Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are good fats for the body. They are polyunsaturated fats with chain-like structures consisting of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. The carbon acts as the spine of the molecule while the others arrange themselves according to carbon or other groups. In unsaturated fats, there are open areas in the chain for attachment of other groups, and elements, unlike saturated fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential components of food that are beneficial for cardiac, physical and mental health.
Benefits of omega-3 fatty acids according to research
Omega-3 fatty acids are good fats that have many favorable effects on health. Modern-day lifestyle is mostly sedentary, and people are more likely to undertake office work than physical work.
Omega-3 fatty acids from the diet have proved to be even more friendly to health as it is nature’s health jewel stored in mines of food sources, whilst omega-3 supplementation through capsules alone has shown a 15% reduction in deaths, and 20-45% mitigation of complications and fatality due to strokes or cholesterol. There are multiple proposed theories about the mechanism of action of omega-3. In brief, it emerges that omega-3 fatty acids work by reducing triglyceride levels, reducing high blood pressure and circulation of inflammatory proteins.
Omega-3 types which are commonly found in the diet, especially in a plant-based diet, include ALA (Alpha Linolenic acid) which is the precursor of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), although the human body cannot convert a significant amount of ALA to DHA and EPA. ALA, DHA and EPA are beneficial for heart, skin, eyes and brain and mental health/brain health.
Omega-3 supplementation has proved to be beneficial for several mental health diseases like Schizophrenia, mood disorders and other psychiatric disorders (borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by reducing irritability, helping to improve the condition of tardive dyskinesia due to antipsychotic medications and thereby keeping the stability of mood, moderation of symptoms and overall well being in brain health.
Specifically, EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) has proved beneficial in most mental health conditions and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) in the overall development of memory, intelligence and learning new skills.
Dietary additions, as well as supplementations, have proved omega-3 to be highly beneficial for the physical and mental well-being of the human body.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids
- Beans (e.g., Soybeans)
- Nuts (e.g., Walnuts)
- Oily fish (e.g., Mackerel, Salmon)
- Seeds (e.g., Chia seeds, Flax seeds)
- Shellfish (e.g., Oysters)
- Vegetables (e.g., Brussel sprouts, Spinach)
How much omega-3 fatty acids do I need?
Studies in clinical research conclude that an adult of 30-35 years old requires 3g per day omega-3 to maintain heart health, mood and skin/overall health.
It is recommended to include omega-3 in the diet, but often due to inadequate dietary intake and medical conditions or failure to convert omega-3 into the specific types by the body, deficiency is not curbed.
In such cases, supplementations may be necessary but one has to consider the recommendations of your physician and the quality of the supplement for intake. Cheap quality omega-3 (mainly fish oil supplements) contains less amount of omega-3 in a capsule where side effects might be more than the beneficial effects.
Should I take omega-3 fatty acids daily?
A regular/daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids has proved to be more beneficial than irregular or erratic intake. Any medicine or dietary intake or supplementation works in our body by releasing metabolites that get eliminated in due time, thus to get a proper effect of any nutrient /medicine or supplement, daily intake is needed.
Omega-3, due to its anti-inflammatory effects, also keeps our body safe from any inflammatory conditions, which can be maintained only if taken daily.
Keeping in mind, that excess of anything is not good, hence moderation and the recommended dosage is the key to the beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
Who should not take omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 can be taken by every age group and individual in recommended and moderated doses. Speak to your physician or nutritionist for specific guidelines.
In some cases where the individual shows allergic reactions or side effects, supplementation is not recommended, only natural sources under limitations are recommended. The risk factors are not very high but they should always be brought to the notice of a healthcare professional.
What are the side effects of omega-3 fatty acids?
Side effects include fishy breath, an odd taste in the mouth, belching and bloating, fishy body odour and indigestion.
There are situations where individuals taking supplements complain of nausea, indigestion, steatorrhea and loose stool motion. A very high intake for a prolonged period might cause prolonged bleeding although this is not as potent as medications like aspirin.
Overall the side effects are not usually serious or long-lasting.
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for the healthy functioning of the body. Omega-3 is naturally found in several seed oils, fish oils and nuts. Moderate intake and recommended supplementation are highly beneficial for the maintenance of heart health, skin, eyes, inflammatory diseases and mental health.
Omega-3 is one of the most important components of a balanced diet and also helps to improve lifestyle diseases as well as responses to chronic diseases.
Few and non-serious side effects and multiple benefits make omega-3 a great companion for optimum health.
- Hu Y, Hu FB, Manson JE. Marine omega‐3 supplementation and cardiovascular disease: an updated meta‐analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials involving 127 477 participants. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2019 Oct 1;8(19):e013543.
- Peet M, Stokes C. Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders: Drugs 2005;65:1051–9. https://doi.org/10.2165/00003495-200565080-00002.
- Zhang X, Ritonja JA, Zhou N, Chen BE, Li X. Omega‐3 polyunsaturated fatty acids intake and blood pressure: a dose‐response meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2022 Jun 7;11(11):e025071.