How Omega-3 In Fish Oil Can Benefit Your Health
As COVID-19 continues people turn to using various dietary supplements to support their immune system. Omega-3 is one such candidate that has multifaceted health benefits. Well known for its benefits in memory boosting and learning, omega-3 fatty acids are important in optimum function of the nervous, cardiovascular, immune, and respiratory systems.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids and are considered “essential fatty acids” because humans cannot produce them in the body. They are needed for optimum absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and help to maintain the structure and integrity of cellular membranes.
While Omega-6 fatty acids can be easily obtained from consuming vegetables, olive and safflower oil, and nuts, omega-3 fatty acids are present only in specific foods. These include oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, walnuts, and flax and chia seeds. The desired ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in the diet is expected to be in between 1:1 up to 1:4. The modern western diet can contain ten to fifteen times more omega-6 than omega-3 skewing this balance on the unhealthy side. It is estimated that more than 90% of Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids hence, it is more important to focus on supplementing the omega-3.
In the current pandemic, the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 generate great interest. Several ongoing clinical trials are exploring the benefits of omega-3 in the hopes to prevent the cytokine storm, blood clotting disorders induced in COVID-19 and inflammatory damage to the organs leading to multiple organ failure. While this is ongoing research, a recently published clinical trial reported that higher omega-3 levels in COVID-19 patients might lower the risk of death from COVID-19.*
Omega-3 fatty acids are not a uniform group and their two main types are EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid). These fatty acids are mainly promoted as supporting brain development in infants and children. However, they are also important in healthy ageing, memory retention, and healthy eyes and skin. It has been shown that a dietary deficiency of omega-3 may be associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mood swings, and other psychological complaints.
In addition to the immune, brain and nervous system functions, omega-3 fatty acids benefit cardiovascular health. Due to their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory actions they help in protecting the heart and the blood vessels against free radical damage, balancing the lipid metabolism, reducing triglycerides, and preventing atherosclerotic plaque buildup. The EPA and DHA supplementations have been associated with reduced risk of arrhythmias and reduction of mortality from cardiovascular events. Omega-3 fatty acids are also successfully used in research for various autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and others.
With so many health benefits it is prudent to incorporate omega-3 supplements in your daily nutrient regimen.
*Ref: Asher A, et al, Blood omega-3 fatty acids and death from COVID-19: A pilot study (DOI: 10.1016/j.plefa.2021.102250)