Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Discuss with your doctor before taking any alternative medicine. This article is for
reference only, it is not a medical advice. All rights reserved. Do not copy this article to
other website or blog.
Abstract
Omega-3 fatty acids (also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids; PUFAs) cannot be manufactured in our body;
they are considered essential fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in nut oils and fish such as salmon,
tuna and halibut, they are also available in dietary supplements. Basically, there are three types of omega 3 fatty
acids available in supplements and they are
alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  ALA is converted to EPA and DHA in our body, once eaten. Studies suggest that
omega-3 fatty acids may offer multiple health benefits, as it reduces inflammation, and lower the risk of having
certain chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Study indicates that omega-3 is important for
the cognitive development of infants. Deficiency of
omega-3 fatty acids may lead to poor memory, dry skin,
depression, poor circulation, tiredness and heart issues. Research studies indicate an proper balance of omega-
3 and omega-6 is important for obtaining the health benefits. A typical American diet tends to contain 14-25 times
more omega-6 fatty acids while a healthy diet should consist of roughly 2-4 times more omega-6 fatty acid.
Excessive amount of omega-6 fatty acids may lead to higher risk of inflammatory disorders.

The Mediterranean diet contains whole grains, vegetables, fish, olive oil, garlic, fresh fruits and other food rich in
omega-3 fatty acid; it does have a healthier balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research studies suggest that intake of omega-3 fatty acids may benefit people at risk of various chronic
diseases:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Benefits on - Alzheimer’s Disease
The dietary omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) has been found limited amyloid, oxidative damage
and synaptic and cognitive deficits in a transgenic mouse model.  Thus, it may benefit people at risk of Alzheimer’
s disease. [12]

High cholesterol / High blood pressure / Heart disease
High intake of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3PUFA) found in fish oils (eicosapentaenoic and
docosahexaenoic acids) may benefit people at risk of heart failure. Omega-3 fatty acids have been used as a
strategy for secondary prevention of heart disease in some countries. [4] Fish oil supplementation lowers plasma
triglyceride levels, and omega-3 fatty acid demonstrate anti-inflammatory effects. [1]

Dietary omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Both epidemiologic and interventional
studies have demonstrated beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on many cardiovascular disease end points,
including all cardiovascular disease (defined as all coronary artery disease, fatal and nonfatal myocardial
infarction, and stroke combined), all coronary artery disease, fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke,
sudden cardiac death, and all-cause mortality. Much of the evidence comes from studies with fish oil and fish; to a
lesser extent, data relate to plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids. [8]

Flax oil has been used as a vegetative source of omega-3 fatty acid for patients suffered from ischemic heart
disease, hyperlipidemia and high blood pressure also resulted in positive dynamic of clinical manifestation. [7]

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Benefits on - Diabetes
Omega-3 fatty acid may benefit people at risk of Type 2 Diabetes. It has been observed that the omega-3 fatty
acids content was higher and omega-6 fatty acid content was lower in Icelandic milk when compared with milk from
other Nordic countries. And this may explain the higher supply of omega-3 fatty acids from milk correlated with low
incidence of Type 2 Diabetes and coronary heart disease mortality in Iceland compared to the other Nordic
countries. [13]

In a study of 5103 female nurse diagnosed type 2 diabetes but free of cardiovascular disease or cancer, higher
consumption of fish was also associated with a significantly lower total mortality. Higher consumption of long-chain
omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a trend toward lower incidence of coronary heart disease and total
mortality among diabetic women. [14]

Weight loss
Cancer cachexia is a distressing weight loss syndrome commonly seen in advanced cancer patients. It is
associated with reduced quality of life and shorter survival time. In some countries, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
has been used to decrease weight loss, promote weight gain and increase survival times in patients affected with
cancer cachexia. However, Dewey A and co-workers from University of Portsmouth found no difference of the
effect of EPA and placebo on cachexia syndrome often seen in patients with advanced cancer. [10]

Methotrexate is a common chemotherapy, but it comes with multiple side effects.  Researchers found soybean/
omega-3 fatty acids -containing diet offered significant protection against methotrexate toxicity in tumor-bearing
rats compared with the casein-containing diet, completely alleviating methotrexate -induced
anorexia, diarrhea,
and weight loss, when ingested as the sole diet and fed 7 days prior to and 7 days following intraperitoneal
methotrexate injection. It means that omega-3 fatty acid may benefit animals on methotrexate by alleviating its
side effects. [19]

Arthritis
A study of 90 patients suggested that daily supplementation with 2.6 gm of omega 3 fatty acid may result in
significant clinical benefit and may reduce the need for medication. Of course, the effectiveness is also related to
the conditions of the patients. In the study, dosing of 1.3 g of omega 3 plus 3 g of olive oil, or 6 g of olive oil did
not show the degree of effects. [20]

Osteoporosis
The research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acid on osteoporosis is very limited.

