What are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are “essential” fatty acids which belong to a class of unsaturated (presence of a double or triple bond in the structure of the molecule) fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids that are important in nutrition point of view and they are: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosa pentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosa hexaenoic acid (DHA).
The human body cannot synthesize Omega-3 fatty acids but can form these by conversion of few saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, which are in turn supplied by the food taken. The common sources for Omega-3 fatty acids are fish such as salmon and tuna, certain algae and other marine plants. These are also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and are believed to play a major role in brain development.
Let us now discuss the clinical uses of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Uses of Omega-3 fatty acids
* Omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood cholesterol level. It is found that food containing eicosa pentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosa hexaenoic acid (DHA) reduce Low Density Lipoproteins (Bad cholesterol) and triglycerides (break down products of fat) in blood. Also walnuts, which contain ALA, can lower total cholesterol level in blood.
* Omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood pressure in patients suffering from hypertension
* Omega-3 fatty acids play a major role in preventing heart diseases like stroke. Replacing saturated fatty acids with unsaturated fatty acids like Omega-3 fatty acids helps in preventing and treating heart disorders.
* Obese people with poor blood sugar control, diabetes and high cholesterol are suggested to have a diet containing Omega-3 fatty acids.
* Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce tenderness in joints, decrease pain in joints and reduce medication in patients suffering with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
* Omega-3 fatty acids help in increasing calcium levels in body and improve bone strength thus reducing the chances of osteoporosis (bones becoming porous and weak).
* Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in treating acne and other skin disorders
* They also decrease inflammation and improve lung function in asthma patients.
* They are also found to have potential capacity in the treatment of colon, prostate and breast cancers
Omega-3 fatty acids in brain development
Omega-3 fatty acids play a significant role in brain development and also in acting against brain disorders.
Essential fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and are important for cognitive (memory and performance) and behavioral function of the brain. It was found that infants who do not get enough Omega-3 fatty acids from their mothers during pregnancy are at a greater risk for developing vision and nerve problems.Omega-3 fatty acids comprise 8% of the average human brain. They are known to have membrane enhancing capabilities in brain cells and also play a role in the formation of myelin sheaths.
Omega-3 fatty acids help the brain to repair damage by promoting neuronal growth. People who have a diet deficient of Omega-3 fatty acids are at an increased risk for depression and mental anxiety. Children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are found to have low levels of certain essential fatty acids (including EPA and DHA) in their bodies.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also found useful in the treatment of neuronal disorders like Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.