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Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

by Ralph Teller

What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are considered essential fatty acids: They are necessary for human health but the body can' t make them -- you have to get them through food or supplements. Because our body cannot make Omega-3 fatty acids ourselves, it is important to maintain a diet high in Omega-3's. Unfortunately, even the healthiest of diets rarely provide adequate amounts of Omega-3's EPA and DHA.

Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

A. Heart Health, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Levels. Foods containing Omega-3's have been shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce triglycerides and help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Fish oil supplements and regular exercise both reduce body fat and improve cardiovascular and metabolic health. Increasing intake of Omega-3's could be a useful adjunct to exercise programs aimed at improving body composition and decreasing cardiovascular disease risk.

B. Prostate Health and Testosterone Levels. Omega-3's and Vitamin D have been found to positively impact men's fertility, erective function (through improved cardiovascular health) sperm count and quality and spermiogenesis. There are also indications that Omega-3's may (i) reduce the risks of prostate cancer and (ii) delay the progression of prostate cancer cells to an aggressive and un-treatable state.

C. Mental Health, ADHD and Depression.Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to (i) decrease anxiety, (ii) help calm angry moods, and (iii) lessen risk and severity of depression.

Children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have low levels of certain essential fatty acids (including the Omega-3's EPA and DHA). In a clinical study of nearly 100 boys, those with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids had more learning and behavioral problems (such as temper tantrums and sleep disturbances) than boys with normal omega-3 fatty acid levels. New studies show supplementation of Omega-3 fatty acids are effective in improving Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

D. Metabolic Health and Diabetes. People with diabetes often have high triglyceride and low HDL levels. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can help lower triglycerides and apoproteins (markers of diabetes), and raise HDL. Eating Omega-3-rich foods or taking fish oil supplements may help people with diabetes. Omega-3 fatty acids improves glucose uptake in the presence of insulin. Good levels of Vitamin D and Calcium have been indicators to prevent type 2 diabetes.

E. Anti-Infammatory and Immune System Health. Omega-3's have been proven to reduce inflammatory factors. Cod liver oil has been used as an anti-inflammatory to treat arthritis joint pain symptoms.

F. Colon Health and Colon Cancer. Omega-3's have been shown to offer different levels of protection against colorectal cancer.

G. Women's Health.Omega-3 fatty acids (i) improve women's fertility, (ii) help fight depression, including post-partum depression, (iii) improve bone mineral density, (iv) have protective effects against breast cancer, and (v) improves cognitive function.

H. Fetus and Infant Health. Adequate Omega-3 oil consumption by women during pregnancy (i) is important to improve fetus neurodevelopment, bone development and bone mineral density, (ii) helps reduce risks of asthma in children, (iii) improves children's eyesight, cognition and IQ, and (iv) is closely associated with a higher birth weight.

I. Children's Health. Omega-3 fatty acids have been attributed to improving children's growth, cognitive performance, learning, memory, and problem solving skills. Boys with ADHD have been found in general to have lower levels of key fatty acids.

J. Muscle Recovery. Significant to athletes, especially endurance runners, cyclists and triathletes, fish oils are associated with increased efficiency of muscle O2 consumption and promoted resistance to muscle fatigue. Fish oils promote resting oxygen consumption to increase in recovery.

Natural Food Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish. The best source of Omega-3 fatty acids are cold-water fish and fish oils, including Cod Liver Oil. Nordic Naturals provides excellent and pure natural Cod Liver Oil and Omega-3 fish oil products. Cultures that maintain diets that are high in seafood have fewer risks of cancer diseases. Here is a list of seafood containing Omega-3's:

Seafood sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acis

As higher food chain fishes can contain higher levels of mercury, it is recommended to not consume too much of certain types of fish. Here is a list of fish that contain Omega-3 fatty acids, along with potential mercury content:

Fish content of Omega-3 Fatty Acis and Mercury

Nuts, Seeds and Oils. The plant-source omega-3 fatty acid named ALA are found in the following foods. While it was once thought that our bodies could convert ALA into the longer-chain EPA and DHA found in fish sources, current research shows that conversion to be very unreliable and that it may not occur at all in some people.

•Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
•Brazil nuts
•Olive oil
•Hemp seeds
•Pumpkin seeds

Raw Milk. Raw Milk is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. See Raw Milk Nutrient Content

Fruits and Vegetables. Plant-source omega-3 fatty acids are not only found in fish, nuts, seeds and oils. Fruits and vegetables that are good sources of ALA include:

•green beans, kidney beans and navy beans
•winter and summer squash
•raspberries and strawberries
•broccoli and cauliflower
•romaine lettuce and collard greens

Wheat Germ, Beef and Poultry. Wheat germ and free-range beef and poultry are also good sources of Omega-3s.

More about Ralph Teller. See Ralph's 1Vigor Log Calendar.

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Articles on Omega-3 Fatty Acids

PublicationOmega-Research Resource Library

PublicationOmega-3 fatty acids, University of Maryland Medical Center

PublicationMany Americans Fall Short on Their Vitamin D, Steven Reinberg, HealthDay

PublicationOmega-3 FA in Postpartum Depression: Prevention/Treatment, Depression Research & Treatment, Omega-Research Resource Library

PublicationMaternal Fish Intake and Child Neurodevelopment, Public Health Nutrition, Omega-Research Resource Library

PublicationPregnant women supplementing with fish oil show positive outcomes in fetal development, Anals of Medicine, Omega-Research Resource Library

PublicationVitamin D and Calcium may prevent type 2 Diabetes , Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Omega-Research Resource Library

PublicationPUFAs Improve Insulin Action and Glucose Metabolism , Journal of Nutrition, Omega-Research Resource Library

PublicationFoods Containing Omega-3s Help To Lower Blood Pressure , Hypertension, Omega-Research Resource Library

PublicationFish Oil Supports Muscle Recovery, Journal of Nutrition, Omega-Research Resource Library

PublicationOmega-3 FAs And Exercise Reduce Body Fat; Improve Cardiovascular And Metabolic Health, Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Omega-Research Resource Library

PublicationOmega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements for the Treatment of Children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Michael H. Bloch, M.D., Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

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