Depression
In 2000, Mischoulon D and Fava M. from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School reported
that areas where consumption of omega-3 fatty acid DHA is high are associated with decreased rates of
depression. [6] DHA deficiency states, such as alcoholism and the postpartum period, also are linked with
depression, on the other hand, individuals with major depression have marked depletions in omega-3 FAs
(especially DHA) in erythrocyte phospholipids compared with controls. [6]

Eating seafood during pregnancy may have beneficial effects on mental health. Researchers found lower
maternal intake of omega-3 fatty acid from seafood was associated with high levels of depressive symptoms. [3]

Bipolar disorder
Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation of 360 mg per day eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
and 1560 mg per day docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for 6 weeks was found to improve symptoms of mania and
depression in 18 children and adolescents. [5]

Schizophrenia
Decreased omega-3 fatty acid levels have been reported in patients with depression, schizophrenia or
Alzheimer's disease. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) has been used to treat several psychiatric and
neurodegenerative diseases. Song C and Zhao S, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada, reported that a
total of six out of seven clinical trials showed EPA significantly improved depressive symptoms when compared
with the placebo-treated populations. Several investigations also reported that EPA could effectively treat
schizophrenia. [23]

Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
A recent study has shown that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder who used omega-3 fatty acid
supplements achieved and maintained symptom control. The data also supported omega-3 fatty acid safety and
tolerability. [2]

Eating disorders
The research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acid on osteoporosis is very limited.

Skin disorders
Dietary omega-3 fatty acids protect against photocarcinogenesis in animals. In a double-blind randomized study,
42 healthy subjects took 4 g daily of purified omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), or
monounsaturated, oleic acid (OA), for 3 months. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) was bioavailable; the skin content
at 3 months showing a 8-fold rise from baseline. No consistent pattern of alteration in basal and UVR-exposed
skin content of the antioxidants glutathione, vitamins E and C or lipid peroxidation, was seen on supplementation.
However, researchers found there was a EPA protection against the acute UVR-induced genotoxicity. [22]

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Omega-3 fatty acids have been used to treat joint pain associated with several inflammatory conditions. Goldberg
RJ and Katz J.  from York University, Canada, conducted trials assessing the pain relieving effects of omega-3
fatty acids in patients with rheumatoid arthritis or joint pain

secondary to inflammatory bowel disease and dysmenorrhea. Basically, they found supplementation with omega-3
fatty acids for 3-4 months reduces patient reported joint pain intensity, minutes of morning stiffness, number of
painful and/or tender joints and NSAID (pain killer) consumption. Omega-3 may benefit people suffered from joint
pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and dysmenorrhea. [21]

Asthma
Modification of dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids in early childhood is found to no benefit in preventing atopy
and asthma. [18]

Macular Degeneration
Dietary omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid intake is found to be associated with a decreased risk of
progression from bilateral drusen to central geographic atrophy (a condition related to age-related macular
degeneration). [17]

Menstrual pain
The research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acid on menstrual pain is very limited.

Colon cancer
Human colon carcinoma COLO 205, carrying wild type p53, grown subcutaneously in athymic mice was inhibited
80% by a diet containing a mixture of omega-3 fatty acids compared to corn oil diet of omega-6 fatty acids. A
study led by Kato T and Pardini RS, University of Nevada, suggested that DHA is the primary tumor suppressive
omega-3 fatty acid in vivo and in vitro and inhibits cancer growth by p53 dependent and independent pathways,
while the marginal inhibition by EPA is p53 independent. [11]

Study of 42 patients suffered from colorectal cancer showed postoperative supplementation of omega-3 fatty
acids (a combination of omega-3 fish oil and soybean oil) may have a favorable effect on the outcomes in
colorectal cancer patients undergoing radical resection by lowering the magnitude of inflammatory responses and
modulating the immune response. [9]

Breast cancer
In a European Community Multicenter Study on Antioxidants, Myocardial Infarction, and Cancer (EURAMIC),
breast cancer ratio of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to total omega-6 fat was showed an inverse association with
breast cancer in four of five centers. [15]

Prostate cancer
Researchers fed individually caged male severe combined immunodeficiency mice 20% kcal fat diets with the fat
derived either primarily from omega-6 fatty acids (n-6 group) or with the fat consisting of omega-6 and omega-3
fatty acids in a ratio of 1:1 (omega-3 group), and injected s.c. with Los Angeles Prostate Cancer 4 (LAPC-4) cells
to the mice.  They found tumor growth rates, final tumor volumes, and serum prostate-specific antigen levels were
reduced in the omega-3 fatty acid group relative to the omega 6 group. The omega-3 fatty acid group tumors had
decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis. [16]

Dietary Sources
Fish, plant, and nut oils are the primary dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish, including salmon, mackerel,
halibut, sardines, tuna, and herring are the major dietary sources of the longer-chain omega-3 fatty acids-
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Sources of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids-
ALA include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil, and soybean oil. [8]

Available Forms
Most of the dietary supplements of fish oil are in form of capsules or liquid. The supplements should be kept
refrigerated. Be sure to buy good brands of omega-3 fatty acid supplements certified with low contents of heavy
metals and other poisonous chemicals.

Serving
The effective doses in most studies for adults are about 2-4 g of fish oil daily. However, the dosing for fish oil
supplements should be based on the amount of omega-3 fatty acids present in the product, not the total amount
of the fish oil. Read the recommendation on the label and consult with doctor for the dosing.
Side Effects and Warning of Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Omega-3 fatty acids may blood-thinning effects; it may interact with other blood-thinning agents including herbs,
supplements and medications. Omega-3 fatty acid may also increase fasting blood sugar levels and interact with
medications for diabetes. Diabetic patients must consult with their doctors before taking omega-3 fatty acid.
Common side effects, especially when the users are over-dosed, include diarrhea, belching, bloating and
flatulence.

Supplements of fish oil may come with various impurities or unwanted ingredients. Fish and fish oil supplements
may also contain heavy metals, dioxin and pesticides. It is wise to use supplements with high purity of the omega-
3 fatty acids.

Reference
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Discuss with your doctor before taking any alternative medicine. This article is for
reference only, it is not a medical advice. All rights reserved. Do not copy this article to
other website or blog.