Many people know that omega-3 is good for them, but do you know why?
Omega-3- contains EPA and DHA - two very important long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. EPA and DHA are vital nutrients that help every cell in our body function in an optimal way.
Heart, brain, eyes, muscles and joints all rely on Omega-3 to operate correctly. Each cell in our body is a special functional unit that needs to get nutrients in and waste products out. EPA and DHA helps ensure such efficient and flexible transport.
Our bodies do not efficiently produce EPA and DHA, so we have to obtain it through our diet. Seafood is our main source of EPA and DHA but a supplement of marine Omega-3 is a good alternative if you do not eat enough fatty fish. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has made recommendations regarding daily intake of EPA and DHA to help consumers better understand the health benefits of these fatty acids.
The cardiovascular system is the engine of our body. It must maintain complicated interactions and fuel a set of cells and organs year after year.
Still the cardiovascular system does not necessarily give you important early signs of deterioration; stiff and calcified arteries with fat deposits, a gradual increase in blood pressure, in blood level of unhealthy fats, or in shortness of breathes. EPA and DHA are scientifically proven to contribute to normal function of the heart, normal blood pressure and to normal blood level of triglycerides.
Consuming recommended doses of EPA and DHA is an easy way to contribute to maintenance of a healthy heart and circulation. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends a daily intake of 250 milligrams of EPA and DHA to contribute to a normal function of the heart, 2 grams EPA and DHA to maintain a normal blood triglyceride level and 3 grams of EPA and DHA to maintain a normal blood pressure.
DHA is one of the major building blocks of the brain and is critical for optimal brain activity and function at all ages of life.
Two types of cells - neurons and glia cells - are responsible for sending and processing signals so that we can function intellectually, operate the central nerve system and move our bodies. Both cell types are dependent upon flexible membranes where EPA and DHA play important roles. DHA also contributes to effective communication between the vast numbers of neurons.
Research has shown that omega-3s have an impact on cognitive function and memory, symptoms of depression, ADHD, and recovery from traumatic brain injuries. EFSA recommend a daily intake of 250 mg of DHA to contribute to maintenance of normal brain function.
The development, maintenance and preservation of vision are vital for all individuals. Even if new technology now easily can replace lenses, it cannot do the same with important components of the retina.
The retina is the light-sensitive layer of cells in the back of the eye that contributes to create an image of what you see – like film in a camera. The retina has receptors for light and nerve cells that send signals to the brain for interpretation of the light signals.
The relation to DHA is that we find - and the cells need - high concentrations of DHA in the retina for adequate vision in dim light and at night. The highly unsaturated nature of DHA has unique effects on retinal cell membranes allowing them to transmit light signals very quickly. A number of studies have confirmed that DHA contributes to the maintenance of normal vision and EFSA recommend a daily intake of 250 mg of DHA to attain this.
MATERNAL AND CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT
Pregnancy is an important period in life. An amazing event takes place in the body- a fully developed baby is created out of two merged cells.
All information of how and when cells and organs of different functions and appearances will develop lies in our DNA. However this development also depends upon the mother and the nutrition she delivers to the fetus. The mother-to-be should start consuming both EPA and DHA before conception. This is to provide her body with the best possible supplies and storages for the upcoming pregnancy.
It is scientifically substantiated that maternal intake of DHA both during pregnancy and breastfeeding contribute to normal fetal development of the brain, eye and vision.
EFSA recommend pregnant and lactating women to have a daily intake of 200 mg DHA, in addition to the recommended daily intake of EPA and DHA for adults, i.e. 250 mg EPA and DHA, to contribute to normal development of the brain, eye and vision of the fetus and breastfed infants.
Moving around, bending your arms, using your fingers or twisting your neck means that more than 300 smaller and larger joints are in function and under pressure.
In a joint, two bones come together, creating a connection between them. To enable optimal function of such a connection, cartilage surrounds ends of the bones while presence of fluid acts as grease to reduce friction. Joints must sustain different conditions from heavy physical strains, vigorous activity and stress to infections and impaired immune function. Despite such varied conditions they must operate smoothly and precisely to preserve flexibility and to prevent stiffness and pain. Different cell types and fluid containing soluble compounds make sure that the joint can do so- day by day.
If low grade inflammation persists over time, severe pain - and chronic arthritis - may develop if left untreated. By its anti-inflammatory effect omega-3 may counteract loss of collagen and deterioration of cartilage. When you know that cartilage has very limited capacity to heal itself or to regenerate, the use of omega-3 to preserve cartilage and inhibit inflammation becomes very important.
The ratio between omega-6 and omega-3 is an indicator of the type of fatty acids that you have in your body. In many countries it has been reported omega-6 to omega-3 balances as high as 20:1 while the ideal index should be <5:1.
Studies have shown that people have gradually changed their consumption of types of fatty acids by such as consuming more fast food and less fish. Popular fatty acid sources like cultivated vegetables contain a lot of omega-6 in their oils and seeds. In addition omega-6 is frequently put in animal feed increasing the content in meat and eggs.
The balance reflects the state of the body; a high index implies that much more omega-6 than omega-3 is built into our cell membranes. This is unfavorable because it makes the cell membranes less flexible and do not allow optimal traffic of nutrients, transport of signal molecules or waste elimination. As a consequence a high index is associated with an increased risk for developing disease, for example cardiovascular disease, diabetes 2 and chronic inflammatory diseases.
On the other hand - if the index is low, due to high intake of omega-3, the body reflects the opposite; the omega-3 rich cell membranes will be flexible and healthy. Compounds acting anti-inflammatory, preventing blood clotting and positively influence the heart rhythm as well as relaxing the muscle layer in the arteries will be more easily formed. All these effects are favorable for your body- and maintain the body in a healthy – and not stressed state.
Remember to keep your omega-6:omega-3 index at an optimal level by consuming enough EPA and DHA.
For more information about the health benefits of EPA and DHA we recommend visiting:
For healthcare professionals
European Food Safety Authority
Fats of Life