Omega 3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are necessary for human health; however, the body can’t make them — we must get them through food. Every cell in the body is encompassed by a cell membrane composed mainly of fatty acids. The cell membrane permits the proper amounts of necessary nutrients to enter the cell, and ensures that waste products are quickly removed from the cell. To perform these functions efficiently, the cell membrane must maintain its integrity and fluidity. Cells without a healthy membrane lose their ability to hold water and vital nutrients as well as their ability to communicate with other cells. Researchers theorize that loss of cell to cell communication is one of the physiological events that leads to growth of cancerous tumors.
Health Concerns that Can Benefit from Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids may prove beneficial in the following health concerns:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Huntington’s disease
- Migraine headaches
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other seafood including algae and krill, flax seeds, walnuts, navy beans, kidney beans, cold-pressed olive oil, pecans, leafy green vegetables, and winter squash . Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. However, because of the toxicity of our oceans as well as harmful radiation from the Fukushima Nuclear Incident, it is wise to be very careful as to what we consume from the sea.
Health Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Can fight depression and anxiety
- Can improve eye health
- Can improve risk factors for heart disease
- Can reduce symptoms of ADHD in children
- Can reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome
- Can fight inflammation
- Can fight autoimmune diseases
- Can improve mental disorders
- Can fight age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s Disease
- May help prevent cancer
- Can reduce asthma in children
- Can reduce fat in your liver
- May improve bone and joint health
- Can alleviate menstrual pain
- May improve sleep
- May reduce premature aging of your skin
Health Quotes – The Importance of Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Human DNA contains so much material from the plant world. Most green material in the oceans, if you look at the cell wall structure, is composed mostly of Omega 3 oils. The chloroplast is mostly Omega 3 oils. Omega 3 oils seems to be the fundamental oil of the universe and are the substrate of many chemical reactions…the body prefers Omega 3 oils.
”Bill Mitchell, Naturopath – Co-Founder Bastyr University
Omega 3 fatty acids are most important, as they bring balance to our hormones, reduce inflammation, regulate our blood sugar, prevent blood clotting, keep our cholesterol and triglycerides in balance, relax our blood vessels, and make our cells healthy and resilient.
Phuli Cohan author of The Natural Hormone Makeover
There is not much fat in green, leafy vegetables and legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), and the fat that they have is strongly balanced toward anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids, rather than other fats. Omega 3s encourage the production of helpful prostaglandins that inhibit inflammation, rather than those that fan the flames. If your diet is rich in these foods and eliminates meats, dairy products, and added oils, you will get the omega-3s you need. Indeed, women whose diets are balanced in favor of omega-3s rather than other fats tend to have milder menstrual symptoms.
Neal Barnard, M.D author of Foods That Fight Pain: Revolutionary New Strategies for Maximum Pain Relief
In the last hundred years, we can now estimate the amount of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in our diet has dropped by some 95 percent. That’s a dramatic reduction. That basically is right there the greatest public health disaster in the twentieth century, the fact that our decreased amounts of omega 3 fatty acids coupled with a corresponding increase of the omega 6 fatty acids and the change in those patterns can be directly linked to the growing rates of heart disease. We thought it was all due to cholesterol, but we now know heart disease is not a disease of cholesterol, but rather a disease of inflammation. The epidemic of heart disease we have — and it is still the No. 1 killer — is because we have an epidemic of inflammation in our society.”
Dr. Barry Sears, Former research scientist of Boston University School of Medicine and MIT and President of Zone Labs
Nobody seemed to notice that a crime has been committed: It was the case of the missing nutrient. The nutrient was essential; it was a nutrient we human beings needed in order to stay healthy. It started to disappear from our diet about 75 years ago and now is almost gone. Only about 20% of the amount needed for human health and well-being remains. The nutrient is a fatty acid so important and so little understood that I call it “the nutritional missing link”….Food grade linseed oil & fish oil are the best sources of this special fat—Omega 3 essential fatty acid—which modern food destroys.
Donaldo. Rudin, M.D. author of The Omega 3 Phenomenon
One of the reasons our immune system gets weaker as we age is because we increase inflammation as we age. We often talk about hormones decreasing as we age, and many do. But certain hormones actually increase. One hormone is insulin. As we age, we get fatter, and as we get fatter, we make more inflammation that the body tries to attack thinking it’s an outside invader. Another group of hormones that increase as we age are these pro-inflammatory eicosanoids. Why? Because we take in larger amounts of omega 6 fatty acids and decreasing amounts of omega 3 fatty acids. As a consequence, our immune system basically goes on constant alert, thinking it’s fighting new invaders, when in reality it’s just attacking ourselves. We take this aspect of not being able to fight outside invaders effectively or attacking ourselves as part of the aging process, but we have no one to blame but ourselves. It’s a breakdown in hormonal communication.
Dr. Barry Sears, Former research scientist of Boston University School of Medicine and MIT and President of Zone Labs
1000–4000 mg/day omega 3 is required to maintain healthy blood lipid levels and a healthy cardiovascular system.
