They are called essential fatty acids (EFAs) because the body cannot make them, but they are absolutely vital for normal growth and development. These fats must be supplied by the diet. People living in modern westernised countries eat up to 30 times more omega-6 and omega-9 than omega-3 fatty acids, resulting in a widespread, relative deficiency of omega-3 fats.
Excess omega-6 fatty acids create inflammation that results in allergic and inflammatory disorders and make the body more prone to heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Diets rich in omega-3 acids and/or omega-3 supplements can restore the balance and prevent, and possibly reverse, these disease processes.
Sources of omega-3 fats
The best sources of the omega-3 fats are from the sea, the most popular being fish oil. However, experts now extoll the virtues of another source of omega-3, krill oil. Krill are small shrimp-like ocean crustaceans. The oil from both fish and krill offers great health benefits with subtle differences. In fact, they complement each other and make a great team.
Both krill and fish oil increase the levels of omega-3 fats in the blood plasma and in the membranes of the cells. However, there are differences. What scientists have found is that omega-3 fatty acids from fish improve circulation and heart health by its effects on the blood vessels and blood particles called platelets.
In comparison, the omega-3s found in krill are absorbed into special substances called phospholipids in the brain. In simple terms, fish oils have more circulatory benefits while krill oil may be more brain focused. Omega-3 fats are also found in some nuts especially flax, but is a much less reliable source.
Omega-3 for the heart, cholesterol, stroke, and blood pressure: Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and abnormal heart beat and are especially useful in women after menopause. Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent blood clots and can reduce the need for the use of blood thinning medication. They protect the blood vessel walls, decrease blockage, relax the arteries and improve blood flow.
Omega-3 helps lower total cholesterol levels, increase the good cholesterol (HDL) while decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL). Optimal consumption of omega-3 will lower high blood pressure and help to prevent hypertension.
Omega- 3 for children: Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the development of vision and brain function in children. Human breast milk contains the appropriate blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fats especially if mothers eat unpolluted fatty fish and consume omega-3 fats. When mother’s milk is unavailable, babies given formulas enriched with EFA’s have better vision and mental function than babies on formulas without added EFAs.
Omega-3 for inflammation: Because omega-3 fatty acids inhibit inflammation and pain, they help arthritis symptoms. Significant reduction in joints pain and morning stiffness is seen in arthritic patients taking more omega-3.
High-dose omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation of the airways and decrease asthma attacks. Experts suggest that allergic disorders such as asthma, may be triggered by too much omega-6 and too little omega-3 fats in our diet.
Omega-3 for mental disorders: Many common mental disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and schizophrenia, may be triggered or aggravated by deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids. Depression rates are lower in countries with high fish consumption.
Supplements containing omega-3 fats have been useful in children with ADHD and a 25 per cent reduction in schizophrenic symptoms was observed in patients taking optimal omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
Omega-3 for cancer prevention: The Mediterranean diet, high in fish and vegetables, decreases the risk of getting cancer by over 60 per cent. Omega-3 fats, it seems, strengthen the immune systems and inhibit the formation and growth of tumours.
Not all brands of omega-3 are equal. In my medical practice, I use a specially pure and potent omega-3 supplement in treating various conditions ranging from diabetes and hormonal imbalance to sickle cell anaemia and neuropathy. Everyone can benefit from supplementing their diet with omega- 3 fatty acids and a combining of oils from both fish and krill may provide even greater benefits.