Dietary fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, are essential for human health, yet very few people get enough of these fats from their diet. Approximately 30% of your total daily calorie intake should come from fat, according to dietary guidelines. However, the quality and composition of that fat is just as important as the quantity.
Essential fatty acids are important for many reasons. For example, they help to reduce inflammation in the body.
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet.
Fats are a good source of energy because they contain 9 calories per gram. If you eat more fat than your body needs, the excess will be stored as fat in your body to be used later as an energy reserve.
The layer of fat found under the skin is important for both keeping internal organs safe as well as regulating body temperature. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble vitamins, meaning that they require fat in order to be properly absorbed and utilized by the body.
Every cell membrane in our body contains fats, which allow different cells to communicate with each other, especially in the brain and nervous system. Out of the total composition of the human brain, 60% is fat.
Fats are important for the production of hormones, immune cells and neurotransmitters. Fats are certainly important when it comes to having a healthy diet.
Fats in diets can be classified into three categories: saturated fats, monounsaturated fats, or polyunsaturated fats.
Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
1. Brain Function and Development
DHA is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the central nervous system and is key to its function and maintenance (Djuricic and Calder 2021).
Neurotransmission, neuroplasticity, and signal transduction are all important for the functioning of the brain.
The role of DHA in brain and visual development during pregnancy and early childhood is very important. Development of the brain is a complicated process that begins during the prenatal phase.
It is well known that the nutrition of a mother during pregnancy and breastfeeding impacts the development of her offspring. Eating a diet rich in DHA has been linked to higher DHA levels in infants, which has been associated with enhanced infant neurodevelopment. DHA plays an important role in cognitive and visual development, so it is required in infant formula in many regions.
There are additional benefits to taking DHA besides brain development such as cognitive function, psychological disorders, and behavioural disorders.
A 2015 study found that people who consumed or had higher blood levels of DHA had better memory function.
Some effects on memory function have been observed in younger populations, but they are more evident in older populations, who are at a greater risk for cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. So far, the links between omega-3 fats and memory and cognitive function are still an emerging area of science.
2. Eye Health and Development
In the retina, DHA is the most abundant fatty acid. One way this fatty acid helps with eye development is by affecting the structure of retinal photoreceptor cells. Additionally, it helps with eye function by sending signals to these cells.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of this substance are important for keeping retinal cells healthy. DHA and their derivatives may have a protective role in the pathogenesis of retinal diseases like age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.
3. Heart Health
The most studied area of omega-3 fatty acids in human health is cardiovascular health. In 1953, Sinclair wrote about how coronary heart disease is rare among Greenland Eskimos, who eat a lot of fish, seal, and whale.
Since the first studies linking the consumption of high dietary intake of EPA/DHA with a low rate of mortality from myocardial infarction and ischaemic heart disease were published in the 1980s, the protective role of these fatty acids has been extensively studied. This most recent study of ~420,000 participants from the National Institutes of Health AARP Diet and Health Study reports a significant inverse association between fish and EPA + DHA intake and various mortality outcomes. The risk of CVD mortality was 15% and 18% lower in men and women, respectively, who consumed the highest amounts of fish EPA + DHA compared to those who consumed the lowest amounts.
How do EPA/DHA reduce risk for heart disease? The potential benefits of intermittent fasting have been linked to a reduction in various risk factors, including blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, post-prandial lipaemia, endothelial dysfunction, cardiac arrhythmia, heart rate, and heart rate variability.
4. Improve Bone, Joint and Muscles
The potential health benefits of omega-3 fats are constantly being studied. EPA/DHA fatty acids can help to prevent or slow the progression of osteo-arthritis by reducing the destruction of bone and cartilage.
The extensive benefits of this compound have been linked to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (Oppedisano et al 2021).
Several studies suggest that EPA/DHA may improve physical performance by increased endurance and delayed muscle soreness, as well as enhancing recovery and immunity.
Osteoporosis and arthritis are two common disorders that can cause problems with your bones. Some research suggests that consuming omega-3 fatty acids may improve bone strength by increasing the amount of calcium in bones, potentially reducing the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Omega-3s may also treat arthritis. People who take omega-3 supplements say they have less joint pain and can grip things better. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil could improve your bone strength and joint health, which might decrease your chances of developing osteoporosis or arthritis.
5. Omega-3 Fats are Good For Your Skin
Some evidence suggests that omega-3 fats may improve skin health, possibly because they can help to reduce inflammation. A few small studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids can help improve the function of the skin barrier, but more extensive research will be needed to confirm this (Parke et al 2021).
DHA is a structural component of your skin. This substance is responsible for the health of cell membranes, which make up a large part of your skin. Healthy cell membranes lead to soft, moist, supple, and wrinkle-free skin.
