The omega-3 fatty acids (linolenic acid) are a type of essential polyunsaturated fat.
Like the omega-6 fatty acids, they are unsaturated because they have double bonds between carbon atoms in the molecule.
They are essential fatty acids (EFA) because the body can not produce them and therefore must be obtained through food.
Types of omega-3
There are three omega-3 fatty acids:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA): Found primarily in the oil plant seeds. Among them, the most important are the seeds of flax and especially linseed oil, also called linseed oil. Other plants rich in this component are the seeds of soybean canola, walnuts, hemp, etc.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): Found mainly in oily fish oils and milk. There are traces of it in the purslane.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): Found mainly in oily fish oils and some microscopic algae.
What are the properties of omega-3?
What are omega-3 for? The body needs omega-3 fatty acid to work properly. The main functions of linolenic acid are the following:
- The functioning of neurons and chemical transmissions.
Photo of omega 3 fatty acids food sources: Avocado, vegetable oils, nuts and seafood.
Benefits of omega-3
Besides the basic functions discussed in the previous point, it was found that the intake of omega-3 fatty acids offers a number of benefits for the body.
Among all the advantages they provide, we could mention the following:
Beneficial properties for the circulatory system
Studies from Japan, a country with an oily-fish based diet, rich in omega-3, showed that the people of this nation have a lower circulatory disease rate.
Similarly, other studies carried out between Greenland Eskimos concluded that their diet, based on oily fish or seal meat, which mainly eats blue fish, was the reason why this people had a very low rate of heart attacks.
Moreover, this cardioprotective role is also enhanced by the ability of these oils to increase the transmission power of the heart muscle and mantain a regular rhythm, preventing diseases such as arrhythmias.
The inclusion of foods or supplements rich in this component is protective against certain cancers, especially colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer. They can also shrink tumors by preventing the growth of cancer cells.
They also prevent the appearance of metastasis elsewhere in the body. In breast cancer, these acids inhibit the action of estrogens that are responsible for the development of tumors in the breasts.
It has been found that omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties for joint-diseases. So food, or, especially supplements, may be well suited to reduce the swelling and relieve pain in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and lupus.
The use of supplements containing omega-3 may be a natural alternative to conventional treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. It seems that this component increases the levels of PG3 prostaglandins, which have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Pains in the period: the same way can help reduce the pain caused by menstruation.
- Omega 3 and Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis, etc: Anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 can be used for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
Nuts are high in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids
Omega 3 for depression and mental health
The intake of these acids can help in maintaining a mental balance and avoiding depression (specially DHA fatty acid).
They can also help in the treatment of diseases such as schizophrenia.
These acids have a positive role in the maintenance of healthy skin, so they are appropriate to prevent or ameliorate diseases affecting this organ, such as eczema, psoriasis, etc..
Omega 3 for pregnancy
The ingestion of foods rich in omega-3 (specially DHA) is very appropriate during pregnancy to ensure that the fetus has a right brain development.
Mothers who have eaten foods with these ingredients have had children with a capacity of higher learning and with fewer vision problems. Similarly, it has been shown that omega-3 favored the motor coordination of premature babies.
Foods rich in omega-3
Sources of omega-3
These essential fatty acids can be obtained from the following sources:
- Oily fish: Contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) - sometimes referred to him as EPA acronyms come from English " Eicosapentaenoic Acid" - and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) - also called DHA by the English form of "Docosa-Hexaenoic Acid". Fish oil is the richest in omega-3 fatty acids. (More information)
- Vegetable food: They contain omega-3 acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), also written as LNA by the acronym in English of "Alpha-linolenic Acid". This type of acid must be converted to EPA or DHA by the body to be used. In this transformation, the body only converts 10% of ALA to EPA or DHA.
For this reason fish oil is considered a direct and better source for the ingestion of this principle. Most vegetable food containing these principles are vegetable oils.
The one containing the highest proportion is flaxseed oil (533 mg per 100 g), followed by canola oil (111mg) or walnut oil (104 mg). Other vegetable oils that contain oil are soya, wheat germ oil or hazelnut oil.
They are a good way of eating omega-3 fatty acids for people who do not take it from plant sources or do not eat enough fish. They are capsules containing fish oil, oil or flaxseed oil capsules.
Relationship between omega-3 and omega-6
Contraindications of omega-3
For proper functioning of the body, the appropriate relationship between essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 has to be established .
Currently there is a higher proportion of omega 6 intake compared to Omega3, that ranges between 10: 1 to 20: 1, when the proper ratio would be 4:1, ie four parts omega-6 to 1 part omega-3.
This enormous superiority of omega-6 may be responsible for certain diseases, such as heart problems, depression, diabetes. etc. The solution is to increase foods containing more omega-3, take supplements, or reduce the amount of foods rich in omega-6.