Fish oil or Omega 3 fatty acids have paved their way frequently into people’s diets over the past 10 years. People who desire to have healthy heart and who are fighting against any disease related to the heart are often advised to consume these oils. Many Omega 3 supplements are available but it’s better to stick to natural sources and the best way to get these essential fatty acids is to eat fish and other marine food items.
A National Health Survey conducted in 2012 in USA, showed that 18.8 million people have consumed fish oils to prevent themselves from having any kind of heart diseases. If you want to be one of them, have a look at the amazing benefits of it before.
What are Omega 3 fatty acids and where do they come from?
Fish is the best source of Omega 3 fatty acids hence they are mostly referred to as “fish oil”
There are basically 3 types of Omega 3 fatty acids:
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA): This is the best known fatty acid and it helps in many ways. The most prime function of these types of omega 3 fatty acids is that it aids in blood clotting and inflammation in our bodies. These are mostly found in marine oils.
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA): These type of fatty acids is essential in many aspects as they are a key component of sperm, cerebral cortex, and retina. These are also obtained from marine oils.
- Alpha-linoleic Acid (ALA): These are mostly found in plant oils e.g. flax seeds, soybean and canola oils.
All these omega 3s can be obtained from a number of food sources. Some of these are:
- Fish and other sea food e.g. salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines etc.
- Plant oils e.g. flax seeds, soybeans, canola oil etc.
- Nuts and seeds e.g. chia seeds, walnuts, cashew nuts, etc.
Recommended dietary allowances
Though there are no recommended dietary allowances for DHA and EPA but experts have established the allowances for ALA, needed by people of different age and sex.
The RDA for different age groups are as follows:
|0 to 12 months||0.5 gm a day|
|1-3 years||0.7 gm a day|
|4-8 years||0.9 gm a day|
|Boys 9-13 years||1.2 gm a day|
|Girls 9-13 years||1.0 gm a day|
|Men||1.6 gm a day|
|Pregnant women||1.4 gm a day|
|Breast feeding women||1.3 gm a day|
Many dietary supplements are available in addition to the natural sources that help in fulfilling our daily requirements. Some of the omega 3 supplements are fish oil, krill oil, cod liver oil, algal oil. These supplements yield large doses of omega 3s.
Benefits of Omega 3S
There are a number of health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids which is a testament to their popularity. Let’s get to know them:
- Improvement in Eye Health: The structural component of the retina is DHA. When a human body is getting enough and recommended amounts of DHA, a risk of Macular degeneration is reduced to great extent.
- Pregnancy and Early Life: Omega 3s are very much essential for growth of brain and other neural developments during pregnancy. Pregnant women should take 8-12 ounces of these essential fatty acids per week for better development of the fetus. Omega 3s should be taken in order to gain the following benefits for the unborn child.
- A higher level of intelligence.
- Minimal risk of developmental delay.
- Minimize the risk of ADHD, autism, or cerebral palsy.
- A child can have better communication and social skills.
- Improves sensory, cognitive, and motor development of the fetus.
Similarly, omega 3s are of prime importance in brain development and better eye sight in infants. A study showed that infants who are fed on DHA fortified formulas have developed a better eye sight than infants who are not fed with DHA fortified formulas. SO, all the to-be moms out there, what are you waiting for?
- Heart Diseases: The leading causes of death around the world are heart diseases and strokes. Researchers have found the people having high or good intake of omega 3s have very low rate of these diseases. Another study showed that people taking omega 3s have lower risk of cardiovascular dysfunction during stressful periods. Any person who has underwent any kind heart surgery, whether it is major or minor, should increase the intake of omega 3s in order to protect themselves from heart attacks.
- Alzheimer’s Disease: Consuming Omega 3s also help in the prevention of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A paper published in Neurology in 2007, delineated that people having omega 3s in their diets like fruits or vegetables, fish or nuts, have lower rate of getting Alzheimer’s.
- Memory Well-being: Omega 3s improve the memory of young adults but it does not have the same beneficial effect for older women.
- Metabolic Syndrome: It is a condition in which a number of problems or diseases are joined together. It includes obesity, high blood pressure, insulin intolerance. These all can lead to other major heart diseases or diabetes. Omega 3s included in our diets, resist all these problems and can improve insulin resistance, prevent heart diseases or inflammation, in people suffering from Metabolic syndrome.
- Autoimmune Diseases: This is a condition in which the human body’s own immune system starts attacking the healthy cells of the body. This may lead to many problems and diseases e.g. Type 1 diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, body’s own immune system strikes against pancreas which produces insulin. When omega 3s are taken properly in the first years of life, it reduces the risk of these autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis. Diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s disease, or Psoriasis in later life.
- Prevents Cancer: An interesting study has showed that 55% of colon cancer risk is decreased due to the consumption of omega 3 fatty acids. It also prevents prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.
- Asthma in Children: Asthma is caused by inflammation and swelling of airways in the lungs. This is followed by coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing. If omega 3s are added to the diets of asthmatic children and young adults, it can lower the risk of Asthma.
- Healthy Liver: With the increasing number of obesity cases, chronic liver diseases have also become very common nowadays. However, if omega 3 fatty acids are replaced with other unhealthy fatty acids, our liver will become healthy and fat-free. If the liver is in good shape, it will ultimately reduce inflammation also.
Only 3gms of omega 3 fatty acids have been recommended for use per day. An excess amount can impart negative effects also:
- Excess omega 3s can affect the normal blood clotting of blood in the body.
- These can cause diarrhea, vomiting, or indigestion.
- As these are good sources of vitamin A and D but if taken in excess, it can be poisonous.
- Too much consumption of fish oils can cause bad breath, heartburn, smelly sweat, or stomach discomfort.
Hence, we can say that omega 3 fatty acids have more benefits than any of the side effects which are fewer in number. Omega 3 supplements should be taken only by consulting the doctor and with proper guidance.