EPA also benefits your skin in several ways, including:
- Managing oil production and hydration of your skin.
- Preventing hyperkeratinization of hair follicles, which appears as the little red bumps often seen on upper arms.
- Reducing premature aging of your skin.
- Reducing the risk of acne.
Omega-3s can also protect your skin from sun damage. EPA works to prevent the release of substances that break down collagen in your skin after sun exposure.
The benefits of Omega-3s for skin health are numerous, including preventing premature aging and safeguarding against sun damage.
6. Fight Depression and Anxiety
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world. The main symptoms are feeling sad, being very tired, and not being interested in anything. Anxiety is a common disorder that is characterized by constant worry and nervousness. Omega-3s seem to have an anti-depressive effect, according to studies.
Not only does omega-3 improve the symptoms of depression and anxiety, but it also is effective for people who are already taking medication for these conditions. Omega-3 fatty acids are split into three types: ALA, EPA and DHA. EPA seems to be the most effective at combating depression.
One study found that EPA is just as effective as a common antidepressant drug against depression. Although more research is needed, omega-3 supplements may help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. According to the study, EPA is the most effective at fighting depression.
7. Reduce Symptoms of ADHD in Children
ADHD is a disorder that makes it hard to focus, sit still, and control impulses. Several studies have found that children with ADHD have lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids than children without ADHD.
Other studies have found that taking omega-3 supplements can help reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Omega-3s help improve inattention and task completion. They also decrease hyperactivity, impulsiveness, restlessness and aggression.
Recently, researchers observed that fish oil supplements appeared to be one of the most promising treatments for ADHD. Omega-3 supplements have the potential to reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children. They improve attention and reduce hyperactivity, impulsiveness and aggression.
8. Reduce Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions. Abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high triglyceride, and low “good” HDL cholesterol levels are all indicative of metabolic syndrome.
Being obese is a huge problem because it makes you more likely to get other diseases, like heart disease and diabetes. The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids extend to people with metabolic syndrome, who may see improvements in insulin resistance, inflammation, and heart disease risk factors.
People with metabolic syndrome may experience a range of benefits from omega-3s. Polyphenols can be helpful in managing diabetes and heart disease. They work by reducing insulin resistance, fighting inflammation, and improving several heart disease risk factors.
9. Omega-3s Can Fight Inflammation
The body’s response to infections and damage is called inflammation. Although inflammation is a response to infection or injury, it can also last for a long time without either of these things. This is called chronic — or long-term — inflammation. Inflammation that lasts for a long time can contribute to many chronic illnesses that are common in Western countries, such as heart disease and cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids can prevent the formation of molecules that cause inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines.
A connection between higher omega-3 intake and reduced inflammation has been observed in multiple studies. Omega-3s have the ability to reduce chronic inflammation, which is a contributing factor to heart disease, cancer and a variety of other diseases.
10. Omega-3s can Fight Autoimmune Diseases
In autoimmune diseases, your immune system is not able to distinguish between healthy cells and foreign cells, and as a result, attacking healthy cells. Type 1 diabetes is a prime example of a condition where your immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas.
Omega-3s can help to prevent some of these diseases and may be especially important during early life. Research suggests that consuming adequate omega-3s during infancy may help protect against developing autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, autoimmune diabetes, and multiple sclerosis later in life.
Omega-3s can help reduce the symptoms of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and psoriasis.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help to improve symptoms for those suffering from autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes and psoriasis.
11. Omega-3s can Improve Mental Disorders
A deficiency in omega-3 has been linked to psychiatric disorders. In humans, dietary deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with an increased risk of developing various psychiatric disorders, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, dementia and autism.
Some research suggests that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help to reduce violent behavior. People with mental disorders often have lower levels of omega-3 fats in their blood. Improving omega-3 status seems to improve symptoms.
12. Omega-3s can Alleviate Menstrual Pain
The pain associated with your period typically occurs in your lower abdomen and pelvis, and may also radiate to your lower back and thighs. It can significantly affect your quality of life.
Studies show that women who consume the most omega-3s have milder menstrual pain. One study found that an omega-3 supplement was more effective than ibuprofen in treating severe pain during menstruation. Omega-3s can help with period pain and might work better than ibuprofen.
13. Omega-3 Fatty Acids may Improve Sleep
Sleep is important for good health. There is a connection between not getting enough sleep and various health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and depression.
There is a connection between low omega-3 levels and sleep issues in both children and adults who have obstructive sleep apnea. DHA levels that are lower than average have also been associated with reduced levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps with falling asleep. Both children and adults who take omega-3 supplements tend to sleep better and for longer periods of time.
The fatty acid known as DHA may improve both the length and quality of your sleep.