Not all fats are created equal. Case in point: omega-3 fatty acids, also known as “healthy fats.” They’re packed with health benefits, from reducing your risk for heart disease to helping with anxiety. The best part? They are found in many food sources, although you can also choose from over-the-counter omega-3 supplements.
But like any modern health food, omega-3 fatty acids are surrounded by hype. Which benefits are backed by science, and are there any disadvantages to omega-3s or supplementing them? We help you solve it below.
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 Fatty Acid, a type of polyunsaturated fat, is an essential part of the human diet. Unlike other fats that the body is able to synthesize (called non-essential fatty acids), omega-3s cannot be made from scratch. They are important for various bodily processes, such as blood clotting, artery contraction and relaxation, and making hormones for genetic functions. In other words, we need omega-3s, and we can only get them from food or supplies,
There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
- alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
Incorporate omega-3s into your diet
Different types of foods provide different omega-3 fatty acids. The first two types (EPA and DHA) are abundant in fish, which is why they are commonly referred to as “marine omega-3s.” The third type (ALA) is common in a variety of food sources, including some oils, nuts, leafy vegetables and some meats.
best source Omega-3s include:
- wild fish
- bluefin tuna
- Lake trout
- striped bass
- Linseed oil
- meat of grass-fed animals
- chia seeds
- canola oil
Fish is, by far, the best source of omega-3s. If you’re a vegetarian or otherwise don’t eat seafood, you may need to work especially hard to get enough of these important fats in your diet. In that case, omega-3 supplements can be helpful, especially for EPA and DHA. Although your body naturally converts a small amount of ALA into DHA and EPA, it may be a good idea to make sure you are consuming fish or supplements that contain these.
The Science-Backed Benefits of Omega-3s
Scientists have noted a variety of benefits associated with omega-3 fatty acids. Some of these have more evidence than others, so we’ll look at some of the most notable benefits along with some of the most promising scientific backing.
reduce the risk of heart disease
A wide range of studies have shown a connection between heart health and omega-3 fatty acids. These fats have a positive effect various aspects of heart health. Most notably, though, omega-3s have been correlated With a more stable heart rhythm, lower blood pressure and heart rate, better blood vessel function and lower levels of inflammation.
replace saturated fatAs with red meat, butter and whole-fat dairy, unsaturated fats such as omega-3s may reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
fight anxiety and depression
Although more research is needed about the exact relationship between mental health and omega-3 intake, there is strong evidence that these fats may help. reduce depression and anxiety for many people. The EPA, in particular, has shown promising results As a treatment for mild to moderate depression.
enhance eye health
Omega-3s – EPA and DHA in particular – play a major role in the formation of cellular makeup Of our eyes Not only do they help during the early stages of our development, but research shows that a steady, adequate intake of these fats can help prevent vision problemssuch as macular degeneration later in life.
Promote prenatal and infant brain development
Scientists are actively studying the general connection between omega-3s and brain health, particularly in the womb and during our early lives. Some studies have shown that children of mothers taking Omega-3 Supplements During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Those who may have better mental processing abilities than those who do not. Additionally, studies have shown that mothers taking DHA supplements can improve breast milk nutrition For babies, it leads to better cognitive function and vision later in life.
slow cognitive decline
Because of the connection between omega-3s and general brain health, it is perhaps no surprise that some research Supports that these fats may slow cognitive decline as we age. This may be particularly promising for helping to slow the effects. Madness and Alzheimer’s disease, although more research is still needed in this area.
Scientists are still studying these and many other benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, including their effect on ADHD, metabolic syndrome, and some autoimmune diseases.
Drawbacks in Omega-3 Supplements
generally, doctors recommend That you get most or all of your omega-3 fatty acids from food sources. Along with some of the other foods mentioned above, fish that is boiled or cooked (not fried) is the best thing to include in your diet.
omega-3 supplements, such as fish oil or cod liver oil, provide many of the same benefits as obtaining these fats through food sources. These supplements are generally considered safe when taken in moderation. However, there are some potential drawbacks to consider.
risk of bleeding
There is some indication that omega-3 supplements may enhance the effects of anti-blood clotting medications, herbs, and supplements. When taken together, it may increase your risk of bleeding or decrease your ability to stop bleeding.
Other Possible Drug Interactions
More research is needed into how fish oil supplements interact with other drugs and dietary supplements. In particular, there may be adverse interactions between omega-3 supplements and medications taken for blood pressure, birth control, and weight loss.
common side effects
Some users of omega-3 supplements have noted general discomfort associated with them. This may include heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea.
Other side effects of omega-3 supplements that some have noted include rashes as well as fishy taste and bad breath in some cases. People allergic to seafood should also consult their doctor before taking fish oil supplements.
Should You Take Omega-3 Supplements?
Omega-3s are essential for cell growth and overall health, and it is important to include them in your normal dietary intake. Ideally, it is best to do this through sources such as fish, walnuts, flaxseed oil and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
However, if you cannot incorporate these foods into your diet, omega-3 supplements are a relatively safe option. It’s easy to find supplements packaged with a balanced serving of all three major omega-3s, and they’re relatively inexpensive. However, keep in mind that these should be taken in moderation and in consultation with your doctor. Some omega-3 supplements may interact with other medications or supplements you may be taking, and you may experience other side effects.
Although more research is needed to fully discover all the benefits of omega-3s, one thing is clear: They are an important part of any balanced diet.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be health or medical advice. Always consult with a physician or other qualified health provider with respect to any questions you may have about a medical condition or health purposes.