Omega-3 fatty acids pack a big punch.
Found primarily in fatty fish, nuts, and seeds, they are essential for many of the body’s functions while also having a myriad of health benefits.
What are omega-3 fatty acids, how do you ensure you’re getting enough, and what are the benefits?
In this article we’ll answer that question and look more closely at fatty acids overall.
And if you want help to take better control of your nutritional health, you can always consult a with one of our naturopathic practitioners for more information.
What Is Omega-3?
The three main omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – you can see why those acronyms are so common.
They are important components of the membranes that surround the cells in your body.
They also help your body’s energy and play a role in the functions of your heart, lungs, endocrine system, and immune system.
ALA is mainly found in nuts, seeds, and their oils, and DHA and EPA are mainly found in fish.
ALA is an essential fatty acid, so your body doesn’t make it naturally, it can only be obtained through food or supplements. Your body can only convert limited amounts of ALA into EPA and DHA, so they should also be consumed on their own to increase their levels in your body.
Common Sources Of Omega-3
Although omega-3 can be obtained from supplements, it is most effective when obtained through diet. Consult with your doctor before supplementing with omega-3, as supplementation can lead to indigestion and they also may interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners.
Fish high in DHA/EPA include:
● Salmon, especially wild salmon
Some fish – such as mackerel and farmed Atlantic salmon- may have high levels of mercury and other toxins, especially if they are farm-raised. Reduce consumption of these fish to no more than 7 oz a week, and try to get your DHA and EPA from wild Alaskan or Pacific salmon, which has lower toxin levels.
Foods high in ALA include:
● Flaxseed oil
Symptoms Of Omega-3 Deficiency
Omega-3 deficiency – also known as FADS, or fatty acid deficiency syndrome – becomes first evident in skin, making it dry and rough.
It can also cause dry hair, soft or brittle nails, dandruff, and dry eyes.
Symptoms may also become more severe, including:
● Difficulty concentrating
● Poor sleep quality
Due to symptoms of FADS being shared by other conditions, it is often misdiagnosed or overlooked.
Benefits Of Omega-3
In addition to its essential functions, omega-3 has a wide range of health benefits.
1. May Increase Cognitive Development In Children
Studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids play a role in functional and structural brain development.
A recent study tested cognitive development in children, comparing children who ate meat-based diets to those consuming more omega-3 rich salmon-based diets. Test scores in children on the salmon-based diet were higher than those on the meat-based diet.
2. May Reduce Symptoms Of ADHD
The previous study also tested correlation between ADHD in children, and found children with lower blood levels of omega-3 have a higher recurrence of ADHD.
Furthermore, supplementing with omega-3 in children with ADHD has shown to reduce symptoms of ADHD, including inattentiveness, task completion, hyperactivity, and restlessness.
3. May Reduce Depression And Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are commonly diagnosed health conditions in our society. New research has found that deficiency of omega-3s can lead to mood disorders, leading to research groups studying the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and its role in treating depression.
There is some promising research that show that omega 3 supplementation can improve depression symptoms, but more research is required to confirm these findings.
4. May Reduce Risk Of Dementia
Healthy levels of omega-3 fatty acids can improve brain health, and this is especially true for those with early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies have linked higher omega-3 intake, specifically in the omega-3s found in fish, to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and an improvement of overall age-related mental decline.
Once again, further research needs to be done on the connection between omega-3s and brain health.
5. Beneficial For Your Skin
While a deficiency of omega-3s can cause skin dryness, good levels of omega-3s can improve your skin health.
This is because omega-3s are responsible for the health of your cell membranes, which are a major component of your skin.
High levels of omega-3s have been shown to decrease inflammatory factors associated with skin problems such as acne and premature aging.
6. May Reduce Menstrual Pain
Studies have shown that those who consume higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids experience less severe menstrual pain.
A 2018 study found a quantifiable difference between pain ratings in those who supplemented with omega-3s verses those who were given a placebo, especially when combined with vitamin E.
It may be even more effective than ibuprofen or similar over-the-counter pain medications.
7. May Reduce Risk Of Osteoporosis
Proper calcium levels are essential in the prevention of osteoporosis.
Essential fatty acids such as omega-3s have been shown to increase calcium absorption from the gut, which is associated with reduced ectopic calcification from osteoporosis.
This correlation is new, and more studies are required.
While more studies are required to confirm the effects of omega 3 supplementation for these specific conditions, we do know that omega 3s play an important role in our health and that focusing on improve your omega 3 intake through diet can improve our overall health outcomes.
Contact Annex Naturopathic
If you suspect you may have a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids, or if you’d like to supplement with omega-3s to reap the many health benefits, contact Annex Naturopathic Clinic.
Our highly knowledgeable naturopaths can help guide you through any diet or supplementation questions, and help you increase omega-3s in your diet.
Contact Annex Naturopathic Clinic today.
Yours in Health,
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND