Contrary to what you might read online, there is no doubt about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. And there’s no better source than a fish oil supplement, because fish produce these fatty acids to protect themselves from cold-water temperatures.
Simple enough? It is, until you Google “omega-3” or “fatty acids” There are enough conflicting opinions and analyses out there to give anyone a headache. But there is only one way get some clarity: To look at the compounds, their function in the body and how they are used.
What are Omega Fatty Acids?
To begin with, these are essential fatty acids, which means the body needs them for normal functioning, cannot produce them and therefore must get them from food or supplements. Our body does produce some Omega fatty acids, but not nearly enough. This capability also declines with age.
These fatty acids are important components of our cell membranes, which are integral to the proper functioning of every cell of the body. They also contribute to the elasticity of the cell membrane, making the cells plump. This can boost skin elasticity and slow the formation of wrinkles.
The omegas are also crucial to the cell membranes of our nerve cells and synapses. With a deficiency of these fatty acids, the nerve cells may be incapable of proper communication with each other, which can lead to depression, bipolar disorder, dementia (i.e., memory loss) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conditions that Omega fatty acids have been proven to help treat and prevent.
The Great Inflammation Debate
There is some discussion surrounding anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory properties of Omega fatty acids. They are used in the formation of compounds called eicosanoids. This includes prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes. Most of them are pro-inflammatory, but some are anti-inflammatory. The omega fatty acids (particularly the omega-3 fatty acids) have been shown to produce more of the anti-inflammatory eicosanoids. This anti-inflammatory effect may contribute to cleaner arteries by inhibiting the formation of cholesterol plaques (i.e., the fatty plaques that clog up the arteries leading to heart attacks, strokes, and insufficient circulation to kidneys and legs).
The best sources of omega 3, omega 6 as well as omega 9 fatty acids are marine animals such as cold water fish (salmon, cod, halibut, sardines, mackerel and flounder). These fish produce these acids to protect themselves from the cold-water temperatures at the deeper depths of seas and oceans. A great way to ensure you are getting enough of this is with a fish oil supplement. Other fantastic sources are krill oil, flax seed oil, hemp seed oil, grape seed oil and avocado oil.
These fatty acids will not only contribute to your mental and cardiovascular health but they may direct your metabolism into burning more carbohydrates and fats for energy — a healthy weight maintenance bonus.
Dr. Karol M.D