors helping the cells communicate better.
Omega-3 plays a part in the production of a certain hormone that influences contraction and relaxation of artery walls, among other things – which is one of the main reasons why research studies have found such a strong connection between reduced risk of heart disease and ingestion of omega-3.
Omega-3 also plays a part in reducing inflammation which is why it has been linked to helping alleviate symptoms of e.g. eczema and rheumatoid arthritis. (reference).
Besides these powerful Omega-3 benefits, omega-3 might also play in important role in cancer prevention and many, many other things.
21 Powerful Omega-3 Benefits You Don’t Want to Miss
Heart and Artery Related Benefits of Omega-3
Benefit #1: Reduces Risk of Death from Heart Attack
Benefit #1: Reduces Risk of Death from Heart Attack
A heart attack may be the year long result of a process called atherosclerosis in which plaque (basically a form of fat) builds up and blocks that vital blood flow through the coronary arteries to your heart. This condition is called coronary heart disease.
This build up of plaque hardens the arteries and makes them inflexible and narrows the passageway of the blood which means that the heart muscles don’t get optimal blood and oxygen supply.
An added danger to this narrowing occurs when the plaque ruptures and the subsequent blood clotting partially or even completely blocks the passage in the artery.
When the heart does not receive the required amount of oxygen, a heart attack may occur.
- “Omega-3 favorably affects a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and at the top of the list is reducing the risk of sudden death from heart attack,” (Penny Kris Etherton, professor of nutrition, Pennsylvania State University).
Also, a recent study concludes that a high dosage of omega-3 after heart attack might help the heart heal better (less scarring and thickening) and fight inflammation and thus reduce the risk of another heart attack.
Prevention studies of cardiac mortality suggest that the intake of EPA and DHA should range from 0.5-1.8 gram per day. Also it seems beneficial to get between 1.5-3 grams of ALA each day.
Benefit #2: Stabilizes Heart Rhythm
An important study has shown another interesting benefit of omega-3 fatty acids directly on the heart muscle itself, the myocardium. It seems to stabilize the heart rhythm which again lowers the risk of what is called arrhythmia – abnormal heart rhythm.
Also the marine oils EPA and DHA have been proven to reduce the heart rate when resting and increase the capacity of the left ventricular filling capacity.
Benefit #3: Lowers Blood Pressure… a Bit
Another omega-3 benefit seems to be an ability to slightly lower blood pressure.
The most beneficial fatty acid in reducing hypertension seems to be DHA. However, you need a very high dose in order to get this effect.
Benefit #4: Improves Blood Vessel Function
For patients with cardiovascular disease omega-3 also seems to have the effect of reducing stiffness in the arteries and improve the arteries’ ability to relax which enhances the dilation and blood flow. (reference)
Benefit #5: Improves Cholesterol Conditions
Cholesterol isn’t just bad. Yes, it’s a fat but as we started this article stating, not all fats are bad – some fats are very needed.
When it comes to cholesterol, there is so called ‘good cholesterol’ (HDL) and ‘bad cholesterol’ LDL. Fish oil has been proved to raise the good cholesterol HDL, among other things.
You can view HDL as a form of vacuum cleaner that removes the bad LDL cholesterol from dangerous places like e.g. arterial walls. When done with the cleaning, HDL takes the LDL to the liver where it may safely be reprocessed.
However, studies also show that fish oil raises LDL, so make sure to consult with your doctor before starting on fish oil supplements to lower your cholesterol.
Benefit #6: Lowers Triglyceride Levels
Triglycerides are fats (lipid) that are converted in the body from carbohydrates and are used to provide your body with energy.
Too many triglycerides in the blood, however, are suspected of contributing to a hardening of the artery walls thus increasing the risk of stroke or heart attack.
Many studies have found fish oil to have a powerful effect on lowering triglyceride levels. Apparently a high dosage of 4 grams a day of EPA and DHA may effectively lower triglyceride in the blood up to 30 %.
Benefit #7: Reduces Risk of Stroke and Improves Recovery
Some studies make a connection between omega-3 intake and a protection against stroke (especially the type of stroke called ischaemic stroke which is caused by a blockage of an artery supplying oxygen and blood to the brain).
Studies on mice also show that omega-3 fatty acids may significantly limit the damage of stroke and reduce recovery time.
Inflammation Related Omega-3 Benefits
Omega-3 has been found to be quite a powerful tool in alleviating symptoms that accompany autoimmune diseases characterized by various inflammations.
Characteristic of autoimmune diseases is that the body’s immune system is overactive and attacks its own cells and tissues which results in inflammation.
Benefit #8: Reduces Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Did you know that ‘itis’ means that there is an inflammation in the place at the word placed before ‘itis’ – thus we have appendicitis (infection in the appendix), gastritis (inflammation in the stomach) and finally arthritis which is joint infection.
EPA and DHA in fish oil has been proved to reduce stiffness and tenderness in the joints. A studyalso showed that if the fish oils were taken in combination with olive oil, the omega-3 benefits were even greater.
Benefit #9: Eases Lupus
Lupus is an autoimmune system disorder that may have a wide range of unpleasant symptoms.
Some only experience skin problems in terms of rash on the face and extremities but the condition may also lead to joint pain and in serious cases damage to internal organs.
In a study with lupus patients, fish oil supplements were given three times a day and were found to ease fatigue (a common symptom) and reduce inflammation.
People suffering from lupus may have increased risk of heart disease and the improvement of blood vessel function accompanying the high intake of omega-3 may also be beneficial to sufferers of lupus.
