Why Omega 3 Fatty Acid Might be the Most Important Nutrient Supplement of Them All
There are countless nutrients and supplements that you’re supposed to be taking. This is why it’s so important not to take a reductionist approach to your health. If you try and seek out every single super-food and amazing nutrient on the market to boost your health as far as possible, then you will surely drive yourself insane in no time at all!
This is why it’s almost always better to get your nutrition from your diet. Eat a healthy, varied diet, and you will naturally get all those important nutrients from your food. Not only that, but you’ll enjoy the process more, and your body will have a much easier time digesting everything, seeing as it is getting the nutrients in the format that it is designed to receive and absorb them.
If you only take ONE supplement, it should be omega 3 fatty acid.
But that’s not to say there’s no benefit to taking nutrients in supplement form at all.
The simple fact of the matter is that some substances are harder to come by than others. Take omega 3 fatty acid for instance. This is a nutrient that primarily comes from fish, and from nuts in small quantities. Neither of these things are foods that a lot of us eat very often. Apart from anything else, a lot of us are allergic to nuts! Even if this isn’t true for you though, you will likely find that tracking down lots of fish gets difficult, particularly seeing as fish often contains large amounts of mercury – which can be poisonous if allowed to build up in your system.
But it is very much worth going the extra mile to track down omega 3 fatty acid in supplement form. In this post, we’re going to discuss why it may in fact be the most important supplement of all.
If you only take ONE supplement, it should be omega 3 fatty acid. Let’s find out why.
What is Omega 3 Fatty Acid?
Omega 3 fatty acid is a phospholipid that is found specifically in oily fish such as salmon and tuna. This means it is a type of fat, but not a saturated fat like the stuff you find when you eat chicken and beef – or a trans fat like the kind used to cook chips.
Remember: not all fat is bad for you. In fact, fat plays a host of important roles in the brain and body, which range from helping to produce hormones, to supporting normal brain function.
Omga 3 does both these things and then some.
Health Benefits of Omega 3
The reason that omega 3 fatty acid is such an exciting nutrient, is that it does a host of amazing things for your health. Here are just some of the incredible health benefits you can expect.
Omega 3 fatty acid is able to reduce inflammation, which is a chronic affliction that affects many of us.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injuries and illness. The role of inflammation is to protect a wounded area and to help drive out bacteria to prevent infection. The problem is when inflammation becomes chronic: meaning that low lying inflammation continues even when there is no pathogen or wound.
This happens on a low level throughout the body in response to poor diets and other lifestyle factors. Along with low energy and aching joints, it may also contribute to feelings of “brain fog” as pro-inflammatory cytokines wreak havoc on the brain.
What we now know, is that one of the causes of this chronic inflammation is an imbalance of omega 6 to omega 3. Omega 3 and 6 are both important, and omega 6 performs a lot of important jobs in the body to. The problem is that these two substances compete for space, and when you have too much omega 6, this causes inflammation1. Increasing your intake of omega 3 can therefore help to reverse this issue and combat inflammation. This may in turn help to improve brain fog, tiredness, arthritis, depression2, and even “DOMS” (the next-day muscle soreness that you feel following a workout!).
Cell Membrane Permeability
Due to its categorization as a phospholipid, omega 3 is used by the body to create cells. In particular, it is used to create the cell walls and is incorporated here in order to add flexibility and permeability. If you get enough omega 3 in your diet, then more of your cells will be made up of this highly flexible substance, and that will help to prevent cell damage. More importantly, it means that more nutrients and more signals can pass through the cell walls. That in turn can improve brain function – helping you to effectively think faster!
Increases Brain Plasticity
Omega 3 is well known as a brain-booster, and we’ve already seen how it can combat brain fog and help with the communication of cells (including brain cells, of course). What’s more though, is that it also helps to make the brain more plastic.
Brain plasticity – also known as neuroplasticity – refers to the ability of the brain to change shape much like a muscle. The more you use it, the more it will grow and change in response to that training.
This occurs at least partly through a process known as myelination. This is the formation of protective, conductive sheathes that cover the tails of the neurons. When you get enough myelination, it helps to create more neural pathways more quickly, then prevents them from becoming damaged over time. The bottom line? You remember things more quickly and permanently!
Omega 3 is generally agreed to be effective at reducing stress and anxiety disorders3. One possible explanation for this, is that omega 3 helps to increase the production of a substance of DHEA. This hormone/neurotransmitter has been found to be produced in greater quantities in top performing athletes and special forces personnel who show exceptional resilience to stress. These people manage to stay calm under pressure and to avoid over reacting to difficult situations.
Omega 3 has meanwhile been shown to boost DHEA. So if you are the kind of person who often goes to pieces in a stressful situation, you might benefit from increasing your intake of oily fish!
Further enhancing its reputation as a brain food, omega 3 has been shown to help combat against Alzheimer’s disease and a host of other neurodegenerative disorders. It does this by fighting the formation of amyloid plaques – also called “Alzheimer’s proteins.” This may also have the benefit of combating the effects of sleep deprivation.
Weight Loss and Diabetes
In case you weren’t already convinced by the wonders of omega 3, you should also know that it can help you achieve that amazing cover-model body you’ve been after (a little bit, anyway!). It does this by improving your weight loss outcomes, specifically by reducing the amount of fat that the body stores around the belly. It does this by increasing insulin sensitivity.
Insulin is the hormone that the body produces in response to a spike in blood sugar. This begins the process of absorbing energy to either be used, or stored around the body. In this case, the omega 3 appears to help the body make better use of energy, and thereby to prevent the onset of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity!
Another huge advantage from a body-recomposition standpoint, is that omega 3 helps to increase the production of testosterone. This is the “male hormone” that is linked with more masculine behavior, muscular development, physical strength, and weight loss. Someone with more testosterone will be more muscular and toned, with less visible fat.
The List Goes On…
These are just some of the benefits that omega 3 can offer. Omega 3 has also been shown to help enhance heart health, to encourage healthy blood flow (which it does by increasing the flexibility of blood vessels and by reducing inflammation), to improve eye health in babies, and even to increase the IQs of babies that get more of it in utero!
How to Choose an Omega 3 Supplement
When choosing an omega 3 supplement, opt to pick a supplement that only contains omega 3 (avoid omega 3 and 6 combined if you want to reduce inflammation). There are two primary types of omega 3, which are EPA and DHA.
Both EPA and DHA play important roles in the body. For example, EPA inhibits the production of enzyme delta-5-deaturase. This is the substance that is used to synthesize omega 6, and so this is the best option if you are looking to reduce any signs of inflammation.
DHA on the other hand is particularly effective at supporting metabolism and therefore may help you to lose weight more quickly.
Of the two formats, DHA is generally slightly more expensive and is therefore considered the best by many. For the best results though, you should aim to consume both EPA and DHA.
On the whole omega 3 is a very affordable supplement, and there are no known risks associated with consuming large amounts. For this reason, there is no reason not to get as much as you can!
Of course, for the very best results of all, you should just increase your consumption of tuna and salmon. These are also lean sources of protein, meaning they will support muscle formation without packing on lots of fat. Just keep in mind that you should avoid eating more than 2 cans of tuna per week to avoid mercury poisoning.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammation
2. Brain Fog: The Hidden Causes + How to Fix It
3. Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12 month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication