Essential fatty acids, a category to which omega 3 also belong, are not synthesized by the body but must be introduced with diet or supplements. But what are the properties of omega 3 fatty acids and why are they said to be good for health? Are there any side effects related to their intake? We try to answer these questions by analyzing, as always, the results published in scientific journals.
Omega 3 and heart
Omega 3 fatty acids help protect the health of the cardiovascular system. In fact, as has been observed in several scientific studies, omega 3s reduce triglycerides and platelet aggregation and lower blood pressure. Not only that, these fatty acids also improve mediated flow dilation, which is a measure of the function of the endothelium, that is, the lining of blood vessels. In particular, with this value it is possible to evaluate the response of the arteries to increasing blood flow, thus measuring their elasticity (Innes et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2020 - Elagizi et al, Nutrients, 2021).
Omega 3 and inflammation
Omega 3s are characterized by anti-inflammatory properties, thus being useful to counteract that state of chronic inflammation of the body that, in the long term, can increase the risk of developing diabetes, heart problems, obesity, cellular degeneration but it can also weaken the immune system (Gammone et al, Nutrients, 2019). Not only that, thanks to their anti-inflammatory action, omega 3s help to combat asthma and arthrosis (Gammone et al, Nutrients, 2019). These fatty acids help reduce liver inflammation in the case of fatty liver, as well as reduce the condition of fatty liver itself (Bouzianas et al, Nutr Rev, 2013). Finally, the omega 3 fatty acids taken with the diet have also been shown to be beneficial in case of skin inflammations, such as acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis but also damage caused by UV rays (Thomsen et al, J Cutan Med Surg, 2020).
Omega 3 and eyes
Scientific studies have observed that, among those who follow a diet low in omega 3 fatty acids, there is an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (Merle et al, Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 2014).
Omega 3 and muscle health
A diet that also includes foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids is protective for muscle health. In fact, it has been observed that the regular intake of omega 3s stimulates the synthesis of proteins in the muscles. With age, in fact, but also after a period of inactivity, muscles tend to lose their ability to synthesize proteins and therefore lose mass. On the basis of research, on the other hand, omega 3s contribute to avoiding the loss of muscle mass (Gammone et al, Nutrients, 2019).
Omega 3 and immune system
Omega 3s also plays a protective role on the immune system. In fact, being anti-inflammatory, they help reduce the duration and level of inflammation, preventing the immune system from weakening. Not only that, on the basis of scientific research, an antiviral action by omega 3 has also emerged. These fatty acids, in fact, stimulate the release of other substances, such as interferons, which are proteins that in turn counteract the entry and the replication of the virus in the body. Thanks to these properties, it has been hypothesized that omega 3s contribute to avoiding a more severe evolution of the new coronavirus (Weill et al, Biochimie, 2020 - Hathaway et al, Infect Chemother, 2020). In any case, it is always good to emphasize that we are not talking about a miracle cure, simply a varied diet that includes nutrients such as vitamins, such as D and C, mineral salts, such as selenium and zinc, and omega 3s can help put the immune system in the best condition to work and to counteract external threats. In addition to diet, it is also important to deploy other tools against infection, therefore, hygiene and distancing.
Omega 3 and brain
Omega 3s have a beneficial effect on the brain. In particular, it seems that they are able to improve neuronal functioning and to counteract anxiety and depression (Reimers et al, Ther Adv Psychopharmacol., 2019).
Omega 3 in the diet
Various foods contain omega 3, such as krill and fatty fish, such as sardines, salmon, tuna, halibut, herring. But we can find omega 3 fatty acids not only in fish and crustaceans. In fact, these healthy fatty acids are also found in algae, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts (Gammone et al, Nutrients, 2019). According to the guidelines of the American Health Association, the advice is to take fatty fish twice a week in order to introduce the right dose of omega 3s into the body for heart health.
Omega 3, warnings
Omega 3s, as we have seen, are beneficial substances for health and, when possible, it is certainly a good choice to include foods rich in omega 3 in your diet, also considering that Western diet is low in this type of fatty acids. But the diet is not the only source of omega 3, in fact, on the market it is also possible to find omega 3 supplements. In this case it is good to pay attention and not to overdo it. In fact, the excess of omega 3s can cause an exaggerated antithrombotic action resulting in difficulty in wound healing, as well as interacting with any anticoagulant drugs (Gammone et al, Nutrients, 2019 - Weill et al, Biochimie, 2020). So, before starting an omega 3 cure, always ask your doctor for advice.