Omega-3 Fatty Acids
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Omega-3 fatty acids





Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important nutrients that are involved in many bodily processes.

The body cannot make these fatty acids and must obtain them from food sources or from supplements.

There are three major types of omega 3 fatty acids that are ingested in foods and used by the body: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Once eaten, the body converts ALA to EPA and DHA, the two types of omega-3 fatty acids more readily used by the body. Extensive research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent risk factors associated with chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. These essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be particularly important for cognitive (brain memory and performance) and behavioral function. In fact, infants who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at risk for developing vision and nerve problems. Symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency include extreme tiredness (fatigue), poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.

Some people believe that omega-3 fatty acids protect against the spread of solid-tumor cancers (those that form solid masses) that are related to hormone production, particularly breast cancer. Some also believe that omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the growth of colon, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. Some people and groups advocate use of omega-3 fatty acids to protect against cardiovascular disease and fatal heart attacks. Others believe that omega-3 fatty acids help rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, eczema, asthma, kidney failure, depression, and more.

Some nutritionists recommend eating a diet rich in fish containing omega-3 fatty acids, eating 1 to 2 teaspoons of flaxseed or flaxseed oil daily, or taking daily supplements containing 1 to 2 grams of omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are very unstable and spoil easily, so food manufacturers often remove them from foods to increase shelf life.

Not enough is known about omega-3 fatty acids to determine whether they are safe in large quantities or when taken with other drugs. Omega-3s may increase total blood cholesterol and inhibit blood clotting. People who take blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) or aspirin should not take extra omega-3 because of the risk of excessive bleeding.  

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Be sure to buy omega-3 fatty acid supplements made by established companies who certify that their products are free of heavy metals such as mercury, lead, and cadmium.

Dosing for fish oil supplements should be based on the amount of EPA and DHA in the product, not on the total amount of fish oil. Supplements vary in the amounts and ratios of EPA and DHA. A common amount of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil capsules is 0.18 grams (180 mg) of EPA and 0.12 grams (120 mg) of DHA. Five grams of fish oil contains approximately 0.17 - 0.56 grams (170 -560 mg) of EPA and 0.072 - 0.31 grams (72 - 310 mg) of DHA. Different types of fish contain variable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, and different types of nuts or oil contain variable amounts of a-linolenic acid. Fish oils contain approximately 9 calories per gram of oil.

Omega-3 fatty acids should be used cautiously by people who bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder, or take blood-thinning medications, including warfarin (Coumadin) or clopidogrel (Plavix), because excessive amounts of omega-3 fatty acids may lead to bleeding. In fact, people who eat more than three grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day (equivalent to 3 servings of fish per day) may be at an increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke, a potentially fatal condition in which an artery in the brain leaks or ruptures.

Fish oil can cause flatulence, bloating, belching, and diarrhea. Time-release preparations may reduce these side effects, however.

Omega 3 health benefits are for just about every system in the body. The most important omega 3 health benefit is its anti inflammatory properties. Some scientists believe that inflammation is the cause of most of our western diet health issues. This seems to come from too much omega-6 and not enough omega 3.
We generally consume low levels of omega 3s, a fat primarily found in Omega 3 Sources. Meanwhile, our intake of omega-6 is too high. This fat is common in corn, soy, sunflower, margarine and other oils rich in linoleic acid.

But always research into the correct supplements and ask your doctor about them.

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Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and information contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases or medical problems. This is not intended to replace your doctor's recommendations. The information is provided for educational purposes only. Nutritional benefits may vary from one person to another.


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