Health Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids: General Information, Related Research, Holistic Treatment Options as well as Disease Prevention

Omega 3 Fatty Acids



Index of Diseases / Health Conditions

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Relevant Resources

Cod Liver Oil: The Number One Superfood

Omega 3 Fish Oil and Alzheimer's Disease

Foods Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Important Precautions & Dangers

Omega3 - Health

Omega 3 Clinical Nutrition

The "Feeding Minds" report found that British people now eat 34% fewer vegetables and 59% less fish than 60 years ago.

Fast and processed foods are almost always low in critical brain- and health-supporting components, such as vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, and, instead, contain refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and additives, all of which are linked to irritability, mood swings and other mental issues.

Additionally, this report points out that recent industrial farming have altered our food at the most basic level. Changes in feed have increased body fat composition of animals and farmed fish we eat -- as a result we now often take in a far higher ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3s - a shift that has been linked with a variety of health problems.

We need essential fatty acids, namely the linoleic acid “LA” and the alpha-linoleic acid “ALA”, as they form the building blocks for the cells that make up our bodies. They are vital in regulating the functions of our brain, organs and nervous system. If deficiency in either one occurs, problems will arise such as vision and learning impairment, dry and irritated skin, mood and behaviour changes, fertility issues and heart disease.

LA and ALA are converted into omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids respectively by our bodies which perform more important tasks in:

  • regulating blood clotting
  • platelet aggregation
  • blood pressure
  • cell proliferation.

But it’s important to keep LA and ALA in balance because both are competing for the enzymes needed to convert into omega-6 & 3. Evidence is accumulating that diseases, such as Obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, and stroke, are the result of high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids along with deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins.

  • The World Health Organisation suggests an ideal ratio of omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids as 2:1 to be maintained.

  • The average American diet contains way too much omega-6 and insufficient omega-3. Even for vegans and vegetarians, the scale is tipped towards omega-6 because more processed foods containing more omega-6 than omega-3 is consumed.
    Signs of Fatty Acid Imbalance (Source: "Smart Fats")
    Mental:
    • Attention deficit
    • Hyperactivity
    • Irritability
    • Learning problems
    Physical:
    • Excessive thirst
    • Frequent urination
    • Poor wound healing
      Frequent infections
    • Lowered immunity
    • Weakness
    • Fatigue
    • Allergies
    • Dry eyes
    • Depression
    Skin & Hair:
    • Dry skin
    • "Chicken skin" on backs of arms
    • Alligator skin
    • Cracked skin on heels or fingertips
    • Patches of pale skin on cheeks
    • Dry, unmanageable hair
    • Dandruff
    • Brittle, easily frayed nails
    • Soft nails


Health Benefits Derived from Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids:

  • In 1998, data from the Physicians’ Health Study showed that eating fish once a week versus less than once monthly halved the likelihood of dying suddenly from a heart attack. Total heart attack rates were not affected by fish consumption or the amount of omega-3 fatty acids ingested. One year later, a report in Lancet described a randomized trial in which men who’d had a heart attack received either a fish oil supplement, 300 mg of vitamin E, both, or neither. The groups who received the fish oil supplement had significantly lower rates of heart attack, stroke, and death during the next three and a half years. Rates of sudden death dropped by 45%.

  • Researchers from Australia's Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital found that administering over-the-counter fish oil supplements to boost omega-3 levels helped premature baby girls score better on cognitive tests at 18 months of age. This benefit was not seen in premature boys, but the researchers believe that's because boys and girls have differing rates of development. Study leader Maria Makrides had 272 nursing mothers of premature children take six omega-3 supplement pills a day. This was meant to replicate the amount of omega-3 that full-term babies usually receive in the womb during the third trimester of pregnancy. Eighteen months later, they found that female babies of moms taking the placebo scored slightly lower than the moms taking the omega-3s.

  • Report on nearly 80,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study: Published in 2001 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this 14-year study found that eating fish at least twice a week versus less than once a month cut in half the risk of strokes caused by clots blocking an artery to the brain. The Nurses’ Health Study also found that eating one to three servings of fish per month cut the risk of heart disease by 20%, while eating at least five servings a week lowered risk by 40%.

  • Eating / supplementing with cod liver oil or other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can not only reverse your arthritis, but also normalize your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, and keep your arteries open.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are a key ingredient for beautiful skin. Most people are seriously lacking in these fats that are vital for radiantt, healthy looking skin. Eczema, dry skin, cracked heels and premature aging are all signs of omega 3 deficiency. Omega-3 fats prevent dehydration in the cells so that the skin cells are strong and full of moisture. Fish oil and Alaskan wild salmon are good sources of omega 3. Vegetarians may substitute with hemp, linseed and chia seeds.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Important Precautions & Dangers

Foods Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 Fatty Acids as Treatment for Depression