Benefit #:10 Reduces Eczema
Eczema is a skin condition in which the skin may become dry, itchy, thick and scaly with blisters.
In a research study where people were to take 1.8 grams of EPA a day for 12 weeks the result was that the symptoms were significantly reduced. Apparently so because EPA reduces leukotriene B4 which is suspected of playing an inflammatory part in eczema.
Benefit #11: Reduces Asthma
Asthma is an inflammatory airway disorder that leads to difficulty breathing resulting in wheezing.
As omega-3 lowers inflammation in the body, omega-3 also may help people suffering with asthma. However, exactly how it does it is still being researched.
The theory so far is that omega-3 improves lung function by reducing the airway hyperresponsiveness after exercise and also reduces the mediators of inflammation.
Benefit #12: Reduces Psoriasis
Psoriasis is another autoimmune skin disease which may cause your skin to redden, scale and thicken.
In a study conducted in Greenland (a population favoring a diet rich in seafood (and thus EPA and DHA)) very few cases of psoriasis have been found.
Apparently omega-3 suppresses the hyperproliferation of cells in the skin which prevents psoriasis inflammation from spreading.
Interestingly another study has shown that if omega-3 is taken intravenously (through injection) rather than eaten as supplements, symptoms are alleviated faster.
Cancer Related Benefits of Omega-3
Benefit #13: May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer
Some (not all) studies of omega-3 have found that high dosages of EPA and DHA may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
What is though to happen is that the omega-3 fatty acids reduce ‘proinflammatory lipid derivatives’ and decreases ‘growth factor receptor signaling.
Another study has found that if breast cancer patients supplement their chemotherapy with omega-3, their cancer has a higher chance of being hold at bay and not spread.
Insulin Related Benefits of Omega-3
Benefit #14: Helps Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Benefit #14: Helps Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
With overweight and obesity still on the rise in western societies today, type 2 diabetes and reduced insulin sensitivity is becoming a serious global health issue.
The term insulin sensitivity refers to how good your body is at using insulin to reduce glucose levels e.g. after a meal.
When your body becomes inefficient at using insulin (called insulin resistant), the risk of type 2 diabetes is increased.
Omega-3 has been linked to reducing insulin resistance and thus helps prevent type 2 diabetes.
Psychologically Related Benefits of Omega-3
Benefit #15: May Help Combat Depression
We already know that omega-3 constitute part of our cell membranes and eases communication between cells.
Depression is, among other things, thought to occur when there is a suppression in the production of new brain cells.
The neurotransmitter, serotonin, which helps in passing messages from one brain cell to the other, is thought to be essential to the production of new brain cells.
Thus if omega-3 intake goes up, serotonin levels go up, so does the brain cell production, and apparently also the mood.
Omega-3 also seems to be collaborating well with antidepressants boosting their effect.
Benefit #16: May Help Smooth Bipolar Disorder
There are no final conclusion regarding fish oil and battling bipolar depression.
However, some studies indicate that omega-3 seems to have a stabilizing effect on the mood.
Apparently a particular combination of EPA and DHA seem to particularly improve the depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder.
Benefit #17: May Help Children with ADHD
ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is very common among children today and is characterized by difficulties of staying focused, controlling behavior and being hyperactive.
A recent Dutch study of young boys, demonstrated that an omega-3 supplement of EPA and DHA had a positive effect on the boys’ attention challenges. It seemed to improve their concentration skills and thus helped them focus and learn better.
However, like what is also the case in studies in depression and bipolar disorder, researchers don’t always agree. Some studies find positive connection between omega-3 supplements and improved conditions, others find none.
Benefit #18: May Improve Symptoms in Early Stages of Dementia
Research in the area of Alzheimer’s and dementia seem to show that giving people omega-3 supplements yield different results all depending on how seriously they are affected with these afflictions.
One important study demonstrated that omega-3 supplements did have a positive effect on those people showing early signs of dementia such as difficulties with memory recall.
However, the supplements did not seem to have much effect on people more seriously affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s.
In those with only mild brain impairment the study shows reduced brain inflammation and a reduction in amyloid beta protein.
Bone Related Benefits of Omega-3
Benefit #19: May Prevent Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones over time become weak and porous thus increasing the risk of bone damage (breaking) from simple activities.
Fortunately there seems to be evidence that a high dosage of omega-3 (4 grams a day) helps support the formation of bone density.
The fatty acids seem to positively affect the calcium uptake of the body, reduces the amount of calcium in the urine and generally just improves bone growth and strength.
Fetal and Infant Development Benefits of Omega-3
Benefit #20: Brain and Eye Development in Infants
The fatty acid DHA is linked to healthy development of visual and neurological functions in infants.
Some studies show a correlation between children of mothers who took omega-3 DHA and EPA supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding and a higher score on cognitive tests at the age of four and an improved psychomotor development.
Other studies show that infants fed with omega-3 in their formula had better hand-to eye coordination, visual acuity and improved cognitive development.
Benefit #21: May Help Prevent Asthma
Another study seems to indicate a less likelihood of asthma in children whose mothers took fish oil during their pregnancy.
The Omega-3 Benefits Are Plenty Fold, but Be Wise
As you can see the potential omega-3 benefits are great and numerous, however, there may be certain side effects of fish oil supplements and you don’t want to overdose on it either.
Plus if you’re taking medication for instance blood-thinning products you need to consult your doctor first.
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