All about omega-3 fatty acid

Read on to find out how many health benefits are hiding in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats!

All about omega-3 fatty acid

A little about omega-3 fatty acid

Omega-3's are a very special type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that plays a key role in a range of vital body processes, from managing blood pressure and blood clotting to reducing inflammation. Omega-3's are primarily found in fish and fish-oil supplements. The two most potent forms of omega-3's — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — are found in abundance in coldwater fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, and tuna. DHA in particular is critical to brain health. Somewhat less beneficial is a third type of omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and walnuts.

Conditions they fight

  • Allergies and asthma
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Cataracts
  • Certain forms of cancer
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Fighting cancer

Omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent certain types of cancer. According to a preliminary study from the University of California, Los Angeles, omega-3's may help fight breast cancer and maintain healthy breast tissue. Fish oils may also help prevent colon cancer. Participants in a recent study who took 4,400 milligrams of fish oils a day produced much less of one potent carcinogen associated with colon cancer than those on a placebo. Omega-3's may also protect against prostate and lung cancers.

Reducing inflammation

Omega-3 fatty acids are fantastic at chilling inflammation in the body — linked with major diseases such as heart disease, cancer, asthma, and diabetes. Eating fish twice a week can slash your risk of a heart attack. Since asthma involves inflammation of the airways, it makes sense that children who ate fish regularly, in one study, cut their risk of asthma by 75 per cent.

Countless other conditions are also linked to inflammation, from acne to inflammatory bowel disease. In a year-long study of people with Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, 69 per cent of people taking enteric-coated fish-oil supplements stayed symptom-free, compared with just 28 per cent of those receiving a placebo. Fish oils may also help ease menstrual cramps. In addition, omega-3's may play a role in mental health, including Alzheimer's, depression, and schizophrenia.

Where to find them

  • Flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds
  • Lake trout
  • Farmed salmon
  • Pacific herring
  • Anchovies
  • Bluefin tuna
  • Sardines
  • Atlantic mackerel
  • Pickled herring
  • Canola oil

Helpful hints

  • Have two servings  of 225 to 350 grams (eight to 12 ounces) of fatty fish each week to protect against heart disease, which is also a good target for cancer protection.
  • Studies indicate that people with rheumatoid arthritis experience less joint swelling and stiffness and may even be able to take lower doses of anti-inflammatory drugs when they take fish-oil supplements.
  • If you find that you can't tolerate one brand of fish-oil supplements, try another. Side effects vary from brand to brand. Don't buy in bulk because fish oil can go rancid very quickly. Store fish-oil pills in the refrigerator.
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