Mega power of Omega-3

Nutritionist Nmami Aggarwal tells us why it is really important to consume omega 3 as unlike other fats, our body cannot make it on its own
Last Updated 18 May 2020, 19:07 IST

The human body can make most types of fats it needs from other fats or raw materials. That isn’t the case for omega-3 fatty acids (also called omega-3 fats and n-3 fats). These are essential fats — the body can’t make them from scratch but must get them from food. Foods high in Omega-3 include fish, vegetable oils, nuts (especially walnuts), flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and leafy vegetables.

Omega 3 provides the starting point for making hormones that regulate blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls, and inflammation. They also bind to receptors in cells that regulate genetic function.

Due to these effects, omega-3 fats have been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, may help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and may play protective roles in cancer and other conditions.

Surprisingly, studies indicate that people who consume omega-3 daily are less likely to be depressed or anxious. Even people suffering from depression and anxiety have reported improvement in their symptoms after consuming omega-3 daily.

Many women endure abdominal discomfort and cramps every month, a condition known in medical terms as dysmenorrhea.

It is caused by strong contractions of the uterus triggered by prostaglandins (chemicals in the body involved with pain and inflammation). Studies have found that omega-3, well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, can help to soothe this menstrual pain.

There is some evidence that omega-3 can drive away period blues too. It may help to bring hormonal fluctuations under control and stabilise your mood. Findings show that omega-3 fatty acids may help to:

Lower blood pressure.

Reduce triglycerides.

Slow the development of plaque in the arteries.

Reduce the chance of abnormal heart rhythm.

Reduce the likelihood of heart attack and stroke.

Lessen the chance of sudden cardiac death in people with heart disease.

Essential fatty acids (EFA) play an important role in growth, reproduction, and vision, in keeping our skin healthy and also aid in the metabolism of cholesterol. EFA may help prevent heart disease and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Omega-6 is important for lowering the risk of coronary heart disease. When a diet is low in linoleic acid (omega-6), virtually all organs are affected. The central nervous system and the eye are most sensitive to the deficiency of linoleic acid. Major omega-3 fatty acids are ALA, EPA and DHA which are important for the brain and are needed for growth and development of infants.

Omega-3 fats protect against heart attacks and strokes. People who eat diets rich in ALA, which is found in canola oil, have a lower risk of heart disease and cardiac deaths than people with low intakes of ALA.

Canola oil is also rich in omega 3 and 6 which helps control cholesterol and reduces cholesterol levels in comparison with diets containing higher levels of saturated fatty acids.

(The author is a nutritionist)

(Published 18 May 2020, 18:50 IST)

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