Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in our health.
They are beneficial to your brain and the whole body in general.
It is worthy of note that omega-3 fatty acids are the most studied nutrients. Very few nutrients have received as much attention as omega-3 fatty acids.
In this article, we review 10 evidence-based health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
They have antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties
Depression is the commonest mental disorder in the world.
Symptoms of depression include lethargy, sadness, and loss of interest in activities of daily living (1, 2).
Anxiety is also a mental disorder. Its characteristics include nervousness and constant worry (3).
Studies have shown that regular intake of omega-3 reduces the likelihood of depression (4, 5).
Also, when depressed or anxious people begin to take omega-3 fatty supplements, their symptoms improve greatly (6, 7, 8).
There are three variants of omega-3 fatty acids: DHA, EPA, and ALA. Studies have shown that EPA is most effective against depression (9).
A study has shown that EPA is a common and very effective antidepressant medication (10).
It improves eye health
There’s a type of omega-3 called DHA. It is an important component of your retina (11).
If your DHA is not as much as it should be, then you may encounter vision problems (12, 13).
It is interesting to note that adequate intake of omega-3 is associated with a low risk of macular degeneration, one of the major causes of blindness in the world (14, 15).
Omega-3s are vital for proper brain development during fetal development and early life
Omega-3s play a very important role in brain growth and development in fetuses and infants.
It is worthy of note that 40 percent of the polyunsaturated fatty acids within your brain is DHA. DHA also makes up 60 percent of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in your eye retina (12, 16).
This explains why infants who are fed with formula fortified with DHA have brighter eyes that infants that are fed a non-DHA formula (17).
Taking adequate amount of omega-3s has a myriad of benefits for your child, such as (18, 19, 20):
- Better social and communication skills
- A high level of intelligence
- Not many behavioral problems
- Decreased risk of autism, ADHD and cerebral palsy
- Low risk of developmental delay
It improves the risk factors for heart disease
Strokes and heart attacks are responsible for most medical-related deaths in the world (21).
Over the years, medical researchers found that communities were fish was eaten in abundance had very low rates of these ailments. Studies revealed that this was due to the consumption of omega-3 (22, 23).
And since then, omega-3 fatty acids have proven to be of immense benefits to the heart in many ways (24).
These benefits include:
Triglycerides: Omega-3 fatty acids reduces triglyceride levels by 15-30 percent (25, 26, 27).
Blood pressure: Omega-3 fatty acids have blood pressure reducing effects (25, 28).
HDL cholesterol: Studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids can raise the levels of “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood (29, 30, 31).
Blood clots: Omega-3s prevent the clumping of blood platelets. This in turn prevents the formation of blood clots that may be injurious to health (32, 33).
Plaque: Omega-3s smoothen the arteries and keeps them free from damage. By so doing, it prevents the formation of plaques that can harden and restrict blood flow through your arteries (34, 35).
Inflammation: Several substances are released as a response to inflammation in your body. omega-3s help to reduce the production of these substances (36, 37, 38).
Omega-3s also lower LDL cholesterol in some people. However, studies on these have yielded mixed pieces of evidence. According to results from some studies, omega-3s increase LDL (39, 40).
Although omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial to heart health, there is no strong evidence proving that this nutrient can prevent strokes or heart attacks (41, 42).
It reduces ADHD symptoms in children
ADHD is an acronym for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is a behavioral disorder with symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention (43).
Studies have shown that children who have ADHD have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood compared to other healthy children (44, 45).
It is also important to note that omega-3 supplements reduce ADHD symptoms.
Omega-3 fatty acids improve task completion and inattention. Studies have also shown that they decrease impulsiveness, hyperactivity, aggression, and restlessness (46, 47, 48, 49).
Recent studies have discovered that fish oil supplements improve ADHD symptoms (50).
It helps resolve the symptoms of metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a health condition comprising several conditions.
Conditions that make up metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, central obesity, high triglycerides, insulin resistance, and low levels of HDL cholesterol.
It is a major health concern because it puts the individual at risk of other ailments, such as diabetes and heart disease (51).
Omega-3 fatty acids improve inflammation, insulin resistance, and risk factors of heart disease in people suffering from metabolic syndrome (52, 53, 54).
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects
Inflammation is your body’s natural to damage and infections. So, it is very important for your health.
In some cases, inflammation may persist, even when there’s no injury or infection. This condition is referred to as long-term or chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation contributes to the most ailment in the West, like cancer and heart disease (55, 56, 57).
It is worth noting that omega-3 fatty acids minimize the production of inflammatory substances, like cytokines and eicosanoids (58, 59).
Many studies have found a connection between high intake of omega-3 and a reduction in inflammatory activities (8, 60, 61).
It is effective against autoimmune diseases
When you have autoimmune diseases, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body, mistaking them for foreign cells.
A good example is type 1 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, your immune system attacks the beta cells of your pancreas. These beta cells are responsible for the production of insulin.
Omega-3 fatty acids can fight some of these autoimmune ailments and are very important in early life.
According to research, infants must be given enough omega-3s in their first year of life. Doing so will minimize their risk of autoimmune ailments, like autoimmune diabetes, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis (62, 63, 64).
Omega-3 treats rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease (65, 66, 67, 68).
It improves mental disorders
Clinical studies have reported low omega-3 levels in psychiatric patients (69).
Studies have shown that omega-3 supplements can make mood swings and relapses less frequent in people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia (69, 70, 71).
Omega-3 supplements also decrease violent behavior (72).
It fights Alzheimer’s disease and age-related mental decline
As we get older, our brain function declines. This is inevitable.
Studies have linked a high intake of omega-3 to a decrease in mental decline due to aging, as well as a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease (73, 74, 75).
A review of controlled studies has shown that supplementing with omega-3s may help at disease onset, when the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease aren't so severe (76).
However, there is a need for more research on the benefits of omega-3s on brain health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are required for good health.
You can get them from natural sources – like fatty fish twice per week. There’s no better way to ensure adequate intake of omega-3.
But if you don’t like eating fish, you can take an omega-3 supplement. It is cheap and is very effective in optimizing your health.