Omega-3 Benefits, Sources and Supplements 2016 Guide

Jessica Lewis
July 21, 2016

What are the Omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for different functions in the body. These acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Why are the omega-3 fats essential for the human health?

These acids are part of cell membranes, and they can be found throughout the body. The acids can affect the function of these cells. These fatty acids are responsible for making hormones that have to regulate blood clotting, prevent inflammation, and they stimulate the contraction and relaxation of artery walls. They are also responsible for keeping specific cells healthy to control the genetic function properly. Scientists observed that omega-3 fats could prevent heart disease and stroke. The hormones resulted from metabolizing these acids are responsible for preventing heart disease, and they are called eicosanoids. They improve eczema and rheumatoid arthritis. They can also control lupus and prevent cancer.

There are three main omega-3 fatty acids:

Marine omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), you can find them in fish.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3 fatty acid used a lot in the

Western diets. People consume it from vegetable oils and nuts (especially walnuts). These acids are contained in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables. The grass-fed animals contain such healthy fatty acids as ALA (the pork meat is an example). The human organism uses ALA to create energy and to function properly.

Omega-3 fats are responsible for lowering blood pressure and heart rate. They improve blood vessel function. When they are consumed in higher doses, these acids lower triglycerides and can reduce inflammation, which plays a role in the development of atherosclerosis.[1]

You can get the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish and shellfish:

  • Anchovies
  • Bluefish
  • Sardines
  • Sturgeon
  • Salmon (wild has more omega-3s than the one raised in farms)
  • Lake trout
  • Tuna
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Mussels
  • Oysters
  • Crabs

The particular kind of omega-3, called ALA, can be found, as we said before, in foods which contain vegetable oils (soy and canola). Omega-3fatty acids can be consumed as dietary supplements as well; for example, you can find in natural shops fish oil supplements containing DHA and EPA, and flaxseed oil supplements with a high content of ALA.[2]

Many Americans consume ten times more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids. It is important to know that scientists agreed that omega-3 acids bring more benefits for the organism than omega-6 acids. It seems like in the United States men consume less ALA than women do, and adults consume more of these fatty acids than children. A study showed that only 25% of the Americans are consuming these fatty acids on a daily basis.

How Omega-3 fatty acids prevent cardiovascular disease?

Many studies published in 1970 observed that Eskimos population had a low cardiovascular mortality. The scientists concluded that their diet was responsible for this amazing thing. This population consumes daily fish meat.

26 specific studies made on living animals compared the effects of ALA acids or fish oil with omega-6 fatty acids. These studies showed that fish oil supplements only managed to reduce the risk of death, ventricular fibrillation, and ventricular tachycardia. Scientists want to conduct more studies to examine these effects.

Other studies showed that Omega-3 fatty acids affect cell functions that are involved in cardiac electrophysiology. This way they regulate the heart rate and the coronary blood flow.

Different studies showed that fish oil supplements have a significant and beneficial effect on triglycerides. They decreased by 10-33% after subjects start taking fish oil supplements. Patients with high blood pressure, heart rate variability, coronary artery restenosis, and coronary atherosclerosis reported improvement in their overall health after taking fish-oil supplements. Some doctors said that glucose tolerance could be affected in those people consuming omega-3 fatty acids. They haven’t conducted studies on this particular matter yet.

In all the studies conducted so far, experts concluded that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, fish, and fish oil reduces the risk of a sudden death caused by a cardiac disease, or by a myocardial infarction. Fish and fish oil are highly recommended. Experts know little about the effects of ALA and the effects of ALA versus the consequences of fish oil. Scientists admitted that they don’t have enough data to determine the right quantity and type of omega-3 fatty acids which are best to be consumed. They didn’t find out either which is the optimal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid intake.
People have to be aware of the fact that the different types of fish they choose to eat and the way they decide to prepare this fish can cause different effects in the organism.

What a person should eat to prevent heart attacks?

