The Medical Benefits of Omega Fatty Acids
What are omega fatty acids?
Omega fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, or good fats. Polyunsaturated fats are an excellent replacement for saturated fats in the diet. Saturated fats are unhealthy and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The three most common types of omega fatty acids are omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9. Omega-3 fatty acids provide the most health benefits and are found in various food sources. The body cannot produce these essential fatty acids; therefore, it is important to consume them through diet or supplements.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids
To promote positive well-being from omega-3 acids, it is recommended to eat foods that are high in these fatty acids two to three times per week. These foods include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Lake trout
Sources of foods high in omega fatty acids
When deciding what source of omega-3 to include in a healthy diet, several things should be considered. Farm-raised fish often contain higher levels of contaminants than fish caught in the wild. No more than 7 ounces (0.26 kg) of farm-raised fish should be consumed within one week. Other fish, such as mackerel, wild swordfish, tilefish, and shark, are often high in mercury. Pregnant women and children should avoid these sources entirely.
Omega-6 fatty acids are found in soybean, corn oil, mayonnaise, walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, and cashews. Omega-9 fatty acids are found in various food sources, such as plant oils and nuts.
If an individual does not eat omega-3 rich foods on a regular basis, supplements are the next best choice. Omega-3 supplements are an inexpensive, yet effective, way to improve health. The most common type of omega-3 supplement is fish oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids provide numerous health benefits for both the brain and body. They are helpful with certain conditions, which include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn's disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Alzheimer's disease
- Mood swings associated with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia
- Eye health
- Bone and joint health
- Heart health, including reduced cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and decreased risk of blood clots and plaque
- Reduced inflammation
- Less metabolic issues, such as belly fat, high triglycerides, low HDL levels, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure
- Lower risk of certain cancers
- Fatty liver
- Menstrual pain
- Better sleep
- Lung function
- Proper fetal development during pregnancy
- Boosted effectiveness of both anti-inflammatory and antidepressant medications
Omega-3 supplements have few side effects; however, indigestion and gas may occur. Furthermore, bleeding issues are possible, especially if combined with warfarin, clopidogrel, prasugrel, ticagrelor, and certain NSAIDs.
A health care professional should be consulted prior to beginning an omega supplement regimen. Individuals should discuss all current medications, herbs, vitamins, and supplements with a physician in order to determine the correct dosage of omega to promote optimal health.
Although omega-6 fatty acids support inflammation, which helps the body fight acute infections, the typical western diet includes more than the recommended amount. It is important to note that omega-3 and omega-6 acids often work against each other. If taking both as a supplement, the dosages will need to be adjusted accordingly.