Few nutrients are as critical to our bodies’ normal functioning as omega 3, also known as omega 3 fatty acids. What are omega 3 fatty acids, and why are they so important to our bodies? These chains of polyunsaturated fatty acids are broken down into three different forms: DHA, EPA, and ALA. Interestingly, they are all necessary, no one form is more important than another. They interact together, and the body converts between the three forms as needed.
Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
They Are Critical to Brain Health
Our brains are soft, wet, electrical-conducting masses that have baffled scientists for many decades. The more we research it, the more we realize how individual dietary components play into mental health. According to Healthline, “when people with depression or anxiety start taking omega-3 supplements, their symptoms improve.” This suggests that omega 3 may play a massive role in brain chemistry. Additionally, ADHD seems to respond positively to omega 3 supplementation, according to this study.
They Promote Healthy Skin
Skin naturally produces an oily substance called sebum that helps to protect the skin from moisture loss and infection; a diet that consists of healthy fats and oils ensures that skin stays soft and healthy. One of the forms of omega 3 – DHA – is a foundational fatty acid that makes up a skin cell’s outer membrane. EPA also plays a role in regulating the production of oils in the skin.
They Decrease Your Chronic Disease Risk
Since chronic diseases can be so different, it seems odd that one nutrient could be able to reduce your risk for developing multiple chronic diseases. However, studies have shown that, since chronic inflammation contributes to chronic diseases like obesity and metabolic diseases, reducing inflammation can help lower a patient’s risk or reduce the severity of their symptoms. In fact, omega 3 fatty acids may be one of the most potent ways to get this result.
Signs That You Might Be Omega 3 Deficient
Skin and Hair Issues
As mentioned above, a good balance of healthy fats (omega 3: EPA, DHA, and ALA) are necessary for proper skin health. In the absence of a well-balanced diet, the skin may be more prone to dryness, cracking, and uneven tone. Hair, being an extension of the body’s skin, is also susceptible to deficiencies. If you find that your hair is dry and brittle, you may want to start increasing your intake of omega 3.
Depression and Anxiety
There are many reasons you might be experiencing mental health issues like depression and anxiety; you should only consider supplementation with your doctor’s help. Promising research suggests that omega 3 supplementation may help patients.
Sources That Contain High Levels of Omega 3
While most seafood contains varying amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, some sources strike a much better balance between omega 3 and omega 6 (a less beneficial oil). For the best omega 3 intakes, nutrition experts recommend consuming two servings of “fatty fish” per week. These fish include farmed salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, and herring.
Most people are surprised to find that there are non-animal sources of omega 3 fatty acids. The most potent, biologically available source is found in algae; many plant-based omega 3 supplements are sourced from algae for this reason. Seeds and nuts (flax, walnut, and chia) also have significant levels of omega 3, but they tend to contain more ALA (which needs to be converted in the body) than DHA and EPA. Speak to your doctor about omega 3 consumption and supplementation if you are vegan.
Omega 3 Supplements
While it’s usually preferable to get all vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats from food alone, supplements do have an important place in the current American diet. For patients who struggle to eat healthy diets, a supplement is a great option. An article published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity states that “…EPA/DHA supplementation ranging from 50 to 180 mg/day (either as fatty fish or supplements) significantly reduces subsequent cardiac and all-cause mortality. For ALA, total intakes of 150 to 300 mg/day seem to be beneficial.”
Here at Optimum Direct Care, we want you to live a healthy, well-balanced life. If you think you may need to increase your intake of omega 3, schedule a consultation with our team of physicians. We can help you strike the right balance between a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle.