Omega 3 fatty acids are incredibly important. They can have all sorts of powerful health benefits for your body and brain. In fact, few nutrients have been studied as thoroughly as omega-3 fatty acids. There are many health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids that are supported by science, however, it is good to remember that there are also negative findings or no result findings. We believe that it is a valuable supplement but differences of genetics may alter individual responses.
Omega 3 Can Fight Inflammation
- Inflammation is incredibly important. We need it to fight infections and repair damage in the body.
- However, sometimes inflammation persists for a long time, even without an infection or injury being present. This is called chronic (long-term) inflammation.
- It is known that long-term inflammation can contribute to almost every chronic Western disease, including heart disease and cancer (84, 85, 86).
- Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines (87, 88, 89).
- Studies have consistently shown a link between higher omega-3 intake and reduced inflammation (11, 90, 91, 92, 93).
Omega 3 Can Reduce Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
- Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions.
- It includes central obesity (belly fat), high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high triglycerides and low HDL levels.
- It is a major public health concern, since it increases your risk of developing many other diseases. These include heart disease and diabetes (79).
- Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, and improve heart disease risk factors in people with metabolic syndrome (80, 81, 82, 83).
Omega-3s Can Reduce Fat in The Liver
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is very common and is a rapidly growing problem.
- It has increased with the obesity epidemic, and is now the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the Western world (128).
- Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce liver fat and inflammation in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (128, 129, 130, 131).
Omega 3 Can Improve Risk Factors For Heart Disease
- Heart attacks and strokes are the world’s leading causes of death (28).
- Decades ago, researchers observed that fish-eating communities had very low rates of these diseases. This was later found to be partially due to omega-3 consumption (29, 30, 31, 32).
- Since then, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have numerous benefits for heart health (33, 34, 35, 36, 37).
- These include:
- Triglycerides: Omega-3s can cause a major reduction in triglycerides, usually in the range of 15–30% (38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44).
- Blood pressure: Omega-3s can reduce blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure (38, 45, 46, 47, 48).
- HDL-cholesterol: Omega-3s can raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol levels (49, 50, 51, 52, 53)
- Blood clots: Omega-3s can keep blood platelets from clumping together. This helps prevent the formation of harmful blood clots (54, 55).
- Plaque: By keeping the arteries smooth and free from damage, omega-3s help prevent the plaque that can restrict and harden the arteries (56, 57, 58).
- Inflammation: Omega-3s reduce the production of some substances released during the inflammatory response (40, 42, 59).
- For some people, omega-3s can also lower LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol. However, the evidence is mixed and some studies actually find increases in LDL (60, 61, 62, 63).
- Interestingly, despite all these beneficial effects on heart disease risk factors, there is no convincing evidence that omega-3 supplements can prevent heart attacks or strokes. Many studies find no benefit (64, 65).
Omega 3 Can Fight Autoimmune Diseases
- In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign cells and starts attacking them.
- Type 1 diabetes is one prime example. In this disease, the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
- Omega-3s can help fight some of these diseases, and may be especially important during early life.
- Studies show that getting enough omega-3s during your first year of life is linked to a reduced risk of many autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, autoimmune diabetes in adults and multiple sclerosis (94, 95, 96).
- Omega-3s have also been shown to help treat lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis (89, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105).
Omega 3 Can Fight Depression and Anxiety
- Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world.
- Symptoms include sadness, lethargy and a general loss of interest in life (1, 2).
- Anxiety is also a very common disorder, and is characterized by constant worry and nervousness (3).
- Interestingly, studies have found that people who consume omega-3s regularly are less likely to be depressed (4, 5).
- What’s more, when people with depression or anxiety start taking omega-3 supplements, their symptoms get better (6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).
- There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA. Of the three, EPA appears to be the best at fighting depression (12).
- One study even found EPA to be as effective against depression as Prozac, an antidepressant drug (13).
Omega 3 Can Improve Eye Health
- DHA, a type of omega-3, is a major structural component of the brain and retina of the eye (14).
- When you don’t get enough DHA, vision problems may arise (15, 16, 17).
- Interestingly, getting enough omega-3 has been linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, one of the world’s leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness (18, 19).
Omega 3 Can Promote Brain Health During Pregnancy and Early Life
- Omega-3s are crucial for brain growth and development in infants.
