What is Omega-3?
By Myprotein Writer Mike Alexander
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids, that our bodies cannot produce. For this reason they are often referred to as “essential” fatty acids. We need omega-3 fatty acids for a huge variety of physiological functions, such as blood clotting and building cell membranes in the brain. Since our bodies cannot make omega-3 fats, this means we have get them through food and our diets.
A lot of people today suffer from stress. I don’t necessarily mean the conscious type that you’re very aware of, but physiological stress whereby hundreds of other factors that can cause exerted stress to our bodies. This can be digestive distress, inflammation and a whole host of other health problems. Even our diets can contribute to these problems.
The words “omega”, and “fish oil” get thrown around a lot these days, but a lot of people (myself included until recently) don’t really realise what these are and what effects they can have. A lot of people’s diets are high in Omega-6 fats, a lot of which come from processed oils- which can have further inflammatory effects on the body. The balance of Omega-6 and 3 is hugely important, as Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory.
In the UK it is recommended we consume at least one portion of fatty fish a week in order to get a good supply of omega-3. However, like fruit and vegetables many of us fail to do this meaning our diets are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids. For individuals who struggle to consume foods rich in omega 3 a dietary supplement may be required. The key when looking for a high-quality Omega 3 supplement is a high ratio of EPA to DHA, so look out for a high concentration and you can aim for around 2g of EPA+DHA each day.
The Benefits of Omega 3
1. Omega 3 and Cardiovascular Health and Inflammation
A lot of the studies around Omega-3s have focused on inflammation and disease prevention, whereby there is a large number of studies, covering varying areas of the population, which demonstrate a strong link between the consumption of omega 3 and reduced levels of inflammation in the body- as well as lowering the risk of a whole host of health conditions.
One of the main concepts most studies have shown is a significant reduction in risk of heart disease when consuming omega 3 fatty acids. For example, one study suggested that consuming an increased amount of omega 3 through supplementation could cut the risk of heart attack deaths by nearly 80%. But how is this possible? Most of the research shows that the way this works is by affecting blood levels of cholesterol, namely lowering total cholesterol, LDL (“bad) cholesterol and tryglycerides, whilst increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Furthermore, studies have highlighted a link to a reduction in coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, whereby in certain groups, a reduction in the rates of rheumatoid artritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has also been observed.
Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory effects will help you with any inflammation that is inflicted on the body during training hard- helping you recover from hard sessions.
2. Omega 3 and Brain function
This is an area that is still being researched, but there is some evidence of possible developmental difficulties in babies whose mothers do not consume sufficient Omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids seem to be one of the crucial factors that determine how well your brain functions. Given that your brain pretty much controls everything about you… this is fairly important.
3.Omega 3 and Fat loss
One study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed a link between Omega-3 consumption and fat loss in overweight individuals. There is not as strong a link in healthy individuals, but the mechanisms there suggest this could be a benefit for everyone.
4. Omega 3 and Muscle gain
Yup, one study even suggested that Omega-3 consumption could have anabolic effects, both in sufferers of disease and healthy individuals. Let’s be honest, if you’re looking at this website, the thought of gaining muscle has probably crossed your mind at least a couple of times, and supplementing with Omega-3 is only going help you achieve those goals… providing if the rest of your diet and training is in order that is!
Omega-3 Food Sources
Sounds like a win-win, right? But how do you make sure you’re eating enough Omega-3? Here’s a list of Omega-3 rich foods to get you started. If you find you’re deficient, you can always supplement with a quality fish oil.
|Food||mg of Omega 3 per 100g (3.5 Ounces)|
Nuts (especially walnuts)
Green leafy veg (sprouts, kale, spinach)
150 to 500 mg150 to 500 mg
150 to 500 mg
< 150 mg
< 150 mg
> 500 mg
> 500 mg
< 150 mg