Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Boosting Health from Heart to Brain

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Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly derived from fish oil, play a significant role in promoting a variety of health benefits. These include bolstering heart health, shielding our brain against dementia, and alleviating the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Integral to the cellular structure, they are essential for the efficient functioning of the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and immune system.

These essential fatty acids exist in three varieties in our daily diet: Alpha-linoloneic acid (ALA), Eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While ALA is abundant in plant-based foods, EPA and DHA are predominantly sourced from seafood, eggs, and breastmilk.

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Initial studies on the health benefits of omega-3 were centered on those consuming fish rather than fish oil supplements. This raises a significant question: are the “active ingredients” of fish oil – EPA and DHA – absorbed into our body in the same way as they are from fish? Research indicates that your body absorbs similar levels of these fatty acids equally, whether from fish or fish oil.

However, other components found in fish, such as protein, vitamins A and D, iodine, and selenium, could also contribute to health benefits. Moreover, eating fish instead of red or processed meat might also contribute to overall health improvement due to the lack of saturated fats and salt in fish.

Despite these findings, the efficacy of fish oil supplementation remains somewhat controversial. For instance, the risk for cardiovascular diseases doesn’t seem to be minimised effectively by fish oil. Conversely, fish oil has portrayed notable efficacy in mitigating the severity and progression of rheumatoid arthritis due to its high EPA and DHA content.

In the realm of dementia, a systematic review suggests a favorable relationship between increased DHA intake and a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. However, supplemental omega-3 fats have exhibited varying effects. While they seemed helpful for individuals with mild cognitive impairment, they didn’t improve the condition of those already suffering from dementia.

Ultimately, practicing a wholesome diet with fish and limited ultra-processed foods can positively impact health. Fish oil can offer benefits for rheumatoid arthritis. However, for conditions like dementia and heart disease, it’s advisable to source omega-3 fats from your diet rather than supplements.

Like any perishable product, fish oil must be stored correctly to ensure its efficiency. It’s prudent to check the expiry date before purchase and always consume before this date. The oil should be kept in cold conditions, preferably the fridge, away from light to prevent degradation.

While fish oil can have minor side effects, it generally doesn’t pose serious threats. It’s still crucial to engage with healthcare professionals, especially if you’re already on medication.

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