The Benefits of Omega-3

Holistic Nutrition

One compound can be used to treat inflammatory diseases, mental diseases as well as promote overall brain and body health.  You are probably thinking that is too good to be true.  Such a diverse set of health issues must require multiple treatments or medications.  While it is true that there are a number of drugs and therapies that can treat all of those health problems, there is also one single nutrient that can compete.


The beneficial connection between omega-3 fatty acids and human health was discovered back in 1970 in Greenland.  A study of the local Inuit people found that despite their high cholesterol and high fat diet, they showed reduced rates of heart disease, arthritis, and several other common health problems.  This amazed scientists who were already aware of the damage that fat and cholesterol had on the developed world.  Upon taking a closer look, the source of fat was revealed to be marine-based and this seemed to hold the key.


Omega-3 and the Heart


These marine-derived nutrients seem to benefit the heart in numerous ways.  They prevent irregular heartbeat, decrease blood clotting, decrease triglycerides (fat in the blood), increase good cholesterol, decrease inflammation and reduce the fatty plaques that can build in artery walls.  These wonderful benefits for our heart can help to prevent heart attacks and the number one killer in the country; heart disease.  Even if you have heart disease, this super nutrient can increase your chances of longevity once added to your regular diet.


The Super Nutrient


The two most powerful omega-3 fatty acids are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).  These essential nutrients help every cell membrane in your body in the following ways:

  • improving flexibility and communication between cells
  • aiding in cell metabolism
  • serving as a lubricant
  • helping with gene expression

Omega-3 is not the ultimate cure for every health issue, but it does positively impact us from before birth to old age.  Benefits seem to span both the physiological and psychological dimensions of our being.


Mental Health: The concentrations of omega-3 are highest in our brain and nervous system.  These fatty acids are critical to the health and function on neurons.  Additionally, they protect cells, decrease cell death, and improve nerve transmissions.  Since psychological health problems are directly linked to our brains, it makes sense that omega-3 will benefit mental health.  With research showing a connection between omega-3 and the release of serotonin and dopamine, there is a real hope that it can help to decrease depression and violence.


Bones and Skin: The mechanisms are not fully understood but there are studies that show populations with high omega-3 intake have fewer occurrences of osteoporosis.  Omega-3 fatty acids are able to support health bone density.  Additionally, there are properties that benefit the skin.  The original Intuit research showed that the individuals did not suffer much from psoriasis.  This painful skin condition is characterized by inflammation and it is believed that omega-3 can prevent its development.  By suppressing the hyperproliferation of the cells, psoriasis is not able to spread.


Cancer: Given the ability omega-3 has to proliferate skin cells, it is now understood to do the same for breast, colon and prostate cells.  A recent study with breast cancer patients found that when omega-3 was taken regularly, the patient responded better to chemotherapy and cancer was not as likely to spread.  Men were also found to have lower risk of prostate cancer when their dietary intake of omega-3 was high.


What Else Can It Do?


Omega-3 has been linked through research to so many positive health benefits, that it should be a mandatory requirement of our daily nutrition.  There is evidence suggesting that inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can be improved.  Additionally, the effects of diabetes can be improved because of the nutrient’s ability to reduce insulin resistance.  Recently, the U.S. FDA approved for infant formulas to include omega-3 supplements.  The reason being is that it drastically improves the cognitive and visual development of children.


Balance is Everything


Since we know there are two essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, it is important that we balance out their intake.  Compared to earlier humans, we do not get anywhere near the omega-3 levels that we require.  Our ancestors used to eat wild greens, lean animals that grazed on omega-3 rich grasses and fish.  As a result our bodies evolved to rely on this nutrient and as diets changed over the centuries, we have fallen short of getting what we need.  The abundance of fast food and a great deal more omega-6 presence, the changes to our diets have proven detrimental.


Omega-6 is found in soybean and vegetable oils.  Too much of this nutrient can cause inflammation, blood clotting and constricts blood vessels.  Too much omega-3 has been linked to excessive bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke. Because omega-3 suppresses inflammation, it is essentially preventing the immune system from doing its job, which can have negative consequences.  The immune system deploys inflammatory responses when a pathogenic substance is identified, and without this response, we could be exposed to serious illnesses.


When the two are present in equal amounts, the more positive results discussed previously can be seen.  Your genetics actually play a large role in how your body responds to omega-3.  Research is ongoing to determine what impact genetics has exactly as well as discovering the optimal omega-3 and 6 ratios.


Supplemental Solution


Our access to omega-3 grass fed animals and wild greens is gone, and fish have become more polluted from environmental and human causes.  The good news is that we can still get the beneficial fatty acids that our bodies are craving.  Supplements of omega-3 oils are just as effective as the natural sources and are readily available in pharmacies and health food stores.    You should always consult your physician before taking any supplement, especially if you are currently taking any medications.


Omega-3 fatty acids are quickly becoming the go-to treatment for so many common diseases and problems.  And they don’t even come with any side-effects.  Whether you increase your fatty acid intake to battle an existing health condition, or just to boost overall health, there is much to be gained.  When such a small nutrient delivers such as large hit to diseases, it is no wonder it had got people talking.