Omega 3 Supplements - An Ultimate Guide
- What is Omega 3?
- What are the health benefits of Omega 3?
- Do I need Omega 3 supplements?
- Is it important to know the source of my Omega 3?
- What must I look out for in Omega 3 supplements?
- Can I use Omega 3 oil topically?
“If you want to have better heart health, include Omega 3 in your diet.”
That is a line you’ve probably heard before. Most people link Omega 3 with eating fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna. In this guide, we will be taking a close look at what Omega 3 is, and if it is beneficial for you and your heart.
What is Omega 3?
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid that is needed by the body. It is dubbed essential because our body cannot make Omega 3. It means we will have to get it through our diet. Omega 3 is obtained from animals or plants.
Three fatty acids make up Omega 3:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA),
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
While these names sound harder to pronounce than the Peter Piper tongue twister, it’s important to know more about them.
Known to be the most common kind of Omega 3, ALA is mostly used by the body as a source of energy. Only a minuscule amount can be converted into EPA and DHA (its active form). Foods such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soybeans are excellent sources of ALA.
Most animal-based products like fish oil and fatty fish (salmon and tuna) contain EPA. Some microalgae have this type of Omega 3 too.
It is often referred to as the most significant kind of Omega 3, as it is a key component of several organs such as the brain and the retina. DHA is usually found in the meat, eggs or dairy made from animals that feed on grass. Fatty fish and fish oil also contain high doses of DHA.
What are the health benefits of Omega 3?
There are a lot of reasons to love and incorporate Omega 3 into your diet. Here are just some of them!
1. Improves eye health
As mentioned previously, Omega 3 (specifically DHA) is a vital structural component of your retina. Lack of Omega 3 will cause your eye muscles to degenerate quickly, leading to blindness and permanent eye damage.
There is no doubt that Omega 3 works wonders for eye health. Clinical research is said to have only scratched the surface with regards to the function of Omega 3 in primary and secondary prevention of eye diseases.
If you suffer from the onset of dry eyes or macular degeneration (distortion of eyesight, especially in the central zone), it is worth pumping up Omega 3 in your diet.
2. Promotes brain development during pregnancy and early life
Omega 3 is highly recommended for you if you are currently pregnant. Studies have shown that pregnant mothers who consume Omega 3 supplements give birth to children with better social skills, better eyesight, higher intelligence and fewer behavioral problems.
From the previous sub-topic, we know Omega 3 contains DHA which is crucial for brain development. Insufficient DHA in the brain can lead to deficits in neurogenesis (formation of new neurons in the brain pivotal during embryo development). Brain development continues after birth, and breastmilk is the baby’s source of DHA. Therefore, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should watch their Omega 3 intake, so that it is sufficient for both mother and child.
Research has also found evidence of a strong correlation between blood levels of Omega 3s and better brain function in children aged two to six.
3. Improves risk factors for heart disease
Omega 3 has been proven to reduce inflammation, blood pressure and the clogging of arteries by plaque. It is little wonder then that this nutrient is associated with lowering the rates of heart disease and stroke - one of the top causes of deaths worldwide.
This is how Omega 3 improves the risk factors:
- Lowers risk of abnormal heartbeat
- Lowers triglyceride (fat in the blood) levels
- Reduces growth of plaque that can potentially clog blood vessels
- Prevents blood vessel inflammation
4. Helps to combat inflammation
Whenever your body suffers an infection, inflammation occurs as a natural response to fight it. However, chronic inflammation can occur, often caused by sensitivity, autoimmune disorders or long term infection. If left untreated, inflamed areas can lead to other diseases or health problems.
Omega 3 can reduce inflammation by changing the composition of our membrane fluidity, stopping the production of inflammatory molecules like cytokines (small proteins for cell signalling) and eicosanoids (local hormones).
A focused research was conducted on obese pregnant women because they are more at risk of inflammation that will lead to infection, premature delivery and severe preeclampsia. The research found that Omega 3 supplements decreased inflammation by changing the composition of the cell membrane that helps with an anti-inflammatory cascade.
5. Reduces menstrual pain
Ah yes, the monthly bane of all women when they curl up into a human ball groaning in pain when their menstrual cycle beckons. Eight out of ten women reportedly experience at least one symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) every month. It is ‘normal’ for women to reach out for ibuprofen to fight off the cramps.
