As published on Zhou Nutrition Website.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids Health Benefits and How to Supplement Properly
What is really behind all the hype of Omega 3? What is the difference in Omega 3, 6, and 9? Are there really health benefits to supplementing with Omega 3?
Let’s start by differentiating between the types of Omegas.
Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 are essential fatty acids, meaning your body cannot make them on its own so they must be found in your diet. Omega 9 fatty acids, on the other hand, are able to be produced in the body.
Omega-6 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that are found very abundantly in the American diet. Omega 6 is present in seeds, refined oils, and most processed foods. The body also makes hormones, known as eicosanoids, from Omega 6 fatty acids. These eicosanoids produced from Omega 6 are pro-inflammatory and vasoconstrictors (constricting blood vessels).
While these fatty acids are essential for brain function, growth and development, too much can be detrimental to health. The standard American diet has an approximate ratio of 20:1 of Omega 6 to Omega 3. This ratio should be 2:1.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids Health Benefits and How to Supplement ProperlyThere are fewer sources in modern diets which contain Omega 3. The best and most bioavailable sources are fish oils; also, walnuts, flax seeds and oils are good plant sources but requires the body to convert them to their usable sources. There are two types of Omega 3 that the body needs; eicosapentaenoic acid, called EPA and docosahexaenoic or DHA. These omega 3s also create specific hormones in the body but in contrast to Omega 6, the omega 3 hormones are anti-inflammatory and can control immune function, blood clotting and cell growth.
The imbalance of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids are believed to be contributed to the majority of inflammatory diseases including, heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases and cancer.
What are some health benefits of adding more Omega 3 to your diet?
1. Cardiovascular Protection
Studies have shown Omega 3’s to reduce risk of heart attack, cardiac death and sudden death associated with cardiovascular disease. Studies have also shown a lowering of cholesterol and triglyceride levels associated with Omega 3 supplementation. Normalizing coronary blood flow and heart rate are also seen.
2. Improvement in behaviors associated with ADHD and Autism
Research has revealed an improvement in behaviors such as hyperactivity, conduct problems, anxiety, and temper tantrums with adequate omega 3 levels. Several studies have shown improvements with the use of omega-3 fatty acids in children with ADD, autism, and similar disorders.
3. Reducing Overall/ Systemic Inflammation—Lowering risk of Chronic Disease
Increased inflammatory markers in blood work increase the risk of chronic inflammatory conditions such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, heart disease and diabetes. Omega 3’s have been shown in studies to decrease these inflammatory markers, therefore decreasing systemic inflammation.
4. Improve Symptoms of Arthritis
Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce joint inflammation and tenderness and can even reduce the need for NSAIDS and corticosteroid drugs in rheumatoid arthritis.
5. Healthier Skin and Hair
EPA helps to regulate oil production for skin and hair. Dry, flaky skin can benefit greatly from the addition of Omega 3’s in the diet. Studies have also shown improvements in skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis with supplementation.
6. Improves Cognition
There are many studies which suggest that a reduction of Omega 3 fatty acids can lead to cognitive decline and even possibly Alzheimer’s. Memory has been shown to improve significantly with supplementation of Omega 3, specifically DHA. The brain needs fatty acids!
To try and balance the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 more closely, limit the amount of refined vegetable oils and choose olive oil or coconut oil instead. Also, add in fatty fish, walnuts, flax seeds and eggs from free-range chickens. Supplementation of fish oils are also very beneficial. The recommended dose would be 700 to 1,000 mg of EPA and 200 to 500 mg of DHA daily. Supplementation has been used at one to two grams daily to help alleviate behaviors of ADHD and autism in children, however, consult your pediatrician first.
Comment below if you’ve had any significant improvement from adding Omega 3’s to your diet!
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