Omega 3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that our body cannot produce and must be obtained from our diet. They are particularly important for heart health, brain development and function, vision, and reducing inflammation in the body.
Here are the properties described in the scientific literature:
- Protection of the cardiovascular system
- Neuroprotective effects and support for cognitive function
- Reduction of inflammation
- Prevention and treatment of joint and muscle pain
- Support for mental health by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Contributes to proper visual acuity
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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE ON OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS
Omega 3 fatty acid and anti-inflammatory processes
A chronic, excessive, or uncontrolled inflammation contributes to trigger different types of pathologies. Inflammations involve numerous cell types, chemical mediators, and interactions. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are fatty acids present in oily fish and in fish oil supplements. These fatty acids are capable of partly inhibiting many aspects of inflammations. EPA and DHA give birth to anti-inflammatory mediators that lead to an altering of the fatty acid composition of cell membranes. Through this action is the expression of inflammatory genes reduced. Studies on humans demonstrate the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids in rheumatoid polyarthritis, a chronic degenerative inflammatory disease found in joints, but also in the stabilization of advanced atherosclerosis plaques, compound aggregates essentially made of lipids that are deposited on the artery walls (1).
Omega 3 fatty acids to improve cardiovascular health
It has been demonstrated that omega 3 fatty acids considerably reduce the sudden death risk caused by cardiac arrhythmias and mortality, from all origins in patients affected by coronary diseases. In addition to being antiarrhythmic, omega 3 fatty acids are anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory. Moreover, it can be used to treat hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure and rheumatoid polyarthritis. Around 1g per day of omega 3 is recommended for cardio protection. However, higher doses are necessary to reduce high triglycerides levels (2 to 4 g per day) and to reduce minimal stiffness and joint pain in patients affected by rheumatoid polyarthritis (at least 3 g per day) (2).
Omega 3 oils have a protective role after a myocardial infarct
A study was led to confirm the benefits of omega 3 in people having had a myocardial infarct. They received 1 g per day for two years. The main evaluation criteria of efficiency were the number of deaths, of nonmortal myocardial infarcts and of strokes. The omega 3 dietary supplements led to a clinically important benefit and meaningful statistic because cardiovascular mortality was reduced by 20% (3). Another advanced study advanced a 29% reduction of mortality risk in people having had a myocardial infarct, after having advised them to eat oily fish twice a week over a two-year course (4).
Omega 3 oils act against hyperlipidemia and are good for good cholesterol (HDL)
Twelve healthy masculine patients took a daily supplement of 20 ml of cod liver oil, which is rich in omega 3 oils, for 6 weeks. The average triglyceride concentrations in blood plasma were reduced whereas the average concentrations in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, HDL or good cholesterol, were increased by the supplement (5).
Omega 3 oils have an effect against inflammatory states and the intestinal microbiota
Dietary habits on the long term play a crucial role in the creation of an intestinal microbiota that is unique to each person. A study demonstrated the beneficial effects of omega 3 oils on the microbiota and on intestinal inflammations after an omega 3 supplementation. This benefit is produced by their positive action on the types of micro-organisms that compose the flora. Indeed, omega 3 oils will foster a flora that will produce and enhance anti-inflammatory compounds, like short-chain fatty acids that are beneficial to fight inflammations. Moreover, the study evidence on animal models indicates that the interaction between the intestinal microbiota, omega 3 fatty acids and the immune system help to maintain intestinal wall integrity enhancing the hosts immune system. Finally, animal, and human studies have shed light on omega 3 oils’ capacity to influence the intestine-brain axis, operating through intestinal microbiota composition (6).
Omega 3 oils act against senescence
An increased dietary intake of omega 3 fatty acids is an associated with extended survival of patients affected by coronary diseases. A study investigated the link between omega 3 fatty acid blood levels and the temporal length change of telomeres. A telomere is found on the external part of chromosomes and protects their integrity. That is why telomeres are biological age markers. When they decay or disappear, senescence begins. Telomere length was measured on 608 Californian patients that were affected by a stable coronary disease over the course of 5 years. The telomere measurement was done at the beginning and at the end of the follow-up. The group presenting the lowest EPA+DHA (composed of omega 3 oils) showed a quicker alteration of telomeres than the group that had a higher level of EPA+DHA whose telomere alternation was slower (7).
