What are omega-3 fatty acids and what they do
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods, such as fish and flaxseed, and in dietary supplements, such as fish oil. The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found mainly in plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, and canola oils. DHA and EPA are found in fish and other seafood. ALA is an essential fatty acid, meaning that your body can’t make it, so you must get it from the foods and beverages you consume. Your body can convert some ALA into EPA and then to DHA, but only in very small amounts. Therefore, getting EPA and DHA from foods (and dietary supplements if you take them) is the only practical way to increase levels of these omega-3 fatty acids in your body.
Omega-3s are important components of the membranes that surround each cell in your body. DHA levels are especially high in retina (eye), brain, and sperm cells. Omega-3s also provide calories to give your body energy and have many functions in your heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system, and endocrine system (the network of hormone-producing glands).
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
- Reduces Liver Fat (Fatty Liver)
- Supports Healthy Skin
- Supports Eye Health
- Aids in Weight Loss
- May Help Treat Certain Mental Disorders
- Supports Heart Health
- May Improve Symptoms of Depression
- May Improve Asthma Symptoms and Allergy Risk
- Improves Bone Health
- Omega-3s Can Fight Depression and Anxiety
- Omega-3s Can Promote Brain Health during Pregnancy and Early Life
- Can Fight Inflammation
Findings show omega-3 fatty acids may help to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduce triglycerides
- Slow the development of plaque in the arteries
- Reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm
- Reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke
- Lessen the chance of sudden cardiac death in people with heart disease
Omega-3 is present throughout the body, especially in the brain, retina, and sperm cells. The body cannot produce omega-3 on its own, however, so people need to obtain it from dietary sources.Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils may help prevent heart disease and stroke, according to the AHA.
Specifically, omega-3 may help manage:
- Triglyceride levels
- High blood pressure
Some evidence suggests that getting an adequate intake of omega-3 may help protect eye health. Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for a number of functions in the body. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are found in seafood, such as fatty fish.
Results of studies on diets rich in seafood (fish and shellfish) and heart disease provide moderate evidence that people who eat seafood at least once a week are less likely to die of heart disease than those who rarely or never eat seafood. The nutritional value of seafood is of particular importance during fetal growth and development, as well as in early infancy and childhood. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consume 8 to 12 ounces of seafood per week from a variety of seafood types that are low in methyl mercury as part of a healthy eating pattern while staying within their calorie needs. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should limit the amount of white tuna.
Researchers tested, among other things, whether a moderate dosage (1 gram a day) of an omega-3 supplement could help prevent major cardiovascular events, compared with a placebo. Cardiovascular events included not only heart attacks, but stroke, and angioplasty procedures to clear blocked arteries. Fish oils come from fatty or oily fish, such as trout, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines, and salmon. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, and many contain vitamins A and D.
Food sources for Omega-3:
Animal-based sources Trusted Source of omega-3 includes:
- Oily fish, such as sardines, tuna, and salmon
- Other seafood, such as oysters and shrimp
- Eggs, especially those fortified with omega-3
- Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil
Vegetable-based alternatives to fish oil for omega-3 include:
- Flaxseed oil
- Chia seeds
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
- Kidney beans
Side effects from omega-3 fish oil:
- A fishy taste in your mouth
- Fishy breath
- Stomach upset
- Loose stools
- Taking more than 3 grams of fish oil daily may increase the risk of bleeding.
Risks of using supplements:
Most people who follow a healthful, balanced diet do not need to use supplements.
However, omega-3 supplements are unlikely to cause any severe adverse effects, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative said, people should check with their doctor before using them, as there may be some risks. For example, Omega-3 supplements may affect blood clotting and interfere with drugs that target blood-clotting conditions, such as warfarin (Coumadin)
They can sometimes trigger side effects, which are usually minor gastrointestinal problems such as belching, indigestion, or diarrhea.
Those with a fish or shellfish allergy may be at risk if they consume fish oil supplements. People should check that their supplement comes from a reliable source. Some fish products may contain pollutants from the ocean.
Some fish oil supplements, such as cod liver oil, are high in vitamin A. This vitamin can be toxic in large amounts. If you want to take higher doses of omega-3 fish oil supplements, talk to your doctor first. Your doctor can guide you in supplementing your diet with omega-3 fish oil. Also, your doctor can monitor all aspects of your health if you take higher doses of fish oil.
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