Instead of popping a painkiller to alleviate the agony, why not give Omega 3 a try? Several studies have shown Omega 3’s effectiveness in managing menstrual pain.
In a study to compare the effectiveness of ibuprofen and Omega 3 in treating severe PMS, the results show that fish oil (loaded with Omega 3) is more efficient than ibuprofen in providing relief. Omega 3 can also relieve bloating, breast tenderness and headaches.
6. Has potential to help with depression
Many possible causes lead to depression, from defective mood regulation, stress, and even medication.
Initial studies have found that Omega 3 fatty acid could be helpful to combat depression. EPA found in Omega 3 is good to be used with antidepressant medication to help provide relief. However, Omega 3 is NOT to be used in place of antidepressants.
Do I need Omega 3 supplements?
According to a 2018 research carried out by Harvard University, there is no definite answer as to whether one should take Omega 3 supplements as it is highly dependent on his/her overall health and risk factors for certain diseases.
So if your family has a history of heart-related diseases, you should take high strength Omega 3 supplements as it has shown promising results in decreasing your risk from succumbing to it. If you’re a healthy person, there is no reason for you to stop taking this supplement unless your doctor says so.
Take Omega 3 for the upkeep of your general well being. If you can’t consume at least two servings of fatty fish a week, it is recommended that you have Omega 3 in your pantry of supplements. However, no matter how many benefits Omega 3 have, they cannot outweigh the lasting rewards that exercise and a healthy diet offer.
Is it important to know the source of my Omega 3?
You can get your Omega 3 dose from food or from a supplement.
If you get Omega 3 from food sources, you’ll be consuming other essential vitamins and minerals too. For example, when you eat fatty fish, you are not only getting Omega 3, you are also feeding your body protein, vitamin D and vitamin B.
Seafood like oysters, mackerel, salmon, anchovies, and a more luxurious option, caviar, is an excellent source of Omega 3. If you don’t like seafood, consider taking flaxseed, chia seed, walnut or soy.
More people are moving toward taking supplements these days because they are wary of where the fish originated. Certain farmed fish are said to have high levels of toxins such as mercury. You may be consuming Omega 3, but how do you remove toxins ingested by farmed fish?
At the same time, there are many types of Omega 3 supplements out there. Which should you buy?
What must I look out for in Omega 3 supplements?
It is up to you. However, to aid your quest in finding the right Omega 3 supplement for you, we explain more below:
- Fish Oil is sourced from the body of oily fish and is proven to lower triglyceride levels in the body. It also has three times more Omega 3 than cod liver oil.
- Krill Oil is sourced from shrimp-like creatures in the Antarctic. It has a distinct deep red hue. Similar to fish oil, it has EPA and DHA, albeit a little lower in percentage. However, this oil is more easily absorbed by the body.
- Cod liver oil is sourced from the liver of codfish (hence the name). It has lower levels of Omega 3 as compared to fish oil but in its place, contains vitamins D and A. Since it contains vitamin A, pregnant women should be wary about consuming too much vitamin A as large amounts can cause birth defects.
- Algae oil is sourced from marine algae and is suitable for vegetarians. It contains high amounts of DHA, but most don’t carry any EPA.
From the breakdown of the sources of Omega 3 above, it is clear that not all sources have similar amounts of DHA and EPA.
Before you buy any Omega 3 supplements, always read the label! If you buy a 1000mg fish oil, it does not mean that it contains 1000mg of DHA, for example. If you check the label, there is usually 300mg of EPA and DHA combined.
The recommended dosage for Omega 3 is 250 to 500mg of combined EPA and DHA each day for healthy adults.
We recommend Nature’s Farm® Omega-3 1275mg sourced from deep, cold-water fish. In a soft gel, there are 420mg EPA and 280mg DHA. Take one to two soft gels a day, and your Omega 3 quota for the day is complete!
Can I use Omega 3 oil topically?
Applying Omega 3 oil may be a source of relief to those who experience UV sensitivity, or suffer from chronically dry and flaky skin. A study looking into cosmetic and therapeutic applications of fish oil’s fatty acids on the skin proved that Omega 3 oil does help maintain skin homeostasis, improve skin barrier function as well as inhibit UV induced inflammation and hyperpigmentation. Omega 3 also helps improve dermatitis, scars and prevents skin cancer development.
If your skin is healthy, there is no need to apply Omega 3 topically. In any case, remember to seek advice from your doctor before trying out a new supplement.
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