You?ve probably heard a lot about omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil supplements. You may know people who take them for a wide variety of ailments. It?s true that your body needs these essential fatty acids, but what exactly are they? Do they deliver on the promises of fixing diseases and ailments from high cholesterol to depression?
What Are Omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are necessary for normal metabolism and overall health, but they cannot be made by the human body. In other words, we need to get them from food and supplements. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish oils, krill oil, and some plant and nut oils, like flaxseed oil and hemp oil. Fish oils contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Many studies have proven the myriad of health benefits of those types of omega-3s.
The plant and nut oils, however, contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Our bodies can turn ALA into DHA and EPA, but the process is rather slow. ALA has been shown to help health problems like asthma. It increases lung function and decreases inflammation. It shouldn?t be your sole source of omega-3 fatty acids, though. ALA has not been proven effective in all the ways that DHA and EPA have been, so while other oils have redeeming qualities, eating fish or taking a quality supplement with DHA and EPA is the best way to reap the rewards of omega-3s. The It?s Vital? Omega-3 supplement contains a blend of DHA and EPA fatty acids with a rosemary-based antioxidant blend in lightly lemon-flavored softgel.
What Do They Do?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the single, leading cause of death in United States. Omega-3s can help lower the risk of heart disease. One way they do so is by helping lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. They are anti-inflammatory, which has shown benefits in diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. They have also proven effective in helping osteoporosis. Studies have actually shown both slowed bone loss rates and regained bone density in some people taking omega-3s.
Evidence is not as strong regarding the effects of omega-3s on other health and psychological diseases. In some studies, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia show improvement of symptoms from omega-3 consumption, but in other studies no link was found. Bowel diseases like Crohn?s disease and Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have also had mixed outcomes in medical studies. The prevention of some cancers has even been linked to omega-3 intake. If you wish to use fish oil for disease treatment or prevention, it is vitally important to look at the studies that have been conducted on its use with that particular health problem and discuss them with your doctor.
A Word of Caution
High doses of omega-3s can cause bleeding, especially in people with bleeding disorders or those on blood thinning medication. Doses of more than 3 grams per day can increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. It can also cause a slight increase in fasting blood sugar for those with type 2 diabetes. It is recommended that you talk to your doctor before you begin taking an omega-3 supplement to rule out possible drug interactions and discuss the potential for side effects. Your doctor can help you determine the best dosage for you.
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