Why is Omega 3 so important?
Posted on March 26 2019
You probably already know that omega 3 essential fatty acids can do your heart and brain a world of good. But there’s more to these essential fats than most of us know. Omega 3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fats that are important for several aspects of our health. We’ve all been told consuming too much fat in our diet is bad for our health, but these are one kind you don’t want to scrimp on. They’re essential because our bodies can’t make them from scratch, so need to get them from dietary sources. Let's take a closer look at why it’s important to get a good dose of these healthy fats.
What’s the breakdown?
The three main omega 3 fatty acids are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are long-chain fats that can be made from ALA in our bodies. They have the most direct health benefits.
ALA, the most common omega 3 fatty acid in our diets, is found in vegetable oils and nuts, flax seeds and flaxseed oil, leafy vegetables, and some animal fat. The human body generally uses ALA for energy, and conversion into EPA and DHA is very limited. Because of this, getting EPA and DHA from our diets is the only practical way to increase their levels. Oily fish, like sardines, salmon and mackerel are the best sources of EPA and DHA.1
What are the benefits?
Omega-3s benefit many aspects of our mental and physical health. One of the most well-known benefits of these essential fats, is how they can protect the heart and blood vessels. They can help:
- Lower blood pressure
- Prevent blood clots
- Keep the rhythm of your heart steady
- Improve circulation.2
As well as keeping your heart healthy, omega 3 fats are known for their role in brain development and function. EPA and DHA are abundant in the cell membranes of brain cells, helping to preserve cell membrane health and assisting with communication between brain cells.3 They also have important roles in mental health.
Clinical studies have shown that depressive symptoms can be improved by omega 3 supplementation.4 Although it’s still unclear how, researchers have suggested it may be related to the effect omega-3s have on serotonin, or their anti-inflammatory effects.5
How do we get enough omega-3s?
Even though oily fish are a great source of omega 3 fats, it’s difficult to make sure you’re getting enough. Problems in maintaining good levels of omega 3 in the body arise from the modern-day diet or individual preferences on fish. It has also been found that most vegetable oils sold today which are high in polyunsaturated fats, contain very little omega 3 and large amounts of omega 6 fatty acids.6 This is a problem because an imbalance of these two omegas can interfere with inflammation in our bodies and cause health problems.
A reliable way to get enough essential omega 3 fats is through fish oil, which is usually taken in a supplement form. A high-quality fish oil supplement with a good balance of EPA and DHA is an effective way to get the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids. These are vital for our health and should be made a part of our daily routine as a sure way to optimise our mental and physical well-being.