Did you know, the human body can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials? Well, that isn’t the case for omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential fats—the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from another source.
The most well known, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), are found in fish sources. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is found in plant sources like nuts and seeds. From before we’re born through to our golden years, this essential fatty acid has a role to play at every stage of our lives. Unfortunately, most people don’t eat fatty fish regularly or take effective doses of omega-3 supplements. And as speculated, long-term omega-3 deficiency may produce serious consequences.
One Harvard study even speculated that omega-3 deficiency might account for some 96,000 deaths every year (1). Omega-3s are such an important part of the cell’s metabolism that the molecules are consumed quickly. Unlike minerals, such as calcium (which typically stay in the bone for a relatively long time), the cells need a regular supply of the omega-3 molecules. This explains why it’s important to get a certain amount of omega-3s every day for optimal cell functioning.
Omega-3’s have been extensively studied for their health benefits. They are important components of the membranes that surround each cell in your body, including cells in your eyes and brain, and play many roles in our health, such as supporting functions in the heart, lungs, blood vessels, immune system, and endocrine system. They also are needed for proper neurological function, cell membrane maintenance, mood regulation, and hormone production. Besides maintaining the cell membrane, omega-3 molecules help control the body’s inflammatory response.
Omega-3s balance or neutralize the pro-inflammatory omega-6s, which are found in most vegetable oils and all our processed foods. While we need a certain amount of omega-6s in our diet, consuming excessive amounts of omega-6 creates havoc with our bodies. The consequence? Swelling, pain, and loss of joint functioning. Long term, this chronic inflammation helps fuel more chronic diseases, like Alzheimer’s, arthritis, heart disease and even certain types of cancer. EPA and DHA have also been discovered to create the building blocks for new metabolites that have the ability to stop ongoing inflammation, especially in the brain.
Here are a few of the other ways Omega-3s work to help your body: according to www.webmd.com
1. Blood Fat Triglycerides: Fish oil supplements can lower elevated triglyceride levels. Having high levels of this blood fat puts you at risk for heart disease.
2. Baby Development: DHA appears to be important for visual and neurological development in infants.
3. Depression. Some researchers have found that cultures that eat foods with high levels of omega-3s have lower levels of depression.
So as you can see, Omega-3s are highly important for optimal functioning of the brain & body and a sufficient amount is needed for proper cell functioning.
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References (1). Starling, Shane. Omega-3 Deficiency Causes 96,000 US Deaths Per Year, Say Researchers. NutraIngredients-USA. June 26, 2009