7 Health Benefits Of Omega 3 You Need To Know
Omega 3 is the most studied and researched nutrient on the planet.
In the nutrition community, there can be disagreement about everything but it is a universally agreed fact that omega 3 is essential for every human being.
Omega 3 falls under the category of essential fatty acids. They are essential because the body cannot make these fatty acids and it has to be provided through external sources.
This itself shows how important omega 3 is for your health.
There are three types of omega 3 fatty acids :
ALA – Alpha-Linolenic Acid
EPA – Eicosapentaenoic Acid
DHA – Docosahexaenoic Acid
EPA and DHA are the most important omega 3 fatty acids. ALA is mainly found in plants and EPA and DHA are found in animal sources.
Our body has to convert ALA into EPA and DHA to use it. ALA’s conversion process is inefficient. Only a small portion of ALA converts to EPA and even lesser into DHA. Thus, it is important to get EPA and DHA independently along with ALA to increase the health benefits of omega 3.
So, now that we know the importance of omega 3, let’s move on to the health benefits of omega 3.
The 7 Important Health Benefits Of Omega 3
1. Omega 3 reduces inflammation
Omega 3 helps in reducing inflammation in two ways:
1. By providing Resolvins
Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the best ways to counter inflammation because they provide your body with chemicals called resolvins.
This remarkable substance turns off inflammation in the body when it is no longer needed to fight infection.
2. By turning on the pathway of Nrf2
Nrf2 (Nuclear factor erythroid 2) is a special protein which lies dormant in every cell. When the inflammation due to oxidative stress increases, an alarm in the body will turn on the Nrf2 activator.
Nrf2 activator activates this Nrf2 protein.
The Nrf2 protein then bonds with DNA in the cell. And this bonding opens the door for a vast array of important antioxidants as well as detoxification enzymes.
This results in the reduction of inflammation and the elimination of harmful toxins.
Omega 3 helps in activating this pathway.
2. Omega 3 can slow down the aging process by increasing the length of Telomeres
Telomeres are believed to hold secrets to our health and how we age. Telomeres are the caps on the ends of the chromosomes. They are an essential part of our cells and they affect the aging of our cells.
As we age the length of telomeres decreases. Shorter telomeres mean faster aging. Studies have shown that omega 3 (especially DHA) increases the activity of telomerase enzyme which lengthens telomeres.
3. Omega 3 can improve bone density
Like muscles, bone is an active tissue. It is constantly forming new bone tissues while removing the old and broken tissues.
These processes are known as:
osteoblast – formation of new bone cells
osteoclast – break down of bone cells
Creating new bone cells takes longer than breaking down of old cells.
When the inflammation in the body is higher, the osteoclast activity increases. Thus, we start to lose bone cells faster than they can be replaced with the new ones. If inflammation remains elevated, it can lead to a decrease in bone density, which can advance to osteoporosis.
Omega 3 reduces inflammation, which will dial down the osteoclast activity. So, fewer bone cells will be destroyed.
In addition to reducing the inflammation, omega 3 also promotes osteoblast activity. This will give bones enough time to make new bone cells resulting in an increase in the bone density.
4. Omega 3 improves brain function
A fatty body is unhealthy but a fatty brain is bright and brilliant.
Do you know that the brain is the fattiest organ in your body? The brain is made up of 60% fat. Also, the brain carries more than 100 billion cells and omega 3 fatty acids are the building blocks of these cells.
The brain has a very high concentration of omega 3 and 90% of this omega 3 is in the form of DHA. It plays a significant role in building healthy cell membranes, forming important brain chemicals, and improving nerve transmission.
DHA forms an integral part in the structure of the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is responsible for memory, language, creativity, emotion, and attention.
5. Omega 3 is good for the eyes
The retina – the nerve layer that lines the back of your eye – contains a high concentration of omega 3 fatty acid DHA. DHA helps in maintaining the integrity and structure of the retina.
Many eye doctors recommend adding a good quantity of omega 3 in the diet to reduce the risk of eye problems.
Omega 3 has also shown to reduce and prevent many eye disorders like –
Macular degeneration – The omega-3 have shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration (MD), a crippling eye disorder that’s one of the biggest causes of blindness globally.
Diabetic Retinopathy – It’s a condition that damages the blood vessels in the eyes. Diets high in omega 3 can lower these damages.
Glaucoma – A condition of increased pressure within the eyes. Omega 3 helps in adjusting the blood flow in the eye to relieve this pressure.
Dry eye caused by wearing contact lenses – Excessive or improper use of lenses can cause damage to corneal nerves. This can lead to dry eye. DHA can repair these nerves and decrease eye dryness.
6. Omega 3 can reduce the risk of heart diseases
High levels of triglyceride in blood are associated with an increased risk of heart diseases. Increasing the amount of omega 3 in your diet will reduce your triglyceride levels, without affecting LDL and HDL cholesterol.
7. Omega 3 can improve sleep
What happens when you can’t sleep properly in the night? The next day is ruined. You feel lethargic, unmotivated, and irritated.
Everyone knows the importance of a good night’s sleep. It repairs and refreshes the brain and body on so many levels. Omega 3 has been shown to improve the quality of sleep and helps you fall asleep quickly. More the omega 3 concentration in the blood, less sleep-related problems you will have.
DHA boosts melatonin levels. Melatonin, also known as sleep hormone, controls our sleep and wake cycles.
Studies have shown that low levels of DHA can cause melatonin deficiency – and an increase in DHA causes the melatonin levels to rise.
I hope that after knowing these health benefits of omega 3, you will make a conscious effort of adding omega 3 rich food in your diet.
So, what are the best sources of omega 3?
Sources of Omega 3
Plant sources (contains ALA) – Walnuts, Chia seed, Flaxseed, Hemp seed, Brussels sprouts, Seaweed, Spinach, Broccoli
Animal sources (contains EPA and DHA) – Free-range Eggs, Fatty Fish like mackerel, salmon, sardines, shrimps etc.
Supplements for omega 3 – Ocean algae, Fish oil, Krill oil, Flaxseed oil, Cod liver oil