Omega 3 Fats are essential fatty acids required for health and are required by the body to make anti-inflammatory hormones, known as the prostaglandin series 3. There are 2 ways to obtain Omega 3 in your diet. Plant sources of Omega-3, come from Alpha-Linoleic acid (ALA) which the body then converts to DHA and EPA, before use. It is important to note that we need a consume a considerable amount of dietary sources of ALA, as about 90% of us are poor at converting ALA into the required EPA and DHA. The benefit to consuming animal derived sources of Omega 3, is that the body can then immediately utilise the forms of EPA and DHA.
Omega 3 is valuable to health and should be consumed every day. Examples of food sources include oily fish such as mackerel (1422mg DHA/EPA per 100g) and salmon (2018mg DHA/EPA per 100g). For vegetarians and vegans: plant algae like Spirulina contain fair amounts of ALA, depending on the source and brand, herbs (Oregano-4180mg ALA per 100g); nuts (Walnuts -2006 mg ALA per 100g); seeds (Chia Seeds -17552mg ALA per 100g). Don’t forget your nut and seed derived products to top up your intakes (milks, butters, oils). In order for you to obtain most health benefits, the quality and dietary sources are very important and not always easy to adhere to: due to costs, geographical location, and environmental pollutants amongst others. Hence a supplement may be useful!But to choose the best one for you , always get in touch with an expert.
Omega 3 benefits are numerous, but here are my top 5
- A contribution to normal blood cholesterol levels (ALA), EPA and DHA contribute to the normal function of the heart, and normal blood pressure. EPA and DHA have shown to contribute to normal blood triglyceride levels, when having an intake of over 2 g of EPA/DHA. Triglycerides are fats which are associated with heart disease when present in high levels.
- Omega 3 is particularly vital for the health of mothers and children. DHA when consumed by the mother contributes to the normal brain and eye development of the foetus and breastfed infants. Essential fatty acids are needed for normal growth and development of children.
- DHA is needed for normal brain function and vision. Research shows that DHA is important for the formation of the cellular membranes of nerve cells . Ongoing and exciting research is being done on DHA’s involvement in neurodegenerative disorders, so keep up with my blog for updates! DHA is found in the highest concentrations in the retina of the eye. The National Eye Institute is currently looking into whether Omega 3 supplements along with others can help with particular eye conditions.
- Omega 3 fats are needed to absorb important nutrients such as the fat soluble vitamins, A, D E and K. These vitamins also provide health benefits as part of a varied diet.
- Omega 3 fats are needed for the production of ‘eicosanoids’, which are signalling molecules involved with healing and repair processes in the body. Several studies have shown the benefits of omega 3 in reducing the effects of the mediators involved in inflammation. Dry eye syndrome has been found to have an inflammatory component, and could possibly benefit from omega 3 supplements.
Gerster H. (1998) Can adults adequately convert alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)? Int J Vitam Nutr Res; 68:159-73.
Lui,A. and Ji, J. (2014). Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids Therapy for Dry Eye Syndrome: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Studies. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4165511/ [Accessed on 18.12.2015]
Lee, YH. Bae, SC. And Song, GG. (2012) Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: a meta-analysis. Available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22835600 [Accessed on 18.12.2015]
AREDS2 Research Group (2013).Lutein/Zeaxanthin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Age-Related Macular Degeneration. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial. Available from: https://nei.nih.gov/ [Accessed on 18.12.2015]