Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that your body requires for healthy function. They are found in fish such as salmon, halibut and tuna and plant-based foods such as flaxseed and olive oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are also referred to as polyunsaturated fatty acids and play key roles in healthy brain and nerve growth, development and function. They also help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Omega-3 is also a popular health food supplement and is sold in the form of cod liver oil, fish oil and flaxseed oil supplements; however, it should be taken as directed for best results. Additionally, it is important to consult your doctor before taking omega-3 fatty acid and other health supplements.
The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that omega-3 fatty acids help to decrease the risk of chronic disease such as heart disease, arteriosclerosis and arthritis by reducing inflammation in the body. These essential acids are found in high concentrations in the brain and may be critical for cognitive tasks such as memory, problem-solving and thinking as well as behavioral and mood functions. A deficiency of omega-3 in the body can lead to fatigue, dry skin, poor memory, depression, mood swings, heart problems and poor blood circulation. Babies who do not receive adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in the womb are also at higher risk for developing nerve and vision disorders.
When to Take Omega-3
As with most supplements, the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids occur gradually and may take up to 8 weeks to be noticeable. Wassen, which is also a retailer for omega-3 fatty acid supplements, advises that it is best to take your daily omega-3 dose with a meal, preferably at dinner time. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that flaxseed supplements can slow down the absorption of other medications and nutrient supplements. Hence, it is advisable to avoid taking omega-3 at the same time as other supplements and medicines.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that your body cannot produce and must acquire from food. Sources of this vital fat include flaxseed oil, which contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that flaxseed contains an essential fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, which your body then converts into eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, the types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. These different types of omega-3 fatty acids are thought to have varying health benefits. EPA and DHA, which are primarily found in fish, help to reduce inflammation to decrease the risk of heart disease and arthritis. It is not yet known whether ALA, which is found in flaxseed oil, has the same health effects, even though your body converts it to the other types of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important in the diet to help balance omega-6 essential fatty acids. The Western diet is typically much more indulgent in omega-6, and this can lead to disease-causing inflammation in the body. The Mediterranean diet has a healthier balance between these two essential fats as it does not include excess red meat, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids, but contains more whole grains, fish, olive oil and fresh fruits and vegetables.