Omega-3 fatty Acids – what are they?

 Omega-3`s are an essential nutrient. Humans are unable to synthesize these fatty acids in the body. Therefore, such fats must be obtained essentially from diet alone. Omega-3`s have been linked with a plethora of health promoting benefits. Furthermore, Omega-3 fish oils have also been influential in weight loss.

What foods are rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

The types of Omega-3`s are Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is found in foods such as flaxseed, walnuts and canola oil. EPA and DHA are richly contained in fish oil. Cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring and tuna (Fresh) are great sources of EPA and DHA.

Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Studies show that populations with diets rich in omega-3 rich fish have a decreased prevalence of Cardiovascular Heart Disease (CHD). Research show men who consume at least one fish meal per week had lower CHD related mortality then men who ate none. Increase in life expectancy has been correlated with fish oil. One study observed that after 3 months of fish oil supplementation – all cause mortality was reduced by 20%. Additionally, sudden death was significantly lowered by 45% four months from commencing supplementation. Improved blood lipid profile was also noted in participants of the study. Supplementation of fish oil has also been linked to attenuating symptoms of depression, anxiety and mood swings. However, continued study is needed on Omega-3 fish oil as treatment of mental illness.

Omega-3`s have a strong anti-inflammatory influence and have shown to bolster the immune system and circumvent the development of chronic disease. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been linked with preventing muscle wasting in cancer patients and older men. In addition, fish oil has been seen as a successful therapeutic aid in the management of rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore it has been found that muscle soreness and range of movement were markedly improved at 48 hours post-exercise in the omega-3 fatty acid group versus placebo or control group. This is beneficial news for the athlete and strength trainer if muscle recovery can be enhanced between sessions. However, further study is needed on this topic.

Compelling results were observed from an energy controlled study involving overweight and obese participants. Results showed that weight loss was much greater in the groups eating either a diet high in omega-3 rich fish or supplementing with fish oil. In fact, after 4 weeks weight loss was over 1kg (2.2lbs) greater in the fish oil groups then those who consumed no fish or supplementation. Further studies on the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids and health are still ongoing. Nevertheless, to date the evidence has been eye opening.

Recommended intake of Omega-3

Based on the health benefits provided from Omega-3 fatty acids – The Institute of Medicine advice that women should consume at least 1.1g and men consume 1.8g of ALA omega-3 fatty acid daily. Ideally, your source of Omega-3 should come from oily fish, the American heart Association recommends eating 2-3 fish meals per week. If you are not a fish lover, then supplementing with Omega-3 fish oil is essential. An average female should aim for a minimum of 2g of fish oil (EPA + DHA) daily. A good supplement source should have at least 500mg of fish oil per dose.

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