Last Updated on 1 December 2020 by Ray Plumlee
In today’s world, when we seem to have a heightened awareness of fat in our diets, we should never lose sight of the fact that certain fats are essential to our health. So, when it comes to fat, there is at least one type you do not want to eliminate, and that is omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats of three types. These types are:
- A-linolenic acid (ALA), found in plant oils
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA0, found in marine oils
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), also found in marine oils
The ALA plants oils are especially abundant in walnuts, edible seeds, seed oils, clary sage, algal oils, hemp oil, and flaxseed oil, while the animal omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are to be found in fish oils, egg oils, and krill oils.
Omega 3 fatty acids play an important role in normal metabolism. Mammals are unable to synthesize the long chain omega 3 fatty acids, but can obtain these through another process. ALA, a short-chain variety of the fat, can be ingested either in a regular diet, or through supplements. The body can then convert these short-chain varieties to the longer-chained varieties EPA and DHA. However, this process may be impaired in the aging process.
It must be noted that there has been some evidence as to the importance of omega 3 fatty acids in the human body. People suffering from advanced cancer, or cachexia, the wasting away condition which often accompanies cancer and its treatment, may benefit as omega 3’s may improve appetite, assuage weight loss, and lead to a better quality of life. In addition, there is some evidence that marine omega 3 fatty acids may lead to a decreased risk of breast cancer.
Omega 3’s are sometimes touted as being beneficial to our cardiovascular system, and there is some evidence to support this claim. Studies have found a decreased risk for high blood pressure when there are higher levels of DPA in the blood. Studies suggest that a supplement of 1 gram per day, taken for at least a year, may help prevent aggressive heart disease, sudden death, or myocardial infarction in patients with a history of cardiovascular disease. EPA and DHA may stimulate the circulation of the blood, while at the same time helping to decrease the presence of fibrin, a substance known to be involved in the formation of blood clots and scar tissue. It is unclear whether these substances can be beneficial in preventing strokes, but there is some evidence that this is true, especially in the case of woman.
In 2013, a study indicated that marine fatty acids are useful in the reduction of inflammation, which has been proved harmful. Marine omega 3’s seemed to provide modest, but consistent, relief in joint swelling, morning stiffness, and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Since inflammation is a main contributor to asthma, omega 3 fatty acids may be of benefit to sufferers. And there is some indication that omega 3 fatty boost the efficacy of traditional anti-inflammatory drugs.
Omega 3 fatty acids may even be of some help in dealing with some psychological conditions such as anxiety disorders and depression, especially as manifested as part of a bipolar disorder. Preliminary studies have suggested some improvement in mild cognitive problems when treated with omega 3 fatty acid supplements.