Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important.
They have many 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 backed by science.
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1. Omega-3s can fight depression and anxiety
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world.
Symptoms include sadness, lethargy, and a general loss of interest in life.
Anxiety, also a common disorder, is characterized by constant worry and nervousness.
Interestingly, studies indicate that people who regularly consume omega-3s are less likely to be depressed .
Additionally, 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 seems to be the best for fighting depression .
One study even found EPA to be as effective against depression as a common antidepressant .
2. Omega-3s May 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 can occur.
Interestingly, consuming enough omega-3s is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration , one of the world's leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness.
3. Omega-3s May Support Brain Health During Pregnancy and Early Infant Life
Omega-3s are essential for infant brain growth and development .
DHA makes up 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in your brain and 60% in the retina of your eye.
Therefore, it is not surprising that infants fed formula fortified with DHA have better eyesight than infants fed formula without it.
Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy is associated with many benefits for your child, including:
- higher intellect
- Better communication and social skills
- Fewer behavior problems
- Reduced risk of developmental delay
- Reduced risk of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy
4. Omega-3s May Improve Heart Disease Risk Factors
Heart attacks and strokes are the leading causes of death worldwide .
Decades ago, researchers observed that fish-eating communities had very low rates of these diseases. This has subsequently been linked to omega-3 consumption .
Since then, omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to numerous heart health benefits .
These advantages relate to:
- Triglycerides: The
omega-3s can lead to a significant reduction in triglycerides , usually around 15-30% .
Blood pressure: The
Omega-3s can reduce blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure .
- “Good” HDL cholesterol: The
Omega-3s can raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels .
- Blood clots: The omega-3s can prevent
blood platelets from clumping together. This helps prevent the formation of
blood clots harmful .
- Plaque : By keeping your arteries
smooth and damage-free, omega-3s help prevent plaque that can restrict
and harden your arteries .
- Inflammation: The
omega-3s reduce the production of certain substances released during
inflammatory response of your body .
For some people, omega-3s can also lower “bad” LDL cholesterol . However, the evidence is mixed – some studies find increases in LDL .
Despite these beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors, there is no convincing evidence that omega-3 supplements can prevent heart attacks or strokes . Many studies find no benefit in this .
5. Omega-3s May Reduce Symptoms of Hyperactivity in Children
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Several studies note that children with ADHD have lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids than their healthy peers.
In addition, numerous studies observe that omega-3 supplements can reduce symptoms of hyperactivity.
Omega-3s help improve inattentiveness and task completion. They also decrease hyperactivity, impulsiveness, restlessness and aggressiveness.
Recently, researchers have observed that fish oil supplements are one of the most promising treatments for hyperactivity .
6. Omega-3s May 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.
It is a major public health problem because it increases your risk of many other diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
Omega-3 fatty acids may improve insulin resistance , inflammation, and heart disease risk factors in people with metabolic syndrome.
7. 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, the inflammation sometimes persists for a long time, even without infection or injury. This is called chronic or long-term inflammation.
Long-term inflammation can contribute to nearly every chronic disease in the West, including heart disease and cancer.
Notably, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of inflammation-related molecules and substances , such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines.
Studies have consistently observed a link between higher omega-3 intake and reduced inflammation .
8. Omega-3s Can Fight Autoimmune Diseases
In autoimmune diseases, your immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign cells and begins to attack them.
Type 1 diabetes is a prime example, in which your immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas.
Omega-3s can fight some of these diseases and may be particularly important early in 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 .
9. Omega-3s May Improve Mental Disorders
Low levels of omega-3s have been reported in people with psychiatric disorders.
Studies suggest that omega-3 supplements may reduce the frequency of mood swings and relapses in people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder .
Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation may also reduce violent behavior .
10. Omega-3s May Fight Age-Related Mental Decline and Alzheimer's Disease
The decline of brain function is one of the inevitable consequences of aging.
Several studies link a higher intake of omega-3s to less age-related mental decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease .
A review of controlled studies suggests that omega-3 supplements may be beneficial in early Alzheimer's disease , when AD symptoms are very mild.
Keep in mind that more research is needed on omega-3s and brain health.
11. 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.
12. Omega-3s May Reduce Asthma in Children
Asthma is a chronic lung disease with symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing.
Severe asthma attacks can be very dangerous. They are caused by inflammation and swelling in the airways of your lungs.
Several studies link omega-3 consumption to a lower risk of asthma in children and young adults .
13. Omega-3s May Reduce Fat in Your Liver
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is more common than you might think.
It has increased with the obesity epidemic to become the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the Western world.
However, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids effectively reduces liver fat and inflammation in people with NAFLD.
14. Omega-3s May Improve Bone and Joint Health
Osteoporosis and arthritis are two common disorders that affect your skeletal system.
Studies indicate that omega-3s can improve bone strength by increasing the amount of calcium in your bones , which should reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Omega-3s can also treat arthritis . Patients taking omega-3 supplements have reported decreased joint pain and increased grip strength .
15. Omega-3s can relieve menstrual pain
Menstrual pain occurs in the lower abdomen and pelvis and often radiates to the lower back and thighs.
This can significantly affect your quality of life.
However, studies repeatedly prove that women who consume the most omega-3s have milder period pain .
One study even determined that an omega-3 supplement was more effective than ibuprofen in treating severe pain during menstruation .
16. Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Improve Sleep
Good sleep is one of the foundations of optimal health.
Studies link sleep deprivation to many diseases, including obesity, diabetes, and depression.
Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with sleep problems in children and obstructive sleep apnea in adults.
Low levels of DHA are also linked to lower levels of the hormone melatonin, which helps you fall asleep.
Studies in children and adults show that omega-3 supplementation increases sleep duration and quality .
17. Omega-3 fats are good for your skin
DHA is a structural component of your skin. It is responsible for the health of cell membranes, which make up a large part of your skin.
A healthy cell membrane results in soft, moist, supple, wrinkle-free skin.
EPA also benefits your skin in several ways, including:
- Manage your skin's oil production and hydration.
- Prevent hyperkeratinization of hair follicles, which appears as the small red bumps often seen on the upper arms.
- Reduce premature aging of your skin.
- Reduce the risk of acne.
Omega-3s can also protect your skin from sun damage. EPA helps block the release of substances that eat away at your skin's collagen after sun exposure.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for optimal health.
Consuming them from whole foods, like oily fish twice a week, is the best way to ensure a solid intake of omega-3s.
However, if you don't eat a lot of fatty fish, you might consider taking an omega-3 supplement . For people who are deficient in omega-3s, this is an inexpensive and very effective way to improve your health .