Anyone who has ever burped their way through a bottle of fish oil supplements has probably questioned, “Is this really worth it?”
Omega-3 fatty acids provide a long list of health benefits, including lowering inflammation, improving heart health, and supporting brain health. However, there are various debates about their efficacy and health advantages in humans. We explain what omega-3 fatty acids are and look at the latest scientific research to see what they can and can’t do for your health in this Honest Nutrition segment.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a form of polyunsaturated fat, sometimes known as “good fats,” that have been lauded for their potential to protect against a variety of chronic diseases.
What omega-3 can do?
Fight off some inflammation
To refresh your memory, there are two types of inflammation. One is acute, and it occurs while your body is fighting an infection, repairing a sprained ankle, or coughing through an asthma attack. The other is chronic, a low-grade infection that goes unnoticed but increases your chance of significant health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. According to Philip Calder, Ph.D., a professor of nutritional immunology at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, omega-3s in the diet and supplements appear to have an effect on both types of inflammation.
Help joint pain
Omega-3 supplements have been shown to help people with rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that causes damage to the joint lining. Though supplements don’t have consistent impacts on the degree of pain and tenderness in the joints themselves. patients can take fewer anti-inflammatory medications with fish oil. To put it another way, omega-3s aren’t likely to be a replacement for traditional treatment, but they could complement it. Omega-3s also doesn’t seem to help much with osteoarthritis pain for whatever reason that we don’t understand.
Protect you from developing heart diseases
According to a review of known studies, omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering markers linked with a higher risk of developing heart diseases, such as high triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
Prof. Fereidoon Shahidi, professor of biochemistry at Memorial University in Canada, and Prof. Priyatharini Ambigaipalan, currently at Durham College in Canada, found evidence of omega-3’s health advantages in noncardiovascular health disorders in their 2018 review.
Improve your mood
It’s unclear how they affect our emotions, but because our brain cells’ membranes contain high levels of omega-3s and other fatty acids, not getting enough could affect how they function. That, in turn, may have an impact on how depression manifests. The outcomes have varied thus far, depending on the sort of mental health concern—mild depression vs. serious depression vs. bipolar disorder, for example—as well as the type and amount of omega-3.
What omega-3 can’t do?
Unlikely to help your memory
Supplements, at the very least, don’t seem to work. In one of the largest and longest studies of omega-3 supplements, 4,000 patients with an average age of 72 who supplemented for 5 years reported no brain advantages.
Prevent you from developing cancer
Some cancer patients’ problems have been reported to be reduced by omega-3 fatty acids, and preliminary findings seem promising. However, there is no proof that omega-3s help to prevent cancer from developing.
A meta-analysis of nearly one million participants found that high consumption of omega-3 fats — 5–15 g per day — did not significantly lower lung cancer risk and, in some circumstances, increased lung cancer risk.
Prevent blood clots
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-clotting properties through lowering platelet aggregation. However, this result has sparked debate, and the data supporting it is limited. Typical doses of omega-3 fats from foods and supplements have a minor effect.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are important components of cell membranes, especially in the brain. They have piqued scientific attention for decades, but results have been conflicting and inconsistent.
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects and may reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, depressive episodes, weight loss after cancer therapy, and the risk of heart disease, according to research.
Omega-3 supplementation, on the other hand, has been shown to have no effect on the risk of poor and severe heart disease outcomes, such as sudden death and stroke. Furthermore, it is unable to prevent or treat diabetes or blood clots.