Omega oil. On a good day, it sounds like some sort of futuristic fuel for flying cars. On a bad day, well, let’s just say that it doesn’t sound like the kind stuff you’d want to put into your body, and that goes double for fatty acids. However, the truth is that your body needs omega-3 fatty acids, and there’s a good chance that you’re not getting enough of them in your diet.
According to data drawn from the US National Health Center for Health Statistics, it is suggested that omega-3 deficiency may be responsible for 72,000 to 96,000 preventable deaths in the United States every year, making it the sixth largest risk to American health. But despite these sobering numbers, many otherwise health-conscious individuals have no idea how much omega-3 fatty acid they’re getting in their diets — or even what omega-3 fatty acids are.
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3s are a type of fatty acid that comes in three different forms: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA can be found in certain nuts, seeds, and other plants, but EPA and DHA are found almost exclusively in fatty fish and other seafood. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated, and are considered by the medical community to be an essential part of a healthy diet. This is because despite the numerous health benefits of omega oil, the human body is unable to produce these fatty acids on its own.
Because we can’t make our own omega-3 fatty acids, we need to rely on specific foods and supplements to get the recommended amounts in our diets. In addition to fatty seafoods, fish-oil pills, along with krill-oil pills and calamarine-oil (also known as calamari oil) supplements can help ensure that we don’t end up falling into the the trap of fatty-acid deficiency.
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, mackerel, oysters, tuna, cod, trout, herring, white fish, anchovies, and many other seafoods. With so many omega-3 foods to choose from, why rely on supplementation? Well, while oily fish and other seafoods may be great sources of omega 3, they may also contain less desirable chemicals. Many seafoods are contaminated by pollution, and may contain high levels of mercury — which is a chemical that your body certainly doesn’t need. This goes double for pregnant women.
On top of contamination concerns, there are issues associated with taste. Sure, there are a lot of people who really enjoy seafood, but there are also many who do not. For some, there’s a reason that the word ‘fishy’ means that something doesn’t seem right. For them, the thought of having to regularly ingest seafood is enough to turn their stomachs, and makes the benefits of omega oil and omega-3 foods seem somewhat less beneficial.
Even if you enjoy fish and other seafood, you might not be overly excited about having to work it into your meal rotation several times a week. After all, some fish (we’re looking at you, salmon) tends to run a bit expensive, and can be difficult to acquire fresh if you don’t live near a suitable body of water. All together, an overly fishy diet isn’t something that most dieters are going to be too excited about. This is where supplements come in.
Fish oil pills and other supplements can fill in the gaps left by omega-3 foods. Supplements are easy to take — you can get your recommended dose of omega-3 fatty acids without having to make any drastic changes to your meals. Fish oil pills and other omega-3 supplements can be purchased all over the world, and have a significantly longer shelf life than the average fish dinner. Finally, omega-3 supplements will save you more than a few bucks when compared to having to purchase high-quality seafood multiple times per week.
In short, omega-3 supplements offer the benefits of omega oil, without any of the disadvantages. But to understand why you should bother, we should probably take some time to identify exactly what the benefits of omega oil actually are.
What can omega-3 do for your body?
As we mentioned above, omega-3 foods and supplements provide the body with EPA and DHA — two long-chain acids that the human body simply cannot produce on its own. This is unfortunate, because these long-chain acids are critical to physical development in children, particularly in relation to the development of the brain and eyes. But children aren’t the only ones who benefit from omega-3 acids; adults enjoy numerous advantages as a result of a diet rich in omega oil. Here are 11 potential benefits of omega oil worth considering:
Inflammation associated with arthritis and chronic back and neck pain are all improved with omega-3 intake. While inflammation is a natural and important defence mechanism — it protects the body from infection and gives cells and nutrients a chance to repair damaged tissue — when it doesn’t resolve itself quickly, it can lead to a number of complications. Stomach problems, sleep disorders, joint pain, breathing problems, unhealthy gums, and bone loss are only a few of the potential health problems associated with inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids send out signals to the body. One signal acts as an emergency brake to runaway inflation, preventing inflamed areas from getting worse. A second signal helps to jumpstart the body’s natural repair processes. This is especially important as we age, because the human body slowly loses its ability to properly regulate inflammation as it gets older.
Increased Alzheimer’s protection
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease in the elderly. Studies suggest that inflammation may be a major contributing factor to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, as the body ages, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids deplete in the brain. By increasing omega-3 intake, individuals can help keep their brains young and healthy. Omega-3 supplementation can delay or even prevent cognitive decline.
Omega-3’s anti-inflammatory properties may play a significant role in ongoing brain health. Just as omega-3 fatty acids are important to the initial development of the brain in fetuses and young children, these same fatty acids assist in the creation of new brain cells in adults. DHA is one of the primary building blocks of the brain, specifically the areas associated with language, memory, and attention. Elderly individuals with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their bodies are less likely to develop age-related mental decline.
Reduced lactic acid build up
Anyone who’s ever enjoyed an strenuous workout knows the burn of lactic acid. As the muscles exercise, different aerobic and anaerobic processes break down proteins and produce usable energy. In order to do this, your body needs a good supply of oxygen. However, sometimes workouts require more oxygen then you can effectively supply, so your body creates lactic acid, which can be turned into energy without using oxygen. Unfortunately, that acid can be difficult to burn off. It accumulates in the muscles, and causes an unpleasant burning sensation, as well as potential soreness and fatigue that can last for days.
Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly those found in krill oil, have been shown to reduce lactic acid buildup in muscles. This means that you’ll be able to workout longer and recover more quickly if you have enough omega 3 on your diet.
Improved eye health
Like many other parts of the body, eyes tend to degenerate as we get older. And, like many other parts of the body, eyes rely on long-chain fatty acids to maintain and rebuild cells — particularly retinal cells. Studies have found that those who suffer from age-related macular degeneration generally have significantly lower oily fish and seafood intake than those who do not. As such, those who suffer from age-related eye disorders also have lower amounts of EPA and DHA. In fact, those who include large amounts of fatty acids in their diets are approximately ⅓ as likely as those who do not to experience macular degeneration.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to protect against cataracts, dry eye syndrome, glaucoma, and other eye-related problems. In fact, DHA is found in in the highest concentration in the retina, which indicates that it serves a vital function to retinal health.
Stronger immune system functions
The human immune system is mind-bogglingly complex. It relies on various systems of cells and organs to detect, respond to, and eliminate dangerous pathogens and other threats that could otherwise cause significant damage to the body. Omega-3 fatty acids have long been considered immunosuppressant, because they have the ability to decrease inflammation. However, newer studies are suggesting that fatty acids may have a major positive effect on your immune system, helping it to react appropriately (not too much, not too little) to the various threats that it encounters.
Long-chain fatty acids allow white blood cells to perform better and more efficiently at producing antibodies to combat pathogens, allergens, and other invaders. Additionally, when combined with the antioxidant astaxanthin (which is also found fatty fish and seafood), omega-3 becomes and even more effective immunity booster.
Decreased risk of diabetes
Diabetes is major health issue that affects the way the body is able to use glucose. There are approximately 27 million sufferers of type-2 diabetes in the United States, and another 86 million who have prediabetes. Often, those with type-2 diabetes suffer from something known as insulin resistance; their cells resist the insulin produced by their bodies, forcing their bodies to break down other tissues, such as muscles or even organs, to procure energy.
Omega-3 fatty acids help combat insulin resistance, allowing the body to effectively make use of glucose in the blood stream. Additionally, fish oil can be used to combat other diabetes-related complications, such as certain learning and memory deficits. One study found that fish oil supplementation in diabetic rats increased cognitive functions and protected neurons in the brain (among other benefits). Omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce the risks of complications related to eye diabetes.
It’s an accepted scientific fact that a healthy diet is an essential factor in fertility and pregnancy, but there are certain nutrients that may play a greater role in reproduction than others. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve fertility in men and women, and to benefit both pregnant women and the children they carry. The inflammation-reducing qualities of fish oil help ensure increased fertility in women, and omega-3 can also help balance hormones and regulate menstrual cycles. In men, fatty acids help ensure stronger, healthier, more mobile sperm.
In pregnant women, EPA and DHA is redirected from the mother’s body into the developing fetus, which uses them as critical building blocks for the eyes and nervous system. Even after the baby is born, it will still depend on omega-3 via breast milk or other supplements. A diet rich in fish oil can help ensure that mothers and their developing babies have enough omega-3 fatty acid to stay healthy.
Increased protection against cancer
Once again related to omega-3 fatty acid’s ability to fight inflammation, fish oil may also help protect against cancer and cancer-causing agents. Many different kinds of cancers — including colorectal, liver, lung, breast, and prostate — have been linked to chronic inflammation. Omega-3 foods and supplements can help reduce inflammation, potentially also reducing risks associated with cancer. Additionally, long-chain fatty acids may limit tumor growth, or even destroy cancers cells at the source.
It’s been proven that omega-3 fatty acids can improve the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments. As an added bonus, the immune-system-optimizing effects of fish oil likely also help the body’s natural defences better deal with cancerous cells.
Although it doesn’t get nearly as widespread recognition as some of the other ailments on this list, depression is no less serious. Also worrisome is the fact that the antidepressant drugs used to battle depression often come with a list of terrifying potential side effects, including behavioral changes, decreased sexual drive, or even suicidal thoughts. Recent studies are suggesting that omega-oil sources may be able to combat depression, without any of the dangerous side effects.
The reasons for this correlation are not fully understood, but it is believed DHA has a pronounced effect on emotions and hormones. Omega-3 fatty acids improve overall brain functions, while also helping to balance some of the chemicals that can lead to depression and anxiety.
Improved skin health
When compared to some of the items on this list, it may seem narcissistic to worry about things like skin and hair, but the truth is that skin and hair are important to the body’s overall health. Individuals who get enough omega-3 fatty acids generally enjoy skin that looks younger, is more elastic, and is less likely to suffer from negative skin conditions (like eczema, dandruff, or psoriasis). This is because fatty acids help the skin retain essential moisture.
Fish oil can also help prevent hair from thinning or becoming brittle, helping it retain a healthy shine and stronger follicles.
Improved heart health
Finally, omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent heart disease. By reducing inflammation throughout the body, fatty acids help protect blood vessels from becoming constricted (which can potentially lead to heart disease and strokes). Fish oil can also lower triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and reduce unwanted blood clotting. In short, omega-3 helps improve heart health.
Omega oils for a healthier life.
The above list details just a fraction of the benefits of omega oil. Omega-3 foods and supplements give your body the building blocks it needs to stay young and healthy, inside and out.
Turn your diet into something fishy; enjoy fish and seafood meals when you can, and when you can’t (or really don’t want to), be sure that you’re getting your essential fatty acids through fish oil pills and other supplements.
Remember, you don’t have to love fish to be able to love what fish oil can do for your health.