Omega-3s: What You Need to Know

Omega-3 fatty acids tied to positive health effects

(RxWiki News) There are lots of types of fatty acids, but omega-3 fatty acids get a lot of attention. And there's a good reason for that.

Numerous studies have tied omega-3 fatty acids to positive health effects.

Here's everything you need to know about these fatty acids and how they affect your health.

What Are Omega-3s?

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods and supplements. They are essential to various processes in our bodies, such as forming the membranes surrounding every cell in the body. However, our bodies cannot make omega-3s. That means we have to consume them through foods or supplements.

There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids:

  1. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  2. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  3. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

How Do Omega-3s Benefit Health?

What's the big deal about omega-3s, anyway? Plenty of studies have found all kinds of potential health benefits. But a few key benefits keep popping up in the research:

  • Omega-3 consumption has been tied to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Omega-3s may help unborn babies develop healthily in the womb.
  • Some research suggests that consuming omega-3s may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
  • Some but not all studies have found that omega-3s may be tied to a reduced risk of some types of cancer, such as breast and colorectal cancer.
  • Some rheumatoid arthritis symptoms may be managed to a small degree with omega-3s, according to some research.
  • Omega-3s may reduce the risk of developing certain eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration and dry eye disease.

Research on the health benefits of omega-3s is ongoing, and much of it is too early to make firm statements on how omega-3s will affect health. Still, much of the research is extremely promising.

What Foods Contain Omega-3s?

According to the National Institutes of Health, eating a varied and healthy diet will typically provide a sufficient amount of omega-3s. But if you want to ensure that you are eating good sources of these fatty acids, consider eating more high-omega-3 foods from the following list:

  • Flaxseed, canola, soybean and other plant oils
  • Walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and other nuts and seeds
  • Cold-water fatty fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, herring and mackerel

Do Omega-3 Supplements Work?

Many people also choose to take a dietary supplement that contains omega-3s. These supplements are usually made from fish, krill, cod liver or algal oil.

These supplements can pack an omega-3 punch, but it's important to talk to your health care provider before adding new supplement to your diet.

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Review Date: 
March 15, 2022