Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients obtained from food (or supplements) that aid in the development and maintenance of a healthy body. They are essential for the structure of every cell wall. They also serve as an energy source and aid in the proper functioning of your heart, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system. ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid), EPA (Eicosa-pentaenoic acid), and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) are the three main omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. While the latter two are mostly found in animal foods, ALA can be found in a wide variety of plant foods. Fatty fish, fish oils, flax seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed oil, and walnuts are all good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. An omega-3 supplement, such as fish oil or algal oil, is often prescribed for people who do not get enough of these sources.
Can Omega-3 Rich Foods Really Increase Life Expectancy?
According to a study, people who did not smoke and had high omega-3 levels in their blood had the best chance of living a longer life. In terms of survival estimations, people with high omega-3 levels who smoked and those with low omega-3 levels who did not smoke were nearly comparable. However, this does not mean that taking Omega 3 fatty acid supplements erases the negative effects of smoking. Finally, persons who smoked and had poor omega-3 levels in their blood had the lowest survival rate. Regular smoking reduces your life expectancy by 4.7 years, the same amount gained as having high levels of omega-3 acids in your blood. This study reaffirmed that having higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids in the blood increases life expectancy by almost 5 years.
Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Triglyceride levels can be lowered using fish oil which is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. You’re at risk for heart disease and stroke if you have excessive levels of this blood fat.
- Supplementing with fish oil (EPA+DHA fatty acids) may help with rheumatoid arthritis by reducing stiffness and joint pain. Anti-inflammatory medicines appear to be more effective when omega-3 supplements are taken.
- DHA omega 3 fatty acids appear to be essential for newborns’ visual and neurological development.
- Omega 3 fatty acids is also believed to be helpful in treating depression, asthma, ADHD, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; however, more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.
Controversy Surrounding Omega 3 Fatty Acids
According to latest research, consuming omega-3 supplements increases the incidence of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) in persons who are at high risk of, or already have, heart disease. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of forming clots that cause strokes.
While omega-3 fatty acids are vital for good health, experts say the link between taking supplements and heart health is complicated. It is also claimed that supplements are poorly regulated in general. People should ensure that the supplement they are taking comes from a trusted source. Pollutants from the sea may be present in some products especially fish oil supplements. Vitamin A is abundant in some fish oil supplements, such as cod liver oil. In excessive doses, this nutrient can be harmful. It is therefore advised to incorporate omega 3 supplements after consulting one’s doctor, because there are chances that Omega-3 supplements may-
- Omega-3 supplements may impact blood clotting and may interfere with blood-thinning medications like warfarin (Coumadin).
- They may occasionally cause side effects, such as belching, indigestion, or diarrhea, which are usually minor gastrointestinal issues.
The Bottom Line
Much like most food items, it is safest to consume Omega-3 fatty acid foods and supplements in moderation. While the benefits at present, seemingly outweighs the suspected risks, it is better to tread lightly nonetheless.
In the words of the legendary Julia Child, “Moderation. Small helpings. Sample a little bit of everything. These are the secrets of happiness and good health”.