Everything you need to know: Omega-3

Everything you need to know: Omega-3

Everything you need to know: Omega-3

You've likely heard of Omega-3, but are you aware of its exact benefits? Find out exactly how a regular dose of Omega-3 can enrich your day to day life.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats which the human body cannot produce on its own, so must be consumed in the food we eat or through supplements. The most common omega-3 fatty acids are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).

 

Due to research demonstrating the numerous benefits of taking omega-3 supplements, more of which is detailed below, their popularity has soared over the past three decades. The global omega-3 supplement market is worth over $1.5 billion a year, with fish oil being the UK’s most popular single-ingredient supplement and around a third of British adults regularly taking them.

How Much Omega-3 is Recommended Daily?

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) recommends that we should eat at least two portions of oily fish per week, or around 200-450mg of combined DHA and EPA per day in supplement form for most healthy adults. Older adults may benefit from a higher dose of omega-3 fatty acids.

What’s the Best Way to Increase my Intake of Omega-3?

Oily fish is one of the best sources of omega-3, with mackerel, salmon and sardines being rich in both DHA and EPA. Vegan sources of omega-3 include seaweed and algae which also include DHA and EPA, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseed and walnuts, which all contain ALA. A good quality omega-3 supplement is a convenient way to ensure you are getting enough of this essential nutrient.

Is There Enough Omega-3 in my Diet? Should I Be Taking Omega-3 Supplements?

The typical Western diet does not contain enough omega-3, with the average adult getting about 90mg of DHA and EPA daily- which is less than half of the recommended amount. Signs that you may not have enough omega-3 in your diet include fatigue, low mood, poor memory, thinning hair and dry skin, so supplementation with a high-quality omega-3 can be beneficial.

Benefits of Omega-3 for the Brain

Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA can help to support healthy brain function and development, from birth to adulthood. They help to protect the cell membranes of brain cells and facilitate communication between them. There is also evidence to show that omega-3 can help enhance cognitive function and mental performance, including improved memory.

How Omega-3 Benefits the Skin

Omega-3 benefits the skin in a number of ways. It is thought to help regulate the skin's oil production and increase hydration by improving the fatty acid composition in the skin and balancing its inflammatory response, which may also help to reduce the signs of ageing. Studies also show that supplementing with both EPA and DHA may reduce the skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Is Omega-3 Good For Joints and Bones?

There is a growing body of evidence to show that omega-3 helps to improve bone strength by increasing the amount of calcium in bones, and due to its inflammation-fighting properties omega-3 may also support arthritis and reduce joint pain.

Omega-3 and the Cardiovascular System

Omega-3 fatty acids have been studied for their heart health supporting benefits including lowering triglycerides, lowering high blood pressure, increasing HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol and reducing plaque in the arteries which can cause them to become clogged.

Does Omega-3 Reduce Blood Pressure?

Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce blood pressure, according to a 2014 American research review of over 70 previously published trials which studied the effect of EPA and DHA on hypertension. Researchers found that both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure reading decreased significantly in participants who took omega-3 supplements.

Can Omega-3 Help My Eyesight?

Research shows that omega-3 can help to support your vision. DHA is a component of the retina, so low levels can mean that eyesight issues can arise. Adequate levels of omega-3 have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, which can cause blindness.

Is Omega-3 Good for Sleep?

Many of us struggle to get the sleep that we need which can negatively impact our daily life, but the good news is that omega-3 can help to improve the duration and the quality of sleep. This is likely to be related to DHA, as research shows that low levels of this fatty acid are linked to low levels of melatonin; the hormone which helps us to sleep.

Omega-3 and Mental Health

According to recent statistics from Mind.Org, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health concern each year, with depression and anxiety being two of the most common. Evidence shows that omega-3 may help support mental health, with EPA the most effective when it comes to depression. One randomised double blind placebo controlled trial examined the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on depressed undergraduates and found that an incredible 67% no longer met the criteria for depression following supplementation.

Does Omega-3 Have Any Side Effects?

Any side effects of omega-3 supplements are usually mild and may include an unpleasant fishy taste in your mouth, headaches, nausea and diarrhoea. High amounts of omega-3 have been shown to cause bleeding gums, increase blood sugar levels in those with diabetes, and lower blood pressure.

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