In 2011, people spent about 25 billion dollars on omega-3 supplements. These supplements have proven to be the most commonly prescribed supplements in the world due to their legendary effects on various medical conditions, including rheumatic, gastrointestinal, psychiatric, renal, metabolic, pulmonary, and dermatological problems. Above all, they have been used for cardiovascular disease prevention.
What are omega-3s?
Omega-3 fatty acids are chemically structured with several double bonds as a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids. The first of these bonds is on the third carbon from the methyl end of the chemical chain. Major long chains of omega-3 fatty acids include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have 20 and 22 carbons, respectively. EPA and DHA are most commonly found in fish and other seafood, while other shorter chains of omega-3 fatty acids are found in canola, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Another long chain fatty acid is docosapentaenoic acid (DPA).
The Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Molecules and Cells
Studies with animals show that adding omega-3 fatty acids to cell membranes alters their cellular function in a positive way by altering membrane protein signaling.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and suppress the acute phase reactants in a cell.
Some claims to omega-3 fatty acids’ ability to reduce inflammation have been contested, such as when a rat model of spinal cord surgery revealed that neither DHA nor EPA could reverse the hepatic inflammatory response induced by spinal cord injury. Studies even extend to athletes, who as a group of 20 participants supplemented daily with 3.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids for 6 weeks. At the conclusion of these 6 weeks, it was observed that the acids did nothing to alter the cytokine response induced by strenuous exercise. The blood concentrations of neutrophils and lymphocytes also remained unchanged.
Risk Factors and Mixed Results
By boosting the degradation of fatty acids, speeding up triglyceride clearance from plasma, and through a reduced hepatic synthesis of low-density lipoprotein, omega-3 fatty acids effectively decrease serum levels of triglycerides.
Their effects on lipoproteins have mixed results. The majority of trials using DHA showed an increase of low-density lipoprotein, while less than half of the trials using EPA experienced the same result. EPA supplementation has had varied results, but DHA typically produces an increase in high-density lipoproteins.
The Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet
Large-scale population studies show that groups of people who consume boiled or baked fish have a lower risk of ischemic heart disease, heart failure, and have reduced heart rates.
The American Heart Association recommends the consumption of several kinds of fish (preferably salmon, herring, and mackerel), at least twice a week. Fish consumption has been consistently proven to improve cardiovascular health, especially those species that have higher levels of EPA and DHA than others.
The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids; olive oil, fruits, nuts, cereals, vegetables, and fish make up the primary components of the diet. The sparing consumption of red meat and processed dairy sets this diet apart from others.
There are countless ways to boost consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Even those who have an aversion to fish can find an almost endless number of supplements available to them. If you find yourself in the latter group, consider investing in a proven omega-3 supplement such as Kyani Sunset.
Considering the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, it is easy to recognize the worth of eating fish and adopting the Mediterranean diet. Such actions would, according to empirical science, improve cardiovascular health in beneficial and worthwhile ways.