Over the past two decades, Omega-3 has become big business and a buzzword in the health community. It’s available to both vegetarians and carnivores alike, and is most notably found in seafood. Omega-3 fatty acids are a multibillion-dollar business, with the USA alone spending about $2.6 billion on Omega-3 supplements and foods.
The science behind Omega-3
The simple idea is that fatty acids delivered by marine animals and some plants have a protective effect on the heart. You will find Omega-3 fatty acids in seafood, fish and krill which provide something called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In addition, flaxseed, chia, hemp, and a few other foods, which have already earned great fame as health foods, also deliver these fatty acids in the form of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA).
The fatty acids derived from animal-based variety offer more health benefits than the plant-based ALA, which also has its own beneficial properties. ALA is actually converted into EPA and DHA in the body thanks to enzyme breakdowns. However, it’s not in the same quantities as getting them directly from animal-based foods. However, that’s not to say that one should eschew all plant-based Omega-3 fatty acids. A combination of both has been found to be the best approach.
A recent study has confirmed that consuming foods such as salmon, sardines and anchovies, which are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, can reduce risk of a deadly heart attack by 10 percent. Researchers looked at omega-3 levels in participants of 19 studies across 16 countries to find that while Omega-3s were associated with about a 10 percent lower risk of fatal heart attacks. But that same property does not help lower the risk for non-fatal heart attacks, which are more common.
Plant-based ALA and seafood-based EPA and DHA Omega-3s were linked to the reduced risk. Plant-based omega-3s are prevalent in walnuts, flaxseed oil, canola oil and some other seeds and nuts and their oils.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also more efficient in reducing cholesterol triglyceride levels, reducing the enzyme activity that causes the liver to metabolize fat, but krill had a more pronounced effects, reducing liver triglycerides significantly more. Studies have also shown that Omega-3 fats are anti-thrombotic i.e they help prevent thrombosis or a blood clot within a blood vessel, in addition to being, anti-atherosclerotic, which keep your arteries free of fatty deposits and fibrosis. They have also been known to have anti-inflammatory properties, helping counteract heat, pain, swelling associated with the condition.
Improves memory and comprehension
A study published in PLOS One in 2013 linked low levels of DHA with poorer reading, and memory and behavioral problems in healthy school-age children. This adds more support to the research that states children with ADHD or ADD conditions are more likely to have low Omega-3 fat levels.