Omega 3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids important for health. Healthy fats are found in fish, fish oil, flax seeds, avocado, walnuts, chia seeds, eggs, etc. What are the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids? Brain performance, fighting inflammation, cardiovascular health, skin regeneration, we can go on and on.
Point is, omega 3’s have been widely studied across history and may be related to longevity, neuroprotection, and heart health. We’ll check out the benefits of EPA, DHA, and ALA. We’ll also see the scientific evidence behind the use and benefits of Omega 3’s, and discover what the more potent supplement formula of O3 is made up of. Let’s dive in.
- Where do Omega 3 Fatty acids come from?
- 9 Science-Based Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- 1. Supports Cardiovascular Health
- 2. May Improve Lipid Profile
- 3. Supports Cognitive Function and Brain Health
- 4. Neuroprotective Properties
- 5. May Improve Circulation and Reduce Blood Pressure
- 6. Eye Health and Vision Support
- 7. Skin, Hair, and Nails Benefits
- 8. Mood Enhancement, Anxiety & Depression Reduction
- 9. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Where do Omega 3 Fatty acids come from?
Omega 3 fatty acids are mainly found in high-quality fatty foods. The richest sources of omega-3 are seafood, fish, krill, and fish oil. Omega 3 is synthesized mainly by microalgae, specifically marine microalgae living in the ocean. Phytoplanktons (also algae) consume microalgae, which are then eaten by fish that so happen to pack a load of omega 3’s, especially herring, mackerel, cod, salmon, and sardines.
Phytoplanktons eat algae, which are the most potent source of omega 3’s in the ocean. Then fish eats phytoplanktons or zooplanktons and packs their omega 3 content. Especially fatty fish like salmon is very rich in omega 3’s.
ALA, DHA, and EPA
There are three types of omega-3 FA’s, and these are ALA, EPA, and DHA. Each has specific benefits, but EPA and DHA are more significant in terms of providing health benefits.
Our bodies can make convert a very small % of ALA into DHA, and EPA, which is likely insignificant for health benefits. This is why increasing the intake of DHA and EPA may help, especially with supporting cognition, heart health, and fighting inflammation.
9 Science-Based Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 FA’s support many functions in the body. They are crucial for brain function and development. They are important for heart health, blood pressure, and cholesterol regulation. They also possess some anti-inflammatory properties and are potent neuroprotectors. Not to spoil it anymore, let’s dive in.
1. Supports Cardiovascular Health
The narrative around omega 3’s and heart health dates long back in history. Mainly, it comes from the discovery of the lower mortality from CVD and heart issues seen in the Greenland Eskimo population, which ate a lot of fish. Later on, Omega 3’s were also shown to potentially reduce some cardiac events, and have an anti-arrhythmic effect. (1) (2)
Omega 3 and the risk of coronary heart disease death were inversely related. This means those that had more omega 3’s, had a lower risk of CVD. The decrease in risk went from 21% (consuming fish 1-3 monthly) up to 34% (consuming fish 5+ times monthly) compared to non-fish eaters. (3)
In some instances, it seems that exceeding certain doses doesn’t seem beneficial. At 0.8 – 1.2 omega 3 FA the risk of CVD was reduced, but more or less didn’t produce better effects. (4)
The mechanism behind the cardioprotective benefits of omega 3 FA’s include: (5)
- fighting oxidative stress (acting as antioxidants)
- modulating parasympathetic and sympathetic NS tone
- increasing nitric oxide synthesis (improves blood flow)
- improving lipid profile.
Omega 3’s are heart-supportive healthy fats that may improve lipid profile, blood flow and decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
2. May Improve Lipid Profile
There is a massive difference between eating good and bad fats. Consuming high amounts of extra-processed saturated fat or vegetable oils can increase inflammation and cause weight gain. On the other hand, a solid intake of healthy fats can actually help you reduce triglycerides and increase HDL levels in some instances.
A meta-analysis shows that taking 3.25 g of EPA or/and DHA significantly reduced triglycerides and increased HDL or good cholesterol in people with hyperlipidemia. (6)
Purified EPA on its own can also reduce LDL, the bad cholesterol and inflammation factor, RP. It may also be effective in reducing plaque formation and exerting other cardioprotective effects. (7)
Contrary to popular belief, fish oil probably won’t be so effective at keeping all cholesterol down. Although it may be effective at increasing HDL and reducing triglycerides (which is positive) it may not affect LDL or Total Cholesterol levels. (8)
The diet rich in fish seem in the Greenland population has once again shown the potential cardioprotective benefit of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. They have a lower incidence of ischemic heart diseases. (9)
Omega 3’s cardioprotective effects that support heart health have to do with increased HDL cholesterol, anti-inflammatory properties, improved circulation, and antiplatelet activity.
3. Supports Cognitive Function and Brain Health
Our brain is made up of 60% fat, it’s the fattiest organ in our body. It requires fats not just for maintaining structural integrity, but also for executive function. Fats help balance neurotransmitters, synthesize hormones, and transport neural signals (activate the muscle). Healthy fats are literally brain-supportive nutrients, providing a secondary source of energy to glucose.
DHA is specifically helpful with brain function, neurotransmitter release, and neural communication. Low DHA levels are associated with many brain-related issues like ADHD and depression. Supplementing with marine omega 3’s has been shown effective for brain function and mood. (10)
- Being deficient in EPA or DHA may also lead to suboptimal brain development, brain shrinkage, and cognitive impairment. (11)
- Supplementing with omega 3 during pregnancy even had the power to attenuate (increase) children’s IQ scores, showing potential benefits for brain development. (12)
- In older adults, many studies show improved memory and brain function due to omega 3 supplementation. Improvements in cognitive performance, vascularization, and executive function (memory) followed. (13) (14)
EPA and DHA are important brain-supportive nutrients that play a role in brain development, and mood and help synthesize certain neurotransmitters, support cognition, and exert act anti-inflammatory effects.
4. Neuroprotective Properties
Many neurodegenerative problems like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease follow after disrupted glucose metabolism in the brain. Providing a secondary source of fuel, like fats in the keto diet has been shown to be effective in improving brain performance in mild cognitive impairment.
Omega 3’s which are healthy fats may protect the brain due to their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. By reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, neurodegeneration can be slowed down. (15)
Out of many nutritional strategies for brain health and prevention of neurodegeneration, omega 3’s have shown to be a potential strategy. The superpower lies in its inflammation-fighting ability. (16)
As we age our brain shrinks and ages with us. The aging process is essentially accelerated oxidation. This is why antioxidants may help prevent or ameliorate some of the damage done by oxidative stress. For that reason, antioxidants are considered to be longevity-promoting.
In animal models it has been shown that low DHA levels (depletion) lead to different neurodegenerative changes, facilitating cognitive impairment and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. (17)
Omega 3 FA’s play important role in the reduction of inflammation and oxidative stress, which are the main drivers of brain aging and related neurodegenerative diseases. One mechanism to protect or preserve the brain is increasing omega-3 intake.
5. May Improve Circulation and Reduce Blood Pressure
We’re back on heart health. Omega 3 may also have a potent effect on vasodilation. That’s increasing (acutely) the diameter of blood vessels which allows for better transport of nutrients through the blood. It also makes plaque formation and oxidation harder, keeping your heart healthy.
There is an association between higher omega 3 index and lower blood pressure, hence why an omega 3-rich diet might be a cost-effective strategy to prevent high blood pressure. (18)
A meta-analysis looked at omega 3’s effects on endothelial function in 901 participants. Omega 3 was shown to increase flow-mediated dilatation by 2.30%. Simply put, it had a positive effect on endothelial function, allowing for better vasodilation. (19)
By promoting vasodilation, omega 3’s may also reduce blood pressure.
In groups of people with prehypertension, untreated hypertension, and normal blood pressure, higher DHA levels were associated with lower blood pressure measures. (20)
Not to steal the show from DHA, but EPA can also increase nitric oxide bioavailability. NO, or nitric oxide help with vasodilation, so it may improve blood flow. (21)
EPA and DHA are important heart-supportive nutrients. The main mechanism behind its cardioprotective role it’s supporting vasodilation which improves blood flow, and endothelial function, and lower blood pressure. This makes plaque formation and oxidation harder and improves nutrient transport.
6. Eye Health and Vision Support
The eye is an extension of the brain. DHA and EPA might provide some extra benefits to the eye and support vision too. They’re also part of the brain structure, and the retina of the eye contains high levels of DHA (up to 65%). (22) (23)
DHA is important for photoreceptors development, which is specialized neurons in the retina that helps us convert light into electrical signals. This signal is sent to the optical nerve and the brain, which helps us see by converting that light into an image in our brain. Also, DHA is important for rhodopsin production, which is an important protein pigment in rod cells that helps us see at night (in low-light situations). (23)
Omega 3 FA’s have also been known to help dry eye syndrome, helping with retinal lubrication.
Research shows a positive effect of EPA and DHA supplementation on dry eyes and other optic test scores for vision and eye health. Those that received 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA for 30 days improved lubrication and had fewer dry eye symptoms. (24)
Omega 3 supplementation may help with retinal lubrication, improving dry eye symptoms. Also, DHA is contained in the retina, it’s an important element for the development of photoreceptors and rhodopsin, which supports vision (even in low light).
7. Skin, Hair, and Nails Benefits
Omega 3 FA’s along with fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins E, A, and D are important nutrients for skin health. They can support skin regeneration and moisture, nail and hair growth.
