Omega-3 fatty acids and health are closely related. Since the 1970s, the positive effect of these substances in the prevention of certain diseases has been recognized. Knowing more about these lipids is the purpose of this article; don’t miss this important information.

What are omega-3 fatty acids

The fatty acids most relevant to your health are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is short-chain, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are long-chain. The body can synthesize the latter in small amounts, but ALA is obtained from the diet, which is why it has been called essential.

In practice, the best way to obtain them is through a healthy and balanced diet, although sometimes there are people who resort to food supplements to make up for a deficiency. Keep in mind that omega-3 fatty acids should be 5 to 10% of total daily calories. The main sources are as follows:

  • The sources of DHA and EPA are cold water fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel, which are known as oily fish.
  • Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA can be obtained from certain vegetables: walnuts, flaxseed, chia, quinoa, tofu and olive or rapeseed oil.

The importance of these substances has led some manufacturers to strengthen foods, such as eggs, milk or yogurt. Cow’s milk-based infant formulas do not contain omega-3 fatty acids, which is why they should be added.

Omega-3 fatty acids and health

These lipids are an essential portion of cell membranes and are highly concentrated in the tissues of the nervous system and in the retina. If you consume them in the necessary amount, you will be able to prevent certain cardiovascular problems, as well as benefiting from other advantages.

Child health and development

Omega-3s, especially DHA, are essential for the development of the nervous system and retina in the fetus and infant. The mother’s diet should include sources of these substances to promote the health of the baby.

This has a positive impact on visual acuity, which will be better, as well as on cognitive skills. Breastfeeding is also important in this regard, because breast milk contains DHA.

Cardiovascular problems

The beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids have been of scientific interest for more than two decades. DHA and EPA reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, high blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and high blood pressure.

In addition, they decrease platelet adhesion and therefore have antithrombotic effects. They also help regulate myocardial electrical activity and reduce the risk of arrhythmias.

Rheumatoid arthritis

This autoimmune disease causes pain, swelling, morning stiffness and joint dysfunction. Clinical trials indicate that ingestion of 3 grams of EPA and DHA per day decreases the intensity of symptoms.

A reduction in the required dose of anti-inflammatory medication has also been observed. Apparently, the mechanism consists of blocking the production of inflammation-mediating substances.

The Mediterranean diet

This type of diet, typical of the Mediterranean basin, has positive effects on health. Among other things, it reduces the risk of suffering cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and myocardial infarction.

The Mediterranean diet has been part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity since 2010, and the recognition includes the way food is obtained, the production and culinary processes, as well as the different forms of consumption.

The ancient Greeks, Romans and Phoenicians cultivated olive trees, vines and wheat. They carried the food trilogy of oil, wine and bread on their expeditions. Thanks to them, these species spread to many Mediterranean regions.

Consuming these foods was a different custom from those of the barbarian populations. When its evangelization began in the fourth century, the three elements, which were already part of the Christian liturgy, were taken with them.

Important clinical studies were conducted in 1948 and 1958, which together with the PREDIMED (Prevention with Mediterranean Diet) study, which began in 2003, have yielded consistent results. It is confirmed that this diet is effective in preventing myocardial infarction and stroke.

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