Benefits of Omega-3s

Mar 3, 2022

 by Christina Wilson

March 3 (03-03) is Global Omega-3 Day


Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that our bodies cannot produce, so we must get all of our omega-3s from food or supplementation. The three primary omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). 


Simply put, omega-3 fats help reduce inflammation in various parts of the body. Elevated inflammation is often the root of many chronic diseases. For example, omega-3 can be very effective in reducing pain and inflammation for people with joint pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular issues, and even Alzheimer's, which is considered inflammation of the brain. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids also improve immune functioning and support our skin health. 


Fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, and sardines are high-quality essential sources of omega-3. The American Heart Association suggests eating at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fish each week. If you're a vegetarian or just don't like the taste of fish, walnuts, and flax, chia and hemp seeds are also good sources. However, be aware the conversion of plant-based (called ALA) isn't as high in the body as EPA from fish sources. 


The Standard American Diet is very high in damaging omega-6 fats and oils, with a ratio of around 15:1 omega-6 versus omega-3s! Avoiding vegetable oils in processed foods and consuming more omega-3 fats from diet and supplementation will help balance the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.


As the field of nutritional psychiatry expands, we are learning more and more about just how integral food can be to brain health. Observational studies have found fish intake to be associated with lower risks of cognitive deterioration and Alzheimer’s disease.


Research indicates that low omega intake may predispose certain individuals to depression and anxiety and that dietary supplementation represents an exciting strategy for preventing or treating depression and anxiety disorders in certain individuals. A systematic review has shown omega 3 fish oils to significantly improve the effectiveness of antidepressants in people being treated for clinical depression.


For general health benefits, I usually suggest taking 1,000-2,000 mg of EPA plus DHA daily from a high-quality, pure, sustainably sourced omega-3 supplement.