5 Reasons You Need Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of those important nutrients that everyone needs, yet few of us get enough of. Omega-3s are considered “essential” because our bodies need them to function well, but can’t produce them from scratch. That means we have to get our omega-3s from our food, or take them as supplements. Omega-3s are primarily found in oily, wild-caught fish like salmon, trout, tuna, and anchovies, as well as in some nuts and seeds. But since most Americans don’t eat these foods in abundance, most of us tend to be short on our consumption of omega-3s.
So how does your body use omega-3s? For one thing, omega-3s make up an important structural component of your cell membranes, where they help mediate healthy cellular function and signaling. Omega-3s are found in cell membranes throughout the body, but are especially concentrated in the brain and the eyes. Your body also uses omega-3s to produce signaling molecules called eicosanoids, which influence your heart health, immune health, and more.
But omega-3s also influence your health in another way: by balancing the effects of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6s are another type of essential fatty acid that your body uses to build cell membranes and produce certain other eicosanoids. The difference is that our standard American diet is abnormally high in omega-6 fatty acids, so we tend to have way more omega-6s than we do omega-3s. This is a problem, because our bodies function better when these omegas are more balanced.
For instance, omega-6 fatty acids tend to produce more pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. While these are important for a healthy immune response, too many of them may result in a state of persistent inflammation. Studies link long-term inflammation with a number of disease conditions, including heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and cancer. However, omega-3s can help regulate this inflammatory response. Research shows that when there is a higher concentration of omega-3s to balance the omega-6s, widespread inflammation tends to go down.
By supporting healthy cell membranes, healthy cell signalling, and healthy levels of inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids can support a number of important health benefits. Here are five good reasons to make sure you are getting enough omega-3s.
1. Heart Health
Researchers began studying the benefits of omega-3s for heart health when they noticed that communities who regularly eat fish tend to have fewer heart health problems. Studies have found that people who eat fish 1-3 times a week have about 30% less chance of succumbing to fatal heart disease, compared to those who don’t eat fish. A substantial body of evidence now suggests that the omega-3s in the fish are the source of these benefits.
Studies confirm that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish -- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) -- have multiple benefits for heart health. Omega-3s can help lower elevated triglyceride levels, increase “good” HDL cholesterol, reduce arterial plaque buildup, and support endothelial (blood vessel) function, all of which can help reduce serious heart health risks.
It’s why the American Heart Association has recommended since 2000 that all adults eat fish at least twice a week to support their heart health. For those who don’t eat fish regularly, Omega-3 Supplements can help fill the gap.
2. Brain Health
Omega-3s are important building blocks for your brain cells. In fact, your brain is 60% fat, and a good 25% of that is DHA. DHA is crucial for the healthy development of a child’s brain and nervous system in the womb and early life, making it an important prenatal nutrient. In adults, omega-3s help make up the membranes that protect brain and nerve cells and facilitate communication between them.
Omega-3s also help manage inflammation in the brain, which is linked with mood imbalances and cognitive decline. Research shows a link between low levels of omega-3s and a higher occurrence of mood imbalances and cognitive decline, especially in older adults. Studies suggest that omega-3s may help support a healthy mood and help you maintain healthy cognitive function as you age.
3. Eye Health
Omega-3s, particularly DHA, are highly concentrated in the cell membranes of the retina, where they support normal retinal function and help protect against inflammation. DHA plays a significant role in infant eye development and is thought to remain important for maintaining visual health as you age.
Studies have found that those who eat more fatty fish are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration. Clinical studies also show that omega 3 supplements help maintain eye moisture and can help relieve some of the symptoms and discomfort of dry eye syndrome.
4. Skin Health
Omega-3 fatty acids are a vital component of the cell membranes which make up your skin’s barriers. These membranes are responsible for keeping moisture in and irritants out, as well as facilitating a healthy flow of nutrients into the cell and waste products out of the cell. By maintaining healthy skin barriers, omega-3s help keep your skin nourished, moisturized, and protected.
But omega-3s also help your skin by reducing the production of inflammatory compounds, which are involved in skin breakouts as well as signs of skin aging. Studies have shown that omega-3s can have beneficial effects for inflammatory acne and even improve skin’s resistance to UV light, which is one of the most common causes of accelerated skin aging.
5. Joint Health
Excess inflammation in the joints can cause stiffness and discomfort. Because omega-3 fatty acids help manage inflammation in the body, they may help with some of these issues. Though research is still in the early stages, some promising studies suggest that omega-3s can improve joint comfort and mobility for those with joint health issues. It’s worth asking your doctor about it if you have joint problems.
Omega-3 fatty acids can benefit your health in so many ways, you should make sure you are getting them one way or another. Since wild-caught, fatty fish is easily the richest food source of EPA and DHA, vegans and vegetarians are especially likely to be low in omega-3s. If fish isn’t a regular part of your diet, omega-3 supplements can help fill the gap. We offer a purified fish oil supplement with 1100 mg combined EPA and DHA, as well as a vegan-friendly DHA supplement from ocean algae.
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