- DHA accounts for 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the brain, and 60% in the retina of the eye (15, 20).
- Therefore, it’s no surprise that infants fed a DHA-fortified formula have better eyesight than infants fed a formula without it (21).
- Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy has been associated with numerous benefits for the child, including (22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27):
- Higher intelligence.
- Better communication and social skills.
- Less behavioral problems.
- Decreased risk of developmental delay.
- Decreased risk of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy.
Omega-3s Can Reduce Symptoms of ADHD in Children
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity (66, 67).
- Several studies have found that children with ADHD have lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, compared to their healthy peers (68, 69).
- What’s more, numerous studies have found that omega-3 supplements can actually reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
- Omega-3s help improve inattention and the ability to complete tasks. They also decrease hyperactivity, impulsiveness, restlessness and aggression (70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77).
- Recently, researchers evaluated the evidence behind different treatments for ADHD. They found fish oil supplementation to be one of the most promising treatments (78).
Omega 3 Can Improve Mental Disorders
- Low omega-3 levels have been reported in people with psychiatric disorders (106).
- Studies have shown that omega-3 supplements can reduce the frequency of mood swings and relapses in people with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (4, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111).
- Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may also decrease violent behavior (112).
Omega-3s Can Fight Age-Related Mental Decline and Alzheimer’s Disease
- A decline in brain function is one of the unavoidable consequences of aging.
- Several studies have shown that higher omega-3 intake is linked to decreased age-related mental decline and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease (113, 114, 115, 116, 117).
- Additionally, one study found that people who eat fatty fish tend to have more gray matter in the brain. This is brain tissue that processes information, memories and emotions (118).
Omega-3s May Help Prevent Cancer
- Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the Western world, and omega-3 fatty acids have long been claimed to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
- Interestingly, studies have shown that people who consume the most omega-3s have up to a 55% lower risk of colon cancer (119, 120).
- Additionally, omega-3 consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. However, not all studies agree on this (121, 122, 123, 124).
Omega 3 Can Reduce Asthma in Children
- Asthma is a chronic lung disease with symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing.
- Severe asthma attacks can be very dangerous. They are caused by inflammation and swelling in the airways of the lungs.
- What’s more, asthma rates have been increasing over the past few decades (125).
- Several studies have linked omega-3 consumption to a lower risk of asthma in children and young adults (126, 127).
Omega 3 May Improve Bone and Joint Health
- Osteoporosis and arthritis are two common disorders that affect the skeletal system.
- Studies indicate that omega-3s can improve bone strength by increasing the amount of calcium in bones. This should lead to a reduced risk of osteoporosis (133, 133).
- Omega-3s may also help with arthritis. Patients taking omega-3 supplements have reported reduced joint pain and increased grip strength (134, 135, 136).
Omega 3 Can Alleviate Menstrual Pain
- Menstrual pain occurs in the lower abdomen and pelvis, and often radiates to the lower back and thighs.
- It can result in significant negative effects on a person’s quality of life (137).
- However, studies have repeatedly shown that women who consume the most omega-3s have milder menstrual pain (138, 139, 140, 141).
- One study even found that an omega-3 supplement was more effective than ibuprofen in treating severe pain during menstruation (142).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Improve Sleep
- Good sleep is one of the foundations of optimal health.
- Studies show that sleep deprivation is linked to many diseases, including obesity, diabetes and depression (143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148).
- Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with sleep problems in children and obstructive sleep apnea in adults (149, 150, 151, 152).
- Low levels of DHA have also been linked to lower levels of the hormone melatonin, which helps you fall asleep (153).
- Studies in both children and adults have shown that supplementing with omega-3 increases the length and quality of sleep (150, 154).
Omega 3 Fats Are Good For Your Skin
- DHA is a structural component of the skin. It is responsible for the health of cell membranes, which make up a large part of skin.
- A healthy cell membrane results in soft, moist, supple and wrinkle-free skin.
- EPA also benefits the skin in several ways, including (155, 156, 157):
- Managing oil production in skin.
- Managing hydration of the skin.
- Preventing hyperkeratinization of hair follicles (the little red bumps often seen on upper arms).
- Preventing premature ageing of the skin.
- Preventing acne.
- Omega-3s can also protect your skin from sun damage. EPA helps block the release of substances that eat away at the collagen in your skin after sun exposure (158).