Omega 3 Benefits - Health Problems



What medical conditions can omega 3 (n-3) help prevent?

Are you concerned about any of the following illnesses? Research shows a strong correlation between n-3 deficiency and these mainly degenerative diseases.

Inflammation appears as a common thread through these serious conditions.

Inflammation: Literally the condition of being set on fire. A biological response of the immune system to a threat such as infection. Characterized by redness, swelling, heat and pain. Essentially a healing mechanism, if it persists inflammation causes destruction of healthy tissue and thus disease.


Use this table to find out which PUFAs can help combat inflammation and which PUFAs promote it.

PUFA Effect Mechanisms PUFA Food Sources
EPA (n-3) Reduces Inflammation Eicosanoids Resolvins Fatty Fish, Fish Oil Supplements, Algae Supplements
DHA (n-3) Reduces Inflammation Resolvins Docosatrienes Neuroprotectins Fatty Fish, Fish Oil Supplements, Algae Supplements
DGLA (n-6) Reduces Inflammation Eicosanoids Evening Primrose Oil, Blackcurrant Seed Oil
AA (n-6) Increases Inflammation Eicosanoids Meat and other animal products (see note below)
ALA (n-3) Reduces Inflammation Indirectly via conversion to EPA and DHA Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, Walnuts
Note: Meat, dairy products and eggs are also a source of n-3 PUFAs and other beneficial nutrients. They can play a valuable role in your diet. If you eat meat consider the benefits of selecting products from animals that have been raised in pastures.

Find out why grass fed meat is better for you

Cardiovascular disease

The main cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the build-up of plaque on artery walls (atherosclerosis).

Atherosclerosis is considered an inflammatory response and is difficult to diagnose until it has reached an advanced state.

Atherosclerosis is associated with a high ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol in the blood. This is no longer considered to be closely correlated with the amount of cholesterol consumed in the diet.

n-3 PUFAs help to regulate LDL to HDL cholesterol ratios by reducing the former while not reducing the latter.

Depression

The relationship between PUFA balance and mental conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder has not yet clearly been established.

However many research studies suggest that the n-3 to n-6 intake ratio significantly impacts mood swings.

The Psychiatry Department at Harvard Medical School is researching the use of n-3 PUFAs and other natural substances in treating depression and bipolar disorder. Preliminary results suggest that n-3 PUFAs, especially EPA and DHA, exhibit anti-depressant and mood stabilizing effects.

The Harvard research includes the study of membrane phospholipids, of which n-3 PUFAs are an important component.

Memory loss, vision deterioration and other cognitive problems

The deterioration of cognitive ability, including sight and memory loss, is generally associated with aging.

DHA is present in higher concentrations in the brain than in other tissues. It is also more abundant in the brain than other PUFAs. DHA plays an important role in neural function.

Both EPA and DHA affect the health of brain and retina cells through their impact on the functioning of cell membranes, of which they are components. This directly affects the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other.

In many separate research studies poor or declining cognitive function has been directly correlated with low levels of DHA in brain tissues. This has in turn been linked with DHA deficiency in the diet.

Diabetes

Diabetes is characterized by high levels of blood sugar due to a deficiency in insulin function. This causes spikes in insulin levels.

If you suffer from diabetes you have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

n-3 PUFAs help to prevent diabetes by: However, caution is required when taking fish oil supplements, which have been shown to adversely impact glucose homeostasis in diabetic subjects. If you are diabetic you must consult your doctor before taking supplements that contain the n-3 PUFAs EPA and DHA.

Arthritis

Joint inflammation is a widespread problem in western civilizations and is now widely attributed to dietary deficiencies.

Arthritis is associated withinflammatory responses that are:

Cancer

n-3 PUFAs are believed to help prevent cancer both through their anti-inflammatory effects and also by direct action on cancer cells.

In their excellent book Foods to Fight Cancer Professor Richard Beliveau and Dr Denis Gingras state that n-3 PUFAs are an essential ingredient in an anti-cancer diet.

Beliveau and Gingras assert that low consumption of n-3 PUFAs represents the greatest nutritional deficiency of the western diet.

They explain that n-3 PUFAs act directly on the cancerous cells to cause their death by apoptosis and also to prevent them from developing the new blood supplies that they need for tumour development (angiogenesis).

n-3 PUFAs may also counteract carcinogenesis by maintaining fluidity in cell membranes, thus increasing the activity of membrane-bound enzymes.