Over the last several years omega -3 fatty acids have been everywhere. They have become extremely popular with a host of health benefits being attributed to them. Are they really that efficient? Do they play an important role in our body?
The answer is a resounding, YES!
Omega – 3 fatty acids are incredibly important for our body. They fall into the category of essential fatty acids since our body cannot produce it. It therefore becomes important to make sure that we get enough of it through the diet.
Also known as poly unsaturated fatty acid or PUFA, omega – 3 fatty acid has powerful anti – inflammatory properties. Which means that when included regularly in the diet, they have the ability to help your body to heal and thereby fight diseases. They may not be the solution for every disease but they do have a positive effect across various stages – from a pregnant mother, the fetus until old age.
Research shows that omega – 3 fatty acids play an important role in both mental and physical well-being.
1. Mental Health: Depression and anxiety are very common mental disorders. WHO has included mental health under the UN sustainable Development Goals action plan and is emphasizing the removal of stigma associated with seeking help for psychological problems. Several studies support the fact that regular intake of omega – 3 fatty acids help in improving the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies also show that omega – 3 intake helps mothers to deal with post-partum depression in a more effective manner.
2. Heart Health: One of the world’s leading causes for death is heart attacks and strokes. Omega – 3 fatty acid intake shows numerous health benefits for cardio-vascular diseases. They prevent irregular heartbeat, reduce plaque inside the arteries, decrease blood clots, reduce triglycerides, improve the HDL or good fat and decrease blood pressure and inflammation.
3. Brain and Nervous System: Omega – 3 fatty acids are present in high concentration in the brain and the nervous system. They are needed for optimal transmission of messages, to decrease cell death, to prevent cognitive decline like in Alzheimer’s and dementia. It supports brain health during pregnancy and in infants by promoting brain growth and also better eyesight.
4. Bone health: Studies indicate that omega – 3 fatty acids may help in bone formation. This is beneficial for people having osteoporosis and arthritis. Patients suffering from arthritis have reported decrease in joint pain upon regular intake of omega – 3.
5. Skin Health: Omega – 3 has been seen to be beneficial in skin problems as well as helps maintain skin health. Studies show that it suppresses the excessive production of skin cells in psoriasis which spreads the disease, thereby providing relief in the inflammation and pain suffered. They prevent premature ageing of the skin, acne, regulate oil production on the skin etc.
6. Cancer: Several studies show that omega – 3 intake helps in lowering the risk of several kinds of cancers like those of the colon, breast and prostate.
7. Auto – Immune Diseases: When your immune system starts attacking healthy cells of your body by mistaking them to be foreign cells, it triggers an auto immune disease. Type 1 diabetes is an example of this. Omega – 3 fatty acid consumption especially early in life has shown to reduce the risk of developing these diseases like Type 1 diabetes, lupus or multiple sclerosis. It has also shown to be of help in alleviating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s diseases etc.
Apart from the health benefits listed above omega – 3 fatty acids are known to have several other benefits like helping to reduce the severity of non – alcoholic fatty liver, weight loss, asthma especially in children, reduction in menstrual pain, improved sleep and mood, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, insulin resistance etc.
It is important to maintain a balance between the intake of omega- 3 and omega – 6, the other PUFA. Excess intake of omega – 6 fatty acid can in fact increase the inflammation in the body. The ideal ratio of omega – 3 to omega – 6 fatty acid is 1: 1.
The best sources of omega – 3 are fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, spinach, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, mustard seeds, sea algae etc.
Omega – 3 fatty acids are crucial for your optimal health. Include the rich sources in your diet to reap rich benefits!
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(The writer is a gold medalist in Food & Nutrition with more than 12 years experience. She manages various ailments through lifestyle and dietary modifications and specializes in weight loss & management. She practices at 102, Crystal Center, Raheja Vihar, Powai or Smile Craft, 23, Annapurna Industrial estate, Opp. CCD, Ghatkopar East. For appointments: 022 2857 6537 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)