5 reasons why you need Omega 3

June 4, 2015 (Updated: December 4, 2015)
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

Omega-3 fatty acids are one of several types of essential fatty acids (EFAs). They’re called EFAs because they’re essential to human health, but the body can’t make them, so they must come from dietary sources. Omega-3-rich fish oil supplements are the easiest, most common, way to supplement your diet with extra Omega-3s, but cold water fish like salmon, tuna, halibut, sardines, herring and mackerel are rich in omega-3s as are certain types of algae, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts (or their respective oils).

If you’re not yet familiar with the benefits of Omega-3s (and Omega-3-rich fish oil supplements), here are the top 5 reasons to add it to your diet today:

  1. A powerful anti-inflammatory: Research shows that a diet high in the omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)*, can help reduce inflammation and, in turn, reduce the risk and symptoms of inflammatory diseases like arthritis, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, to name a few.
  2. Reduced risk of heart disease: Omega-3s can also help lower risk of heart disease. Because, beyond their anti-inflammatory properties, studies show that the Omega-3s, EPA and DHA, can help boost healthy HDL cholesterol while lowering dangerous triglycerides. They can also help lower blood pressure.
  3. A boost in brain power/function: There’s a reason many baby formulas are now fortified with the Omega-3, DHA. It plays a tremendous role in brain and cognitive development. But once we’re adults, EPA and DHA continue to add value. Some studies show that Omega-3s can help treat mild depression and bipolar mood swings. DHA has been show to help slow the onset of cognitive decline, dementia, even Alzheimer’s.
  4. Natural support for diabetics: People with diabetes often have trouble keeping triglycerides under control. They also tend to have low HDL levels. But Omega-3s can help with both. They can also help lower apoproteins which are important biomarkers of diabetes.
  5. A natural medicine with no side-effects: Unlike the medications people take to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, combat arthritis pain and inflammation, treat depression, and diabetes…Omega-3s have no negative side-effects. Only side benefits. In fact the only word of caution is for those taking 3,000 milligrams or more per day – above this threshold can increase risk of bleeding. So, if you’re exceeding this threshold, it’s best to work with a physician.

They’re even helpful for promoting strong, healthy, young-looking hair, skin and nails.

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To get the most from Omega-3s, experts recommend between 1,250 and 1,500 milligrams of EPA and DHA per day. But it’s important to note, that 1,500 milligrams of an Omega-3-rich fish oil is NOT the same as 1,500 milligrams of EPA and DHA. So be sure to read the labels on your Omega-3 supplement.

Best of all, when taken at the recommended dosages, and up to 3,000 milligrams daily, Omega-3s are almost completely devoid of negative side-effects. Anything more than 3,000 milligrams a day can increase risk of bleeding, so it’s best to stay below that threshold unless you’re working closely with your physician.

*Alpha linolenic acid (ALA), found in flax seeds, soy beans, pumpkin seeds and walnuts, is another form of Omega-3, but it needs to be converted to EPA and DHA in the body. Because some people aren’t able to make this conversion very effectively, focusing on EPA and DHA directly tends to offer the most benefit to most people.

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