Fish oil has been long used in cosmetics for its skin photoprotective effect, plus its potential to ameliorate inflammation. Fish oil and omega 3’s have been used in photoaging, UV protection, wound healing, dermatitis, and some skin allergies. (25)
By protecting the skin from UV rays, and reducing inflammation, omega 3 may help our skin regenerate better and look younger. (26)
It seems that the main effects of PUFAs on the skin have to do with their anti-inflammatory effects and inhibition of eicosanoid production. Eicosanoids can increase skin inflammations and lead to allergies, acne, or other skin problems. (27) (28)
Even in animal models, high omega 6 can delay wound healing and increase inflammation while EPA and DHA may improve immune cell response and skin regeneration. (29)
Omega 3’s can also be beneficial for keeping the skin moist, acting as a natural moisturizer. In cosmetics, products containing 5% of omega 3’s have been seen to reduce pain, hydrate the skin and improve regeneration. (30)
Flaxseed oil, a very rich source of omega 3 has been shown to reduce skin sensitivity and improve skin barrier protective function when supplemented with. It also had a positive effect on skin hydration. (31)
In terms of hair growth, DHA may increase DPC or dermal papilla cell proliferation which plays an essential role in hair production and growth. (32)
Omega 3’s can help with skin regeneration, reduce irritability and act as a moisturizer. They’re used in many cosmetic products for their anti-aging effects, but also for photoprotective (UV) damage. Omega 3’s can reduce skin inflammation and support nail and hair growth.
8. Mood Enhancement, Anxiety & Depression Reduction
Disruption in glucose metabolism in the brain is a factor that strongly impacts mood. Bad bacteria in our gut also disrupts mood (gut-brain barrier). By eating a ton of refined carbohydrates and processed oils, we can disrupt the bacteria in our gut and hurt our mood.
Fats, as we’ve seen before play important role in neurotransmitter secretion, which affects our mood. Low intake of omega 3 may be linked to depression and anxiety development, by affecting the HPA axis. (33)
The HPA axis is the communication between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. These glands are involved in modulating the secretion of many hormones like dopamine and serotonin, which heavily impact our mood.
Research shows that omega 3 may have potentially positive benefits in the prevention of depression. However, this mainly applies to those who are omega-3 depleted, and that’s the main factor for depression. (34)
Low levels of omega 3 FA’s and higher levels of omega 6 FA’s can also be associated with symptoms of depression. High omega-6 levels can also increase inflammation in the brain. (35)
Another meta-analysis showed EPA superiority over DHA, for its beneficial effects on depression. (36)
In terms of anxiety, doses of 2,000 mg of omega 3’s have been shown to exert potent anxiolytic effects in people with specific clinical diagnoses. (37)
It seems that by reducing inflammation and supporting neurotransmitter secretion and hormonal balance, healthy fats like omega 3’s can positively affect our mood. EPA and DHA can have an anxiolytic and depression-reducing effect.
9. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Since most of the benefits of omega 3’s depend on their ability to reduce inflammation, this is no surprise.
Inflammation is one of the main precursors for many modern-day diseases. It plays a massive role in hormonal imbalances, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular issues. By reducing inflammation, we may be able to lengthen our lifespan, feel better, protect our brain and accelerate fat loss. Sounds like a good deal to me, nah?
If you search for anti-inflammatory foods, you’ll for sure find a lot of nuts, avocados, seeds, and seafood. That’s because of their rich omega-3 profile.
Omega 3 PUFAs also increase the production of certain metabolites like resolvins D and E, maresins, and protectin which are known as strong anti-inflammatory agents. (38)
Fish oil has also been shown to reduce important inflammation markers like CRP or C-reactive proteins and interleukin-6 (IL-6). Compared to safflower oil alone, a combination of 7 grams of safflower and fish oil daily (14g in total) significantly reduced these inflammation markers in postmenopausal women. (39)
Omega 3 fatty acids aren’t just an important structural component of the brain but also modulate neural inflammation and immunity. They can exert anti-inflammatory properties and regulate microglial phenotype. (40)
Omega 3 fatty acids can act as anti-inflammatories, and reduce inflammation markers like CRP and IL-6. They support the production of certain strong anti-inflammatory agents and help mediate immunity and neural inflammation.
- Omega 3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids that play important role in health, longevity, and inflammation.
- 3 Types include ALA, EPA, and DHA. Omega 3’s can exert anti-inflammatory effects and protect against oxidative damage.
- EPA & DHA support cardiovascular health, may reduce blood pressure, and increase HDL and blood flow.
- They’re also important for the structural integrity of the brain, support cognition, may reduce neural inflammation, and delay neurodegeneration.
- Finally, Omega 3’s are important for skin regeneration, nail and hair growth, vision support, and eye health.
- The richest sources of omega-3 are fish, seafood, avocados, krill oil, walnuts (oil), and eggs.