Updated: Aug 15, 2019
Many fitness and nutritional professionals are touting the benefits of adding Omega 3 Fatty Acids to our diet. Omega 3’s are heart healthy fats that we need to get from our diet. Let’s look at why adding Omega 3 Fatty Acids is important to our health.
Heart Healthy Fats - How it all started
Thank the Eskimos for the first clue that marine-derived Omega-3 Fatty Acids can help us lead healthier lives.
In the 1970’s Danish researchers noticed that Eskimos living in Greenland had a lower incidence of death from Coronary Artery Disease than Danish people living in Greenland. They looked at the diets of the two populations. The Eskimos ate a high-fat diet consisting of whale, seal and fish while the Danes consumed more meat and full-fat dairy products.
The study showed the cardiovascular benefits of eating fish which contained marine-derived Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Additional research has confirmed the benefits of consuming Omega 3 Fatty Acids from marine derived resources.
Omega 3 Fatty acids are called essential acids because our body cannot make them, but we can get them for foods. Oily fish contain both EPA and DHA omega 3 Fatty acids while plant-based foods such as flax seeds, nuts, vegetable oils and some animal fats contain ALA, a different type of Omega 3 Fatty Acid. All three forms of Omega 3’s are important for humans although there is much more research evidence supporting the use of the EPA and DHA than the ALA form.
Sudden cardiac arrest is responsible for over 300,000 deaths in the US each year. EPA and DHA have been shown to reduce heart arrythmias and aid in reducing the risk for death by sudden cardiac arrest. Large studies in the US, Italy and Japan have shown a major reduction in risk from sudden cardiac death in people who consume marine-derived Omega 3 Fatty Acids once or twice a week.
Omega 3’s may also help control lupus, eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, fight inflammation as well as have a protective role in some cancers.
Everyone wants to age healthfully. In a 13-year study of older Americans, researchers defined healthy aging as a meaningful lifespan without chronic disease and with intact physical and mental function after the age of 65. The study examined the circulating blood levels of Omega 3 Fatty acids from fish in older Americans and found that those with higher levels of Omega 3 Fatty Acids were significantly more likely to age healthfully than their peers with lower levels of Omega 3’s in their blood.
The American Heart Association now recommends eating two servings of oily fish (400-500 mg of EPA +DHA) per week in healthy persons to prevent Cardiovascular disease.
In addition to Omega 3 Fatty acids, there are also Omega 6 and Omega 9 Fatty Acids, both of which are important to our health. Omega 6 Fatty Acids like Omega 3’s, are essential and must be obtained from our diet. Unfortunately, with the typical Western diet, we take in too many Omega 6 Fatty acids. Our body does produce Omega-9 Fatty acids, so we do not need to get them from our diet.
The ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 Fatty Acids may be important to health. The current recommended ratio is 4:1. Higher intakes of Omega 6 Fatty Acids may produce inflammation and inflammatory disease.
The Bottom Line:
1. Supplement your diet with two or more servings of oily fish a week or a good fish oil supplement.
2. Adding plant forms of Omega 3 Fatty Acids may be helpful.
3. Limit the amount of Omega-6 Fatty Acids in your diet.
Looking for a new Salmon Recipe? Try this easy to make recipe with a baked basil and avocado topping.
Basil Avocado Baked Salmon
1. May 2019 IDEA Fitness Journal
2. Health Benefits Of Marine-Derived Omega-3 Fatty Acids; Harris, Kristina A. B.A.; Hill, Allison, Ph,D.; Kris-Etherton, Penny M. Ph.D., R.D.; ACSM Health and Fitness Journal: March-April 2010 - Volume 14 - Issue 2 - p 22-28
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution; Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Website Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution
Omega – 3 – 6 – 9 Fatty Acids: A Complete Overview; Healthline Newsletter, Ruairi Robertson, PhD, January 15, 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-6-9-overview