Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids[which cannot be manufactured by the body].They are also referred to as n-3 fatty acids.
There are three main omega 3 fatty acids that are nutritionally important
• Alpha linolenic acid [AHA]
• Eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA]
• Docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]
These 3 are poly unsaturated fats and are immensely beneficial to the body.
When a group of researchers were conducting a study on the Greenland Inuits,they found that these groups of people had lower triglycerides, heart rate, blood pressure, and atherosclerosis. This was attributed to the fact that these people consumed high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids through their diet.
Thus the interest in this group of fatty acids sprung up and there are several studies outlining the possible health benefits.
Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include extreme tiredness (fatigue), poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
Health benefits :
It is generally believed that Omega 3 fatty acid can reduce the triglyceride levels and increase the HDL levels. It is also considered to work as an anti coagulant [prevent blood clots]
1. Cholesterol levels – It is said to lower cholesterol and triglyceride in individuals with high lipid profile.
2. High blood pressure –It can reduce the blood pressure in hypertensive individuals
3. Heart disease – Prevention of heart disease and stroke is possible if the diet is rich in omega three fatty acid and low in saturated and trans fats. Similarly in people who are undergoing treatment for heart disease the risk of death is reduced.
4. Diabetic individuals generally have a high triglyceride and low HDL levels. Omega 3 fatty acids can help lower the triglyceride levels and increase the HDL levels. Apoprotein which is a marker of diabetes is also reduced.
5. Weight maintenance – Diabetics who are over weight and obese individuals can reduce and maintain weight with regular exercise and a diet rich in Omega fatty acid from fish and also a low fat diet.
6. Asthma – Omega 3 fatty acid is said to increase the lung function and decrease inflammation in asthmatic adults.
7. Wound healing- Omega 3 fatty acid hastens wound healing in patients with burns injury
8. Macular degeneration – It is a serious age related condition which can lead to blindness. In a study, they found that individuals who took more Omega 3 fatty acid were less likely to be affected by macular degeneration.
9. It has loads of benefits for women – protection against breast cancer, prevents hot flushes during menstruation, improves fertility, begetting healthy babies, low chances of post partum depression, minimizes menopausal symptoms, and prevents osteoporosis.
10. Reduces inflammatory diseases like arthritis, migraine,
Food sources of Omega 3 fatty acids
• Cooking oil like Flax oil, canola oil, soybean oil ,olive oil
• Nuts like pine nuts, walnut, almonds, flax seeds ,pumpkin seeds , hemp seeds, chia
• Green leafy vegetables like spinach
• Soy and tofu
• Vegetables - squashes, broccoli, green beans, lettuce, collard greens
• Fruits-Certain berries like raspberries & strawberry, kiwi fruit
• Oat germ
• Legumes like kidney beans, navy beans, peanuts.
Non vegetarian sources
All fish contain Omega 3 fatty acid but the important ones are
• Lake trout
It is advised that pregnant women, nursing mothers, young children, and women who might become pregnant not eat several types of fish, including swordfish, shark, and king mackerel as there may be chances of Mercury contamination.
With so many health benefits, one will automatically feel the need to take them as supplements but it is advisable not to take supplements of Omega 3 fatty acids when you are on
• Cholesterol lowering drugs
• Blood thinning medication
• Diabetic medication
• Topical steroids
Even if you don’t suffer from deficiency symptoms, it is always better to consult your physician before going in for supplements or still better select foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids to fit into your diet.
Labels: Nutrients demystified