Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega fatty acids, which include omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 fatty acids, are considered "good" fats. They play a critical role in the formation of cell membranes, proper brain development and function, and the regulation of various body functions including blood pressure, immune responses, and inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids are the most difficult of the fatty acids to acquire, but they play a critical role in cognitive and behavioral function. Infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help lower the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.
Maintaining the proper balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids is important for good health. Although experts disagree on what that balance should be, most believe we should be getting somewhere in the neighborhood of a 3-to-1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Most Americans get closer to a 20-to-1 ratio. This excessive intake of omega-6 causes inflammation and many chronic conditions that result from such inflammation.
Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include fatigue, poor memory, mood swings, depression, dry skin, and poor circulation.
It is difficult to get too much omega-3 fatty acids from natural food sources, but taking supplemental omega-3 in doses exceeding 3 grams per day may put you at risk of excessive bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke. This is especially true for people who suffer from a bleeding disorder or who take blood-thinning medications.
Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for the production of omega-9 fatty acids. If you suffer from an omega-3 deficiency, you may also be low in omega-9s.
See also Fats.
Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
|Blood||Prevents excessive blood clotting.|
|Concentration/Learning||Required for proper brain development in the fetus and through childhood. A deficiency can lead to an inability to focus and concentrate.|
|Eyes/Vision||May reduce the risk of glaucoma. Numerous studies have shown an association between Omega-3s and a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of vision loss in older people.|
|Hair||A deficiency can lead to brittle, dull hair.|
|Heart||Reduces risk of coronary disease by reducing the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream, and preventing hardening of the arteries.|
|Hormone Balance||Helps maintain hormone balance.|
|Joints||Reduce inflammation that causes joint pain.|
|Memory||Reduces future risk of memory loss and dementia.|
|Mood||A deficiency can cause depression, especially in pregnant women because the fetus will take all available Omega-3s for brain development.|
|Nails||A deficiency can lead to brittle nails.|
|Sexual Function||Stimulate the production of sex hormones.|
|Skin||A deficiency can cause dry itchy skin.|
|Weight Loss||Reduces risk of obesity. Helps regulate food intake, body weight, and metabolism.|
Food Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
|Flax Seed Oil||7196 mg||N/A||Long touted as one of the best non-animal sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.|
|Flax Seeds||3194 mg||N/A|
|Walnuts||2565 mg||N/A||Contain a healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.|
|Hemp||N/A||N/A||Contains a healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids.|