Make sure you eat natural, whole, and fresh foods. It is recommended to consume several portions of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis; add in your diet beans, peas, and nuts. You can consume more omega-3 fatty acids if you add in your diet fish, flaxseed oil walnuts, and green leafy vegetables. You will drink your daily recommended dose of omega-3 fats if you eat two portions of salmon a week. If you don’t like salmon or fish, you can take 1 gram of omega-3-fatty acid supplement every day.

Make sure you keep yourself hydrated by drinking tea, non-fat dairy, red wine (men should drink two glasses or less a day and women one glass or less a day), and plenty of water.

It is good for your health to eat proteins. You can get them if you consume fish, chicken without the skin, and red meat from organic farms.
It is better to avoid saturated fats. This means to eliminate from your diet these foods: margarine, baked products, fried products, and most packaged and industrially processed snack foods, processed meats such as sausage, bacon, and high-fat dairy products.

It is recommended to limit the intake of high glycemic foods. These foods are those made with sugar and white flour. They can increase the blood sugar level. When the blood sugar is at elevated levels, it stimulates the pancreas to eliminate insulin. If you are dealing with high insulin levels, you might be at risk of weight gain and atherosclerosis of the arteries.

Omega-3 fatty acids can ease asthma?

Asthma is common health condition among Americans. Scientists agreed that Eskimos population has only rare cases of asthma because they consume large quantities of fish rich in EPA and DHA. Specific studies suggested that omega-3 fatty acids can ease asthma symptoms because they influence those substances that are part of the inflammatory process. These substances are the series-2 prostaglandin PGE.

These acids are safe to be used by adults and children. But studies didn’t show so far which fatty acid improves this health condition, what is the daily dose, and for how long the person should consume it to see improvements.

Doctors are not sure if omega-3 fatty acids are effective when used as alternative treatments for asthma. Four different studies in children showed that their respiratory issues improved after consuming fish or oily fish. The same survey reported no improvements in adults.

Can Omega-3 fatty acids can have positive health effects in other diseases?

Different studies examined the health effects of omega-3 fatty acids in inflammatory bowel disease, type II diabetes, renal disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and bone density.

Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome

In the case of this health condition, experts found that omega-3 fatty acids influenced the triglyceride levels positively. These acids didn’t have any effect in improving LDL, or HDL cholesterol, glycosylated hemoglobin, or fasting blood sugar. Another four studies concluded that omega-3 fatty acids showed no effect on plasma insulin or insulin resistance in patients suffering from this disorder.

Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease)

In 13 specific studies patients with inflammatory bowel disease reported improvements after they consumed omega-3 fatty acids. They experienced remission in this disease. In the case of ulcerative colitis, omega-3 fatty acids showed no effect on the risk of relapse

Rheumatoid arthritis

During a study, patients suffering from, swollen joint count, pain in the joints, and erythrocyte sedimentation reported no improvements. Another study though showed that omega-3 fatty acids eased the pain in patients with joint pain. This means that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties. The fatty acids can reduce common problems in patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. The same acids can reduce requirements for corticosteroids.

Renal disease

Nine different studies concluded that omega-3 fatty acids have effects on serum creatinine and creatinine clearance in patients suffering from renal disease. The studies also showed that graft patency was better in people who consumed fish oil.

Systemic lupus erythematosus

The study made on this particular disease showed different results in different patients. Scientists concluded they need to study further to understand fully if omega-3 fatty acids can have positive effects in the majority of people suffering from this health condition.

Bone density/osteoporosis

Omega-3 fatty acids were responsible for regenerating the bone density. The studies made showed no clear results about the effects these acids have on fractures.

Can Omega-3 fatty acids have positive health effects on cognitive function, dementia, and neurological diseases?
Many doctors agreed that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for a proper functioning of the brain. Studies examined the effects these acids have on the incidence of neurological diseases, cognitive function in people who are aging normally, incidence and treatment of dementia, and progression of multiple sclerosis.

Cognitive function in healthy aging and dementia

One study showed that fish and fish oil reduced the incidence of dementia. It seems like these fatty acids can help lessen the risk of Alzheimer. The acids which helped the patients were DHA type. Patients didn’t report any improvements after taking EPA or ALA.

Multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases

Two studies concluded that omega-3 fatty acids did not help patients suffering from sclerosis.
Another study conducted in patients with Parkinson disease showed the same results. The fatty acids did not improve the health condition of the patients.

It is interesting that a study observed pregnant women consuming fish and fish oil during the entire pregnancy. This fact lowered the risk of cerebral palsy in the infant.

It seems like these acids can improve a child’s ability to learn in the long term. Those who consume these acids as infants had excellent scores in vocabulary, learning, and intelligent testing at ages 3 to 5.

Omega-3 fatty acids can improve health for people with transplanted organs?

Different human, animal, and laboratory tests showed that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil could improve the health in people with transplanted organs. These acids can reduce hyperlipidemia, hypertension, regulates the blood viscosity, decrease rejection of the transplanted organ, and maintain under control the immunosuppressive agent cyclosporine. They were 31 studies made on patients with heart, kidney, liver, and bone marrow transplants. Only 2-3 grams of fatty acids daily were necessary for these patients to help their organism.

Are omega-3 fatty acids safe?

They were made 148 studies to determine if these acids are safe for prolonged consumption or not. More than 10.000 people took supplements with omega-3 fatty acids. They reported no side effects. These people consumed the supplements this way: up to 8 grams/day for seven years in a row.
Some people had mild side effects such as gastrointestinal discomfort (diarrhea). Less than 7% of the subjects complained of these side effects.

Studies proved that these acids are not linked with adverse effects such as handicap, illnesses or disability of any kind.
People who consumed aspirin on a daily basis along with these supplements complained about minor bleedings.
Even if many studies showed how beneficial omega three fatty acids are, taking supplements involves some risks.
Omega 3 fatty acids tend to make the blood thinner. This fact can lead to bruising or bleeding.

If you know that you suffer from a bleeding disorder, or you take blood thinners, you have to be very careful if you decide to take supplements with omega three fatty acids. Consult your doctor first and follow his advice.

If you have diabetes (type 2), you need to be aware that fish oil supplements might increase the level of blood sugar.
ALA supplements can create health problems for men. There is the risk of developing prostate cancer. These acids can increase chances of getting this type of cancer in men.

Keep these supplements in cold places. They can go rancid after a while. Some people reported that their supplements were contaminated with heavy metals.

When you decide to take supplements, you have to get them from a reliable source.
If you are getting plenty of omegas three fatty acids in your diet, it means you keep your body healthy and vigorous.
It is a good idea to limit your consumption of omega six fatty acids. This way you maintain the ratios of these fatty acids in balance.[3]

How can I tell if I have a deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids?

This is very easy to understand because your body will give you some signs and symptoms that you have to pay attention to:
Poor memory and focusing with difficulty

  • Fatigue
  • Heart problems
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Poor circulation
  • Mood swings

Omega-3 fatty acids health benefits on bones and skin

Many studies showed how these acids are doing a great job in improving bone strength.
If you consume daily omega-3 fatty acids, you will increase the levels of calcium in your bones.

One research found that consumption of EPA acids combined with the omega six fatty acid, (gamma-linolenic acid) managed to reduce the bone loss in women around 65 years old. These women observed that their bone density increased after a three-year period of consuming these acids.

Another study concluded that flaxseed oil (oil very high in ALA) could increase the amount of osteocalcin. This protein is responsible for bone building.
The results of these studies are impressive, and they provide more reasons to consume these healthy omega three fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids can improve (when taken in the long term) the health and beauty of your skin.
The EPA acids are helping the skin, hydrating it and keeping it youthful and firm.

These acids can regulate oil production. Because they maintain the skin hydrated, these acids prevent the release of that enzyme which is responsible for destroying the collagen.

Omega 3 fatty acids have antioxidant properties and prevent sun damage that occurs from UVA and UVB radiation.

You can take supplements with these acids if you suffer from rosacea, psoriasis, or eczema. The omega 3 fatty acids help these skin problems because of their anti-inflammatory properties.

Many countries and health organizations around the world say it is good for a person’s health to consume at least 500mg EPA and DHA on a daily basis.

Marine-sourced omega-3 fatty acids and their properties are studied all over the world.[4]