Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Mega Power of Omega

 

Fish body oilOmega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are two types of essential fatty acids (EFAs) that people need to consume to stay healthy. Our body acquires these fatty acids through diet. Omega-6 fatty acids are beneficial as well. They help regulate inflammation and blood pressure as well as heart, gastrointestinal, and kidney functions. Good dietary sources of omega-6 fatty acids include cereals, eggs, poultry, most vegetable oils, whole-grain breads, baked goods, and margarine. It is important to maintain an appropriate balance of omega 3 and omega-6 in the diet as these two substances work together to promote health.
Omega 3 fatty acids are poly-unsaturated fatty acids. Before we delve in the health bestowing properties of omega 3 fatty acids, let’s investigate a bit, what exactly is fatty acid? Fatty acids determine the characteristics of a fat, such as whether it is solid or liquid at room temperature. The basic structure of a fatty acid is a chain of carbon atoms, the shorter the carbon chain the more liquid the fatty acid becomes. Carbon chain in polyunsaturated fatty acids contains two or more double bonds.

Good sources of omega 3 fatty acids—
• All fish contain omega 3 fatty acids, but they are more concentrated in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmons, sardines and herring. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least 2 times a week.
• Other sources of omega 3s include:
o Green leafy vegetables
o Soy and tofu
o Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, and flaxseed

How omega 3 fatty acids help?

Lower triglycerides–Studies show that a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids may help lower triglycerides (the major lipid in the diet and the body) and increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Omega 3 fatty acids may also act as an anticoagulant to prevent blood from clotting. Several other studies also suggest that these fatty acids may help lower high blood pressure. All these factors account for healthy arteries.

Active brain-Omega 3 fatty acids may protect against the accumulation in the body of a protein believed to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, according to the results of a new animal study published in the March 2005 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. This study specifically investigated one particular kind of omega 3 fatty acids – Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and the results are encouraging.

Fights inflammation–They may help in relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis with considerable success (especially in early stages of the disease).

Treats PMS–These oils may also be useful in the treatment of menstrual cramps, inflammatory bowel disease.

Omega 3: Fish or Plant?

With the increasing popularity of vegetarian diets people often ask about using flax oil (which contains alpha-linolenic acids – or ALA) instead of fish oil. Though, our bodies can convert ALA into eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – the beneficial elements of omega 3– but the conversion process is slow.

 In addition, a high concentration of ALA (as present in flax oil pills) has been linked to higher risk of prostate cancer by some early research. Until more is known, men may be safest to choose fish oil for heart-healthy omega 3s instead of plant-sourced ALA.

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