Omega 3 fatty acid impact on memory functions of healthy elderly people
Alzheimer’s disease process starts years before its appearance. A dietary intake of omega 3 fatty acids can have beneficial effects on brain structure and function. In a study, among 44 cognitively healthy people, aged from 50 to 75 years, 22 received 200 mg/day of omega 3 oils, whereas the 22 others received a placebo, for 26 weeks. The memory performance was evaluated by tasks before and after the treatment. The result shows that the performances were significantly better in the group of those who received omega 3 oils rather than the placebo. Moreover, the memory of object location was much better in the same group. This experimental study shows that omega 3 oils have positive effects on memory functions of healthy elderly people (8).
Omega 3 oils reduce depression and anxious disorders
There is a short-term efficiency related to omega 3 supplementation to reduce depressive symptoms in patients suffering of a major depressive episode (MDE). An 8-week study was led in different Canadian university and psychiatric clinics. Adult EDM patients received doses of 1,050 mg/day of EPA and 150 mg/day of DHA, which are omega 3 components. The other group received a placebo. The results showed an improvement of the mental health of those in the group that received an omega 3 supplement to reduce depressive symptoms with an even better efficiency than those affected by EDM without anxious disorders (9).
Omega 3 oils take care of the skin
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, omega 3 oils reduce after 10 weeks of supplementation acne lesions in patients affected by acne (10). Moreover, this fatty acid supplementation seems promising in the prevention of allergic disorders, especially in the case of atopic dermatitis (11). Therefore omega 3 oils protect the skin and foster skin healing.
Omega 3 oils are women’s allies
A French study showed that omega 3 oils bring real benefits to women during their entire life because of their many advantages. Indeed, it is important that a woman’s adipose tissue reserve contains omega 3 oils for the right cognitive functioning of the fetus and the breastfed newborn. This guarantees the baby’s optimal brain development. The substantial presence of EPA and DHA in a woman’s diet lightly extends the pregnancy and improves its quality. Human milk given through breastfeeding contains both ALA and DHA, omega 3 components, unlike other mammals and helps the child continue his or her cognitive development after his or her birth. Furthermore, omega 3 oils are crucial to prevent ischemic cardiovascular diseases in women of all ages. They help to prevent the development of certain cancers, especially breast and colon cancer as well as eventually uterus or skin cancer. They are likely to reduce the risk of post-partum depression, of dementia (Alzheimer’s disease and others), hypertension, toxemia, diabetes and to a certain extent aging macular degeneration. Omega 3 fatty acids could also play a positive role in the prevention of menstrual syndrome and postmenopausal hot flashes (12).
- Philip C Calder, Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes: from molecules to man, Biochemical Society Transactions, September 2017
- Maggie B Convington, Omega-3 fatty acids, American Family Physician, July 2004
- Dietary supplementation with n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E after myocardial infarction: results of the GISSI-Prevenzione trial. Gruppo Italiano per lo Studio della Sopravvivenza nell’Infarto miocardico, The Lancet, 1999
- ML Burr, AM Fehily, JF Gilbert, Effects of changes in fat, fish, and fibre intakes on death and myocardial reinfarction: diet and reinfarction trial (DART), The Lancet, September 1989
- TA Sanders, M Vickers, AP Haines, Effect on blood lipids and haemostasis of a supplement of cod-liver oil, rich in eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, in healthy young men, Clinical Science London, 1981
- L Costantini, R Molinari, B Farinon, N Merendino, Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on the Gut Microbiota, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, December 2017
- RF Far, J Lin, ES Epel, Association of marine omega-3 fatty acid levels with telomeric aging in patients with coronary heart disease, Journal of the American Medical Association, January 2010
- N Külzow, AV Witte, L Kerti, Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Memory Functions in Healthy Older Adults, Journal of Alzheimer’s disease, 2016
- F Lespérance, NF Smith, E StAndré, The efficacy of omega-3 supplementation for major depression: a randomized controlled trial, The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, August 2011
- JY Jung, HH Kwoon, JS Hong, Effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid and gamma-linolenic acid on acne vulgaris: a randomised, double-blind, controlled trial, Acta dermato-venereologica, September 2014
- I Reese, T Werfel, Do long-chain omega-3 fatty acids protect from atopic dermatitis?, Journal of the German Society of Dermatology, September 2015
- JM Bourre, Dietary omega-3 fatty acids for women, Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy, April 2007