What are the benefits of Omega 3?

Do you have a few hours to talk about the benefits of omega-3s? There are hundreds of books and thousands of studies analyzing the benefits of omega-3s, and I’m breaking down what and why these essential fatty acids are such a big deal. So, if you’re interested in learning more about omega-3s and what science really says about what they do for us, keep reading.

First, What Are Omega-3s?

Before diving into the benefits, it’s important to understand what omega-3s are. An Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid — meaning that it’s needed by the body, but we cannot produce it internally. We have to ingest it through food sources or through omega-3 supplementation. (1)

There are three forms of omega-3 molecules: 

  • Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) with 18 chains — ALA comes from vegetarian sources.
  • Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) 20 chains — EPA comes from fish or other non-vegetarian sources.
  • Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). 22 chain — DHA also comes from fish or other non-vegetarian sources. 

What Are The Benefits of Omega-3?

The list is quite lengthy, but for starters, based on the Inuit studies of the 1970s, the main interest in omega-3 essential fatty acids was exploring the benefits as it related to the cardiovascular system. Researchers found that Greenland Inuit tribesmen actually had lower rates of acute myocardial infarction as compared to the Western control participants. (2) It was after this initial study that led to over 4,500 studies that started to take a closer look at the effects omega-3 fatty acids had on overall human health. (3)

Since these findings, there have been more clinical studies on omega-3 than any other food group, and the research has been clear — omega-3 fatty acids play a huge role in overall wellness.

Here are what some research studies have concluded about omega-3s and our health.

Anti-inflammatory

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to come with anti-inflammatory properties. (4) This is important for every cell in the body since systemic inflammation is at the root of almost all modern-day chronic disease. (5)

Cardiovascular Health

One of the most talked-about benefits of omega-3 fatty acids has to do with cardiovascular health. Studies have shown just how important they are for heart health, and some research notes that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce cardiovascular disease risk. (6) In fact, The American Heart Association has stated that eating fish twice per week (3.5 ounces per serving) reduces heart stroke risk. (7)

Brain Health

Some research has also shown that omega-3 fatty acids are important for both eye and brain health. (8, 9) Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy has also been shown to play an important role in infant brain development. (10)

Depression

There has also been some research that has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may help with depression, which researchers note may be linked to increasing as well as maintaining brain structures, as well as preventing and or lowering inflammatory status that happens to occur during depression. (11)

Anti-inflammatory

There has also been some research that has suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may help with depression, which researchers note may be linked to increasing as well as maintaining brain structures, as well as preventing and or lowering inflammatory status that happens to occur during depression. (11)

Omega-3s for Skin & Hair Health

Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to be beneficial for the health of our skin and hair. (1213)

Where to Find Omega-3s

Omega-3 sources

Since the body cannot produce omega-3s, it’s important that we make sure that we are getting enough through diet or supplementation.

Here are some great omega-3 food sources:

  • Smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts

While fish is the best way to get our omega-3s, not everyone eats or even likes fish, so if you choose to get your omega-3s from plant-based sources, note that you will need to eat more than if you were getting your omega-3s just from fish. This is because plant-based foods offer ALA (Alpha Linoleic Acid), which needs to be converted into EPA and then further converted into DHA in order for us humans to benefit.

Supplementation

Omega 3 supplements

Another option is supplementation, which many people find to be the most convenient way to get enough omega-3s. However, with supplementation, ideally, you want a purified omega-3 supplement with no contamination from heavy metals.

There are different options available such as fish oil or krill oil, which unlike fish oil is phospholipid based, the same structure as our cells, so there is rapid absorption there. True Omega-3 is an ethyl ester based omega-3 supplement that costs about 15 cents per capsule and is pure, 3rd party tested, and what’s on the label is what’s in the capsule.

Getting Enough Omega-3 For Overall Health

No matter how you get your omega-3s, the important part is that you are getting enough since the body relies on us to get these fats from food or supplementation. So, optimize your diet with omega-3 rich foods, and if you know you aren’t getting enough, high-quality supplementation may be the most convenient option.


Disclaimer: Always speak with your doctor about any questions or concerns you have related to supplementing with omega-3s, and check with your doctor before adding any new supplements to your supplement routine.

Resources

  1. National Institutes of Health. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
  2. From Inuit to Implementation: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Come of Age. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/12466978_From_Inuit_to_Implementation_Omega-3_Fatty_Acids_Come_of_Age
  3. From Inuit to Implementation: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Come of Age. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/12466978_From_Inuit_to_Implementation_Omega-3_Fatty_Acids_Come_of_Age
  4. Philip C. Calder. Omega-3 Fatty Acid & Inflammatory Processes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257651/
  5. Philip Hunter. The Inflammation Theory of Disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/
  6. Ashish Chaddha, Kim Eagle. Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Heart Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
  7. American Heart Association. Eating Fish Twice a Week Reduces Heart Stroke Risk. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/05/25/eating-fish-twice-a-week-reduces-heart-stroke-risk#:~:text=To%20get%20the%20full%20benefits,of%20flaked%20fish%2C%20every%20week.
  8. Emma Derbyshire. Brain Health Across the Lifespan: A Systemic Review on the Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6116096/
  9. Harvard Health Publishing. Omega-3 For Your Eyes. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/omega-3-for-your-eyes
  10. Helland IB, Smith L, Saarem K, Saugstad OD, Drevon CA. Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children’s IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics. 2003;111(1):e39-e44. doi:10.1542/peds.111.1.e39
  11. Giuseppe Grosso, Fabio Galvano, […], and Filippo Caraci. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Depression: Scientific Evidence and Biological Mechanisms. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3976923/
  12. Tse-Hung Huang, Pei-Wen Wang, […], and Jia-You Fang. Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil’s Fatty Acids on the Skin. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6117694/
  13. Jung-Il Kang, Hoon-Seok Yoon, […], and Hee-Kyoung Kang. Mackerel-Derived Fermented Fish Oil Promotes Hair Growth by Anagen-Stimulating Pathways. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164340/