Time and again I have mentioned the importance of including omega-3 fatty acids as a part of a healthy diet. Decades of research have been devoted to discovering the many benefits of omega-3s, and a wide variety of health professionals suggest consuming them due to their positive health impact. Omega-3s come from both plant and animal sources, but the problem is with the standard American diet, the majority of us do not eat enough of the right foods to get the proper amounts of these fats. For this reason, many individuals choose to use supplements to add sufficient omega-3s into their diet.
Animal sources of omega-3s are mainly found in fish and krill oil, and come in the forms of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), while plant sources are rich in alpha-linoleic acid (ALA). While ALA is important, current research links most of the cellular-level health benefits to EPA and DHA. In 2008, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published multiple studies investigating the importance of EPA and DHA in elderly populations. The research indicated low concentrations of these omega-3s resulted in increased death from all forms of mortality, along with earlier cognitive decline. Several health benefits of omega-3s became clear from this research.
Omega-3s Benefit Your Heart Health
An Italian study of over 11,000 heart attack survivors found that those who supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids were significantly less likely of another heart attack, stroke, or sudden cardiac-related death. A separate American study found that men who eat fatty fish at least once per week had a 50% lower risk of dying from a sudden cardiac event compared to men who ate fish less than once per month.
Omega-3s Regulate and Normalize Cholesterol Triglyceride Levels
Triglyceride (fat) levels are important indicators of your body’s ability to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. The connection here comes from omega-3s’ effect on the liver. Research has found both EPA and DHA to reduce the activity of a liver enzyme to metabolize fat, leading to less triglycerides in the cardiovascular system.
Omega-3s Affect Learning and Behavior in Children
EPA and DHA are known to greatly influence brain health by keeping dopamine levels high, increasing neuronal growth in the frontal cortex, and increasing blood circulation in the brain. Multiple studies have shown this importance in children. A study published in Plos One in 2013 found that healthy school-aged children with lower levels of DHA had poorer reading and memory, as well as higher likelihood of behavior problems. Previous research has also correlated ADHD and related behavior and learning disorders with lower levels of omega-3 fats.
The health benefits of omega-3s are too clear to be ignored, yet the majority of Americans still do not get enough of these healthy fats from their diets alone. As I mentioned, it is important to supplement omega-3s from a trusted source if you feel your diet may be lacking. Ask how we can help!
Yours in Health, Dr. Alex