Adding Omega 3 to your diet has multiple beneficial effects, from preventing heart disease to improving brain function and better anti-inflammatory effects. Omega 3 are essential fatty acids that have an impact on our health and bodies. Omega 3 fatty acids are classified as essential nutrients meaning that we can’t make enough in out bodies so we need to obtain them from an external source. This can be food or supplements.
The problem we face with our western diets is that we have an over abundance of the wrong type of fats which are labelled as omega 6 fatty acids. These fatty acids are obtained from vegetable oils, Poultry and eggs. An imbalance in the levels of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is not uncommon and this may lead to health related problems, such as inflammation.
Omega-3 fats have a variety of health effects on the human body, as they balance out the ratio of bad to good fats.
What are the main benefits of taking Omega-3 supplements?
The problem with our intake of omega-3s is that we are not getting enough. If we had to live in a perfect world were we have all the time to stay cooking and eating the best food for out body we would not need supplements. However in nature omega-3s are not that easy to obtain.
Plant sources of omega-3s include Flaxseeds or algae omega-3, however due to time constraints its difficult to stay grinding flaxseeds and eating algae on a daily basis. Other sources of omega-3s that are non-vegetarian are animal based (the best source being fish like sardines, salmon, trout) however it comes at a cost to the environment and to our health. fish consumption can lead to accumulation of toxins like dioxin, metals and mercury. Also as the seas are more contaminated than ever there is a risk of microplastic contaminants moving into the food chain.
So supplementation remain important especially for athlete’s like bodybuilders, cross fitters or runners.
below are a few reasons why I think we should be taking more omega-3s.
Omega-3 is Beneficial For Your Heart
Over the past years and during the past pandemic more people died of Heart attacks and cancer than of Covid-19. Showing the major burden of cardiovascular disease on our health in general compared to covid-19.
Omega-3 was shown to improve the risk factor profiles through a variety of mechanisms, that might increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. Risk factors like triglycerides, LDL and high blood pressure were seen to have improved compared to patients who lacked an intake of omega-3s (EPA and DHA) in their diets. Although the data did not state that taking omega-3s directly reduces heart attacks or stroke, the beneficial effect on the risk factors is key to improving heart health.
Omega-3s were shown to have a beneficial effect on triglyceride profiles, in patients undergoing ART (anti retroviral treatment). This study looked at patients undergoing ART for HIV that carries a lot of side effects such as chronic hypertriglyceridemia. Omega-3 fatty acids were shown to be significantly effective at reducing the overall burden in these patients supplementing at 900mg-3360mg per day.
HDL and Cholesterol profile
Supplementing with a Vegan algae oil supplement was shown to be effective at increasing HDL and reducing the bad Cholesterol, therefore improving the cholesterol profile overall. This meta analysis study looked at various literature and identified that the supplementation with vegan algae oil was effective at reducing the TG (triglycerides) and improving HDL profiles.
Better Brain development
Most of our brain is made up of fat, the consumption of omega-3 fats was shown to have a beneficial impact on the brain and promote the reduction of mental health disorders like anxiety, schizophrenia and depression. In fact nutrient supplementation might be considered as an important, safe and easy way to stave off depressive symptoms and improve mood.
Research suggests that even a short term treatment with omega-3s might have some beneficial effects in improving the symptoms of mood disorders and depression.
In cases like ADHD omega3 was shown to have some potential benefit as adjunctive treatment to standard practice in patients and children with ADHD.
Apart from brain disease, supplementing on omega-3 can have an effect on how our brain functions, this includes memory and thought processing. Approximately 20% of the weight of our brain is made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids 1 in every 8 neurons contain polyunsaturated fats. One of the most important components in our brain is DHA Docosahexaenoic acid. These fatty acids are extremely important in the brain and can contribute to conditions like depression if they become out balanced. EPA and DHA are so important that low levels have been linked to cases of suicide attempts and self harm.
Omega-3 fats might also be protective especially against Alzheimer’s disease, studies have shown that supplementing with omega3 fats was found to have neuroprotective effects.
Most body inflammation has been linked to a high level of omega-6 fats to omega-3 ratios. High levels of inflammation have been implicated in various disease states like rheumatoid arthritis, depression and joint and body pains. inflammation is a major cause of disease and can lead to increased morbidity through out life, reducing quality of life.
A study conducted that examined the effect of omega 3 on post exercise induced muscle damage showed a beneficial effect on outcomes of muscle soreness after exercise. Apart from that athletes who were taking omega-3 supplements were noted to have better effective peak power and maximal voluntary muscle contraction after supplementing with omeg3 for 4weeks.
from this data we can see that omega-3s have various benefits on the body, such as reducing inflammation, improving cardiovascular health profiles and reducing risk factors for heart disease.