The Wonder of Omega-3s Part 1

fuel omega part 1Lately, there has been much talk about Omega-3 acids. Most people don’t really understand them, but believe they come from fish and that they are good for your heart. And that seems to be the extent of it. Surprisingly, Omega-3s come from both animal and plant sources, most notably from krill oil and fish oil. They have become a multibillion-dollar business, with Americans spending about $2.6 billion on nutritional supplements and foods fortified with omega-3 fats.

Types of Omega-3 Fats

Marine animals such as fish and krill provide eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are mostly promoted for their protective effects on your heart. Flaxseed, chia, hemp, and a few other foods, on the other hand, offer alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) – another form of omega-3s. Generally, the animal-based varieties have been shown to provide the greater health benefits linked to omega-3 fats – EPA and DHArather than the plant-based ALA. Furthermore, ALA is converted into EPA and DHA in your body at a very low ratio. What this means is that even if you consume large amounts of ALA, your body can only convert a relatively small amount into EPA and DHA, and only when there are sufficient enzymes.

Remember, though, that plant-based omega-3 fats are NOT inherently harmful and should not be avoided. Ideally, what you want to do is include an animal-based form in your diet and combine flax and hemp in your diet to supplement the animal-based omega-3s.

A Rundown of Omega-3 Benefits

Omega-3s rank among the most important essential nutrients out there today. In 2008, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published three studies investigating the role of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids in elderly populations. Low concentrations of EPA and DHA resulted in an increased risk of death from all causes, as well as accelerated cognitive decline. The studies also suggest that a higher intake of omega-3s may bring certain health benefits that short-term supplementation cannot give.

Here are other evidence of omega-3 benefits:

1. Omega-3 benefits your heart health. An Italian study (GISSI)7 of 11,324 heart attack survivors found that patients supplementing with fish oils markedly reduced their risk of another heart attack, stroke, or death. In a separate study, American medical researchers reported that men who consumed fish once or more every week had a 50 percent lower risk of dying from a sudden cardiac event than do men who eat fish less than once a month.

2. Omega-3s normalize and regulate your cholesterol triglyceride levels. Compared to a statin, both fish oil and krill oil are more efficient in doing this. According to a study comparing the efficiency of krill and fish oils in reducing triglyceride levels, both oils notably reduced the enzyme activity that causes the liver to metabolize fat, but krill had a more pronounced effect, reducing liver triglycerides significantly more. Fasting triglyceride levels are a powerful indication of your ability to have healthy lipid profiles, which can be indicative of your heart health. Studies have also shown that omega-3 fats are anti-arrhythmic (preventing or counteracting cardiac arrhythmia), anti-thrombotic (prevents thrombosis or a blood clot within a blood vessel), anti-atherosclerotic (preventing fatty deposits and fibrosis of the inner layer of your arteries), and anti-inflammatory (counteracting inflammation – the heat, pain, swelling, etc).

3. DHA affects your child’s learning and behavior. Do you want to maximize your child’s intellectual potential? A study published in Plos One in June 2013 linked low levels of DHA with poorer reading, and memory and behavioral problems in healthy school-age children. In another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in August 2013,11 children who consumed an omega-3 fat supplement as infants scored higher on rule learning, vocabulary, and intelligent testing at ages 3 to 5. Previous research also found that children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and related behaviorial or learning disabilities are more likely to have low omega-3 fat levels. Omega-3s also have great impact on your brain health – EPA and DHA keep the dopamine levels in your brain high, increase neuronal growth in the frontal cortex of your brain, and increase cerebral circulation.

4. Omega-3s have been found to save the lives of children going through short bowel syndrome (SBS), which is uncommon but impacts thousands of people in the United States. SBS can occur from birth (when a portion of the intestine fails to develop) or due to an infectious inflammatory disease striking premature newborns. In adults, it can be caused by surgery for Crohn’s disease or injury.

Omega-3 benefits cover many areas of health, from mental and behavioral health to preventing premature death from disease, including the following:

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Click here for The Wonder of Omega-3s Part 2 as we discussed the sources of animal-based omega-3 fats and many more!

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