Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain functionality and overall health. Here at 17 science-based facts…
17 Science-Based Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important.
They have many powerful health benefits for your body and brain.
In fact, few nutrients have been studied as thoroughly as omega-3 fatty acids.
Here are 17 health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids that are supported by science.
- Omega-3s Can Fight Depression and Anxiety
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world.
Anxiety, also a common disorder, is characterized by constant worry and nervousness (3).
Interestingly, studies indicate that people who consume omega-3s regularly are less likely to be depressed.
What’s more, when people with depression or anxiety start taking omega-3 supplements, their symptoms improve.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA. Of the three, EPA appears to be the best at fighting depression.
One study even found EPA as effective against depression as a common antidepressant drug (10).
SUMMARYOmega-3 supplements may help prevent and treat depression and anxiety. EPA seems to be the most effective at fighting depression.
- Omega-3s Can Improve Eye Health
DHA, a type of omega-3, is a major structural component of the retina of your eye.
When you don’t get enough DHA, vision problems may arise.
Interestingly, getting enough omega-3 is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, one of the world’s leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness.
SUMMARYAn omega-3 fatty acid called DHA is a major structural component of your eyes’ retinas. It may help prevent macular degeneration, which can cause vision impairment and blindness.
- Omega-3s Can Promote Brain Health During Pregnancy and Early Life
Omega-3s are crucial for brain growth and development in infants.
DHA accounts for 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in your brain and 60% in the retina of your eye.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that infants fed a DHA-fortified formula have better eyesight than infants fed a formula without it.
Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy is associated with numerous benefits for your child, including:
- Higher intelligence
- Better communication and social skills
- Fewer behavioral problems
- Decreased risk of developmental delay
- Decreased risk of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy
SUMMARYGetting enough omega-3s during pregnancy and early life is crucial for your child’s development. Supplementing is linked to higher intelligence and a lower risk of several diseases.
- Omega-3s Can Improve Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Heart attacks and strokes are the world’s leading causes of death.
Decades ago, researchers observed that fish-eating communities had very low rates of these diseases. This was later linked to omega-3 consumption.
Since then, omega-3 fatty acids have been tied to numerous benefits for heart health.
These benefits address:
- Triglycerides:Omega-3s can cause a major reduction in triglycerides, usually in the range of 15–30% .
- Blood pressure:Omega-3s can reduce blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure.
- “Good” HDL cholesterol:Omega-3s can raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels.
- Blood clots:Omega-3s can keep blood platelets from clumping together. This helps prevent the formation of harmful blood clots.
- Plaque:By keeping your arteries smooth and free from damage, omega-3s help prevent the plaque that can restrict and harden your arteries.
- Inflammation:Omega-3s reduce the production of some substances released during your body’s inflammatory response.
For some people, omega-3s can also lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. However, evidence is mixed — some studies find increases in LDL.
Despite these beneficial effects on heart disease risk factors, there is no convincing evidence that omega-3 supplements can prevent heart attacks or strokes. Many studies find no benefit.
SUMMARYOmega-3s improve numerous heart disease risk factors. However, omega-3 supplements do not seem to reduce your risk of heart attacks or strokes.
- Omega-3s Can Reduce Symptoms of ADHD in Children
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity (43).
What’s more, numerous studies observe that omega-3 supplements can reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
SUMMARYOmega-3 supplements can reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children. They improve attention and reduce hyperactivity, impulsiveness and aggression.
- Omega-3s Can Reduce Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions.
It includes central obesity — also known as belly fat — as well as high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high triglycerides and low “good” HDL cholesterol levels.
It is a major public health concern because it increases your risk of many other illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes.
Omega-3 fatty acids can improve insulin resistance, inflammation and heart disease risk factors in people with metabolic syndrome.
SUMMARYOmega-3s can have numerous benefits for people with metabolic syndrome. They can reduce insulin resistance, fight inflammation and improve several heart disease risk factors.
- Omega-3s Can Fight Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural response to infections and damage in your body. Therefore, it is vital for your health.
However, inflammation sometimes persists for a long time, even without an infection or injury. This is called chronic — or long-term — inflammation.
Long-term inflammation can contribute to almost every chronic Western illness, including heart disease and cancer.
Notably, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines.
Studies have consistently observed a connection between higher omega-3 intake and reduced inflammation.
SUMMARYOmega-3s can reduce chronic inflammation, which can contribute to heart disease, cancer and various other diseases.
- Omega-3s Can Fight Autoimmune Diseases
In autoimmune diseases, your immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign cells and starts attacking them.
Type 1 diabetes is one prime example, in which your immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas.
Omega-3s can combat some of these diseases and may be especially important during early life.
Studies show that getting enough omega-3s during your first year of life is linked to a reduced risk of many autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, autoimmune diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
Omega-3s also help treat lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.
SUMMARYOmega-3 fatty acids can help fight several autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.
- Omega-3s Can Improve Mental Disorders
Low omega-3 levels have been reported in people with psychiatric disorders.
Studies suggest that omega-3 supplements can reduce the frequency of mood swings and relapses in people with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may also decrease violent behavior.
SUMMARYPeople with mental disorders often have low blood levels of omega-3 fats. Improving omega-3 status seems to improve symptoms.
- Omega-3s Can Fight Age-Related Mental Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease
A decline in brain function is one of the unavoidable consequences of aging.
Several studies link higher omega-3 intake to decreased age-related mental decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, one study found that people who eat fatty fish tend to have more gray matter in the brain. This is brain tissue that processes information, memories and emotions.
Keep in mind that more research is needed on omega-3s and brain health.
SUMMARYOmega-3 fats may help prevent age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is needed.
- Omega-3s May Help Prevent Cancer
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the Western world, and omega-3 fatty acids have long been claimed to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Interestingly, studies show that people who consume the most omega-3s have up to a 55% lower risk of colon cancer.
Additionally, omega-3 consumption is linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. However, not all studies give the same results.
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