Specific Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  • Brain: Omega−3 fatty acids are known to have membrane-enhancing capabilities in brain cells. A benefit of n−3 fatty acids is helping the brain to repair damage by promoting neuronal growth.[36] In a six-month study involving people with schizophrenia and Huntington's disease who were treated with EPA or a placebo, the placebo group had clearly lost cerebral tissue, while the patients given the supplements had a significant increase of grey and white matter. [Ref.: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16777669 and Trivedi, Bijal (2006-09-23). "The good, the fad, and the unhealthy", New Scientist, pp. 42–49.)
    • ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
    • Dementia and Alzheimer's disease: Linked to an increased level of homocysteine, an amino acid metabolite associated with decreased levels of folate, B-12 and pyridoxine.
    • Depression
    • Poor memory and concentration.
      • Linked to a lack of B-12 and other B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc


  • Joints: Researchers funded by Great Britain's Arthritis Research Campaign found that the elongated omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil reduce both pain and damage in inflamed joints. Professor Caterson explains that the Omega-3 fatty acids in Cod Liver Oil work by switching off the aggrecan- and collagen-degrading enzymes that break down joint cartilage. This, in effect, slows the progress of cartilage destruction that occurs in arthritis, reduces inflammation and thus lessens pain. He goes on to say, "Two years ago, research teams led by Professor John Harwood and myself at Cardiff University reported findings suggesting that the Omega-3 fatty acids in Cod Liver Oil can reduce cartilage degradation and inflammation in arthritic disease. Our most recent work shows that by exposing human osteoarthritic cartilage to Cod Liver Oil in the laboratory for just 24 hours we can turn off, or reverse, the action of the degradative enzymes and inflammatory factors affecting the tissue".

  • Obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, and stroke. Evidence is accumulating that these diseases of civilization are the result of high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids along with deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins.

  • Diabetes: Cod liver oil has been used in a number of trials with both insulin-dependent and non-insulin-dependent diabetes. In both conditions cod liver oil improved glucose response and other markers of the disease.1 Vitamin A in cod liver oil helps promote healing and protects the retina, both problem areas in the diabetic patient. Cod liver oil has lowered blood pressure induced by stress-elevated levels of cortisol.32-35 Cod liver oil given to rats reduced intraocular pressure suggesting a use in prevention and treatment of glaucoma.36 Vitamin D in cod liver oil promotes absorption of calcium and magnesium, thereby lowering blood pressure. Colitis responds more effectively to the type of omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil than to medication.37-38 Cod liver oil should be the first protocol for this condition as well as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease. Two of the symptoms of low levels of vitamin D are bone pain and muscle pain. This may manifest as pain in the legs, muscle weakness and difficulty climbing stairs. Numerous studies have shown improvement in muscle pain, muscle strength and bone pain scores with cod liver oil.40, 41

  • Preventing Depression: Investigators measured red blood cell levels of two omega-3 fats, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and assessed depressive symptoms in a cross-sectional study of nearly 1,000 adults with CHD. As EPA and DHA levels rose, depressive symptoms dropped. The prevalence of depression ranged from 23 percent in participants with the lowest blood levels of omega-3 fats to 13 percent in participants with the highest omega-3 blood levels. (Sources: Science Daily June 12, 2009 and Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 2009; 78 (2): 125 )

  • Skin: Without the omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish, such as cod, mackerel, salmon and tuna, the skin appears dull, dry and scaly. Cod liver oil, applied topically, contributes to faster wound healing and improvement in skin quality. Taken orally, it helps maintain soft skin and minimize wrinkles.

  • Breast Cancer: Health-promoting fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids from two to three tablespoons of ground flaxseeds daily. A study involving 50 women with breast cancer showed that 25 women who were fed with 25g of milled flax daily before surgery had slower-growing tumors than the other 25 women who were not fed milled flax at all.

  • Heart / Cardiovascular: Discuss with a health practitioner trained in holistic treatments the potential integration of fish oil supplements, which contain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). Research has shown that omega-3s can lower blood pressure slightly in people with both normal and high blood pressure. In fact, one study suggests that the blood-pressure-lowering effect was greater amongst those who had not yet developed hypertension (Hypertension, August 2007).

Heart & Arteries: Interest in the heart-health benefits of fish oil dates back about two decades, beginning with a 1980 study showing that Eskimos in Greenland — who eat nearly a pound of fish a day — have low rates of death from heart disease. In subsequent years, there has been substantial research on the effects of fish oil on the heart and arteries. Laboratory studies have shown that fish oil, which contains what are known as n-3 or omega-3 fatty acids, makes blood platelets less sticky, helps protect the linings of arteries, and may also lower blood pressure. - click here to find the best and the worst fish to eat

Arrhythmias, or disordered heart rhythms. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can stabilize wayward electrical activity in the heart and calm arrhythmias.

  • Vision / Cataracts: Omega-3 fatty acids play a key role in the health of the retina and reduce inflammation. A Harvard study on eye disease, for example, determined that people who eat at least two servings of fish a week have a 50 percent lower risk of AMD than those who eat none.





Dr. Barry Sears, the creator of the Zone diet, explains how the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil promote wellness in this interview with Pat Robertson. Watch Video




Important Precautions & Dangers


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