Kris-Etherton PM et al. “Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease.” Circulation 2002;106:2747-57
My personal and clinical experiences have led me to believe that it is best for most people to obtain their omega 3 fatty acids from a variety of the plant and clean animal foods. This is what people of all cultures have done throughout the history of our world. As it is with all of the nutrients that we know of, omega 3 fatty acids work synergistically with many co-factors to provide their health promoting effects. Flow charts in biochemistry textbooks are important to understand and apply to our dietary choices, but in my opinion, they represent only a partial picture of the countless physiological reactions that keep our cells alive. With this in mind, I feel that it is wise to eat a variety of foods that are naturally rich in ALA, EPA, and DHA rather than to rely on a supplement that contains just one or more of these omega-3 fatty acids as isolated nutrients.
Dr. Ben Kim, Chiropractor and Acupuncturist
This study (Brasky et al. Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial. JNCI July 10, 2013 – claims that higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids in the blood increase the risk of prostate cancer) uses an invalid study design, uses an invalid methodology, and makes invalid conclusions. They make statements about high levels of omega 3 fatty acids causing an increased risk of prostate cancer in subjects with low levels of omega-3. The differences in omega 3 levels between the selected controls without cancer and the subjects who developed cancer was negligible and both physiologically and clinically insignificant. This study does not offer a shred of evidence to support their conclusion that high omega 3 levels increase the risk of prostate cancer and their conclusions are at odds with a body of evidence supporting the benefits of omega 3 fatty acid consumption.
Dr. James Chestnut, B.Ed., M.Sc., D.C., C.C.W.P author of The 14 Foundational Premises for the Scientific and Philosophical Validation of the Chiropractic Wellness Paradigm
An important Harvard study examined the link between dietary fish consumption and the risk of metastatic prostate cancer. The study involved 47,882 men over twelve years, and found that eating fish more than three times a week reduced the risk of prostate cancer but had an even greater impact on the risk of metastatic prostate cancer. For each additional 500 mg of marine fat consumed, the risk of metastatic disease decreased by 24%!
Alliance for Natural Health, article Badly Flawed Study of Fish Oils Leaps to Wildly Unsupported Conclusions about Cancer
The reasons for the prevalence of omega 3 fatty acid deficiency in modern life: 1. A change in flour-milling technology causing rancidity of fats and elimination of essential fatty acids. 2. The elimination of omega-3 foods, such as flax-seed oil, from our diets because of limited shelf-life. 3. The change to feedlot-raised cattle and caged chickens and their eggs, all of which are much lower in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, as pointed out by Donald O Rudin, MD in his book The Omega 3 Phenomenon in 1987 (24. Rudin DO, 1987). 4. The increased use of pharmaceuticals, particularly aspirin, that block EFA enzyme systems and their conversion to vital prostaglandins. 5. The increased us of sugar, caffeine, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol, which deplete EFA’s and prostaglandins. 6. The increasing ingestion of toxins in food. 7. The lack of breast-feeding, which is rich in omega 3 oils, unlike cow’s milk, in which it is totally absent. and 8. The excessive consumption of trans fatty acids and hydrogenated fats, rancid fats and free-radicals, due to marketers’ desire for their products to last for months, if not years, on supermarket shelves. The average Western person today consumes 1000% more trans fatty acids and hydrogenated fats than ever before, according to Charles Bates, PhD in his 1987 book (25. Bates C, 1987).
John Finnegan, Naturopathic Practitioner & Nutritional Counselor, author of The Facts About Fats (23. Finnegan J, 1993)
In a 1994 study of 121 women with breast cancer, those in more advanced stages whose breast cancer had spread to their lymph nodes showed the lowest levels of omega 3 fatty acids in the breast tissue. After 31 months, the 20 women who had developed metastases had significantly lower levels of these EFAs (Essential fatty acids) than those who didn’t. Another study out of Boston University using the same type of tissue profiles that were used in the breast cancer study demonstrated that patients with coronary artery disease likewise had, low levels of EFAs.
Dr Willner, M.D., Ph.D., author of The Cancer Solution
Our immune system, which is vital for destroying cancer cells, requires EFAs, vitamins C, B6, and A, and zinc to function, and requires an exceptionally rich nutrient supply of ALL essential nutrients for its high level of complex cellular activities. Deficiencies of EFAs and toxic, man-made synthetic drugs that interfere with essential fatty acid functions can create the conditions of fatty degeneration collectively known as cancer.
Udo Erasmus, author of “Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill”
There is a mountain of evidence of over 12,000 studies supporting a role for omega 3’s in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and boosting overall heart health, improving eye and brain development in our formative years, maintaining cognitive performance as we age, and improving mood and behaviour, even amongst the less well-behaved. So what’s the issue? Omega 3 is one of the nutrition industry’s major successes, with the ingredients market valued at a whopping $1.6 billion by Frost & Sullivan. Omega 3 perfectly illustrates how an ingredient can be mutually and successfully developed by all of the players working together. It may come as no surprise that there are some that wish to “take it down a peg or two”, as we say in the UK.
Stephen Daniells is the science editor for NutraIngredients, NutraIngredients-USA, FoodNavigator, and FoodNavigator-USA. He has a PhD in chemistry from the Queen’s University of Belfast and has worked in research in The Netherlands and France.
Found in flaxseed oil and fish oils, omega 3 fatty acids can’t be made in the body but must come from our food. The omega 3 fatty acids are necessary in the manufacture of our hormones, important for our heart, and necessary for the development of our brain. They also play a role in preventing cancer.
Gary Null author of Gary Null’s Power Aging
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