Children's Health

Amazing Facts about Omega 3 for you and your Family

Amazing Facts about Omega 3 for you and your Family
June 25 , 2018
Muna Abadel Muna Abadel
Mona holds a master's degree in food technology and management of industries from France. Mona has worked for a number of international... more

Omega-3 fatty acids have been on the news for quite some time for their presumable health benefits for children and grown-ups, but what are they exactly and are they really as beneficial as everyone is saying?

What is Omega-3?

Omega-3 is a class of fatty acids. They are essential fats, as the body cannot make them and we only can obtain them from food. Our bodies need them as they are an important part of cell membranes and the regulation of gene function. They also play an important role in making hormones which fight inflammation, regulate blood clots, artery walls contraction and relaxation.

Types of Omega-3

There are 3 types of Omega-3 fatty acids (FAs);

  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). 

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Both EPA and DHA are mainly found in fish whereas ALA is found in plants.

Health benefits for children

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Omega-3, pregnancy and your baby

DHA is essential for the component of the brain and the retina of the eye; therefore, having enough DHA in your diet during pregnancy can ensure better development of your fetus and while breastfeeding. DHA fortified formula is also a good source of DHA if breastfeeding is not an option.

Omega-3 and ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It usually affects children and teens and can continue into adulthood. It is characterized by impulsivity, difficulty focusing, excessive activity and hyperactivity. Even though more studies are needed to confirm, a few studies have already found out that omega-3 fatty acids have an effect in reducing emotional liability, hyperactivity and aggressive behavior. They also help in improving the children’s ability to focus and complete tasks.

Omega-3 and your child’s reading ability

A recent study conducted in Sweden including 154 schoolchildren between 9 and 10 years old showed that children taking omega-3 FAs for three months improved their reading ability more evidently than children who didn’t.

Health benefits of Omega-3 for adults

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Omega-3 and your period

Menstrual pain is something many women have to endure and is usually associated with other symptoms such as depression, anxiety, bloating, lack of concentration, headaches, and breast tenderness. Different studies have demonstrated that taking omega-3 supplements can help in reducing the pain and its symptoms; and the longer women take these supplements, the better the results.

Omega-3 and your heart:

Different studies have shown that higher consumption of higher levels of omega-3 is associated with a lower risk of heart disease as it lowers the blood pressure, heart rate, inflammation and triglycerides (which are the main component of body fat). It also enhances the function of blood vessels and increases the good cholesterol levels.

Omega-3 and your eyes:

DHA type of Omega-3 is an important component of the retina of the eye; therefore, getting sufficient amounts of DHA is important for eye health and vision. DHA is also associated with slowing down retina degeneration caused by advanced age and known as macular degeneration.

Omega-3 and your brain:

Omega-3 fatty acids are very vital for the brain. They help to maintain the cell membrane of the brain cells and play a role in the intercellular communication.

A study conducted on older people with mild cognitive impairment showed that omega-3 fatty acids can help improve memory, attention and brain processing to a certain degree.

Omega-3 for your joints:

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a disease that affects people as they get older and causes pain, swelling, and stiffness of joints. Some studies show that Omega-3 can help in improving the symptoms of RA besides normal treatment.

Omega-3 and your mental health:

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to cause a certain improvement in the mood of the people suffering from depression and general anxiety disorder.

Food Sources

flaxseed

If you are looking for getting your and your family’s dose of omega-3 from food, seafood such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, herring, oysters, and shrimp are rich in omega-3 FAs. Beef and chicken and their products also contain them to a lower degree. However, the grass-fed animal tends to have higher amounts of these fatty acids. You can also get these fatty acids from flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, canola oils, and soybeans. Many brands fortify their products such as yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages and infant formula with omega-3 fatty acids.

Please consider the following before we try to increase your intake of omega-3:

1. The presence of mercury in fish is a big problem all around the world. Being exposed to high doses of mercury can cause irreversible damages to our bodies.

 

However, no adverse effects for low doses resulting from normal consumption have been reported in research yet. This should not discourage you from eating fish as fish is very important to get your required dose of omega-3 fatty acids for health and also very important for the visual and cognitive development of your baby,  but to be more aware of the amount and type of fish to eat. Two servings of fish per week for normal people is considered safe (up to 12 ounces); pregnant and lactating women it should not exceed two servings (up to 12 ounces) per week.

If you would like to avoid consuming mercury as much as possible salmon, trout, herring, sardines, squid, oysters, canned light tuna and shrimps are believed to have lower mercury levels compared to other types of seafood. Omega-3 supplements can be a good and clean source of these essential fatty acids to compensate for any shortcomings in your diet.

2. If you opt for omega-3 supplements while pregnant, avoid the ones containing vitamin A (retinol).

These supplements are known as fish liver oil or cod liver oil. Try to find omega-3 supplements made from the body of the fish and known as omega-3 supplements.


Sources:

1)“17 Science-Based Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids”, Freydis Hjalmarsdottir,  18 June 2017, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/17-health-benefits-of-omega-3

2)“Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” 6 June 2018, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3fattyacids-HealthProfessional/

3)“Prevention of cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.” Alan D. Strickland, May 2014, Medical Hypotheses, https://www.medical-hypotheses.com/article/S0306-9877(14)00049-8/fulltext

4)“Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.” Harvard School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/

5)“Omega-3 fatty acid treatment of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” S.A. Bélanger, M. Vanasse, S. Spahis, M.P. Sylvestre, S. Lippé, F. l’Heureux, P. Ghadirian, C.M. Vanasse and E. Levy, Feb 2009, Paediatrics and Child Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661342/

6)“Mercury Poisoning: Causes, Effects & Fish.” Alina Bradford, 24 February 2016, Live Science, https://www.livescience.com/53837-mercury-poisoning.html

7)“Make smart seafood choices to minimize mercury intake.” Julie Corliss, 30 April 2014, Harvard Health Blog, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/make-smart-seafood-choices-minimize-mercury-intake-201404307130

8)“Is it safe to take fish oil supplements in pregnancy?” Sarah Schenker, July 2013, BabyCenter, https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x541094/is-it-safe-to-take-fish-oil-supplements-in-pregnancy

9)“Evaluation of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a pilot trial". N Sohrabi, M Kashanian, S.S. Ghafoori, S.K. Malakouti, Jun 2013, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23642943

10)“Comparison of the effect of fish oil and ibuprofen on treatment of severe pain in primary dysmenorrhea.” M. Zafari, F. Behmanesh, andA.A. Mohammadi, 2011, Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3770499/

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