You may know in a general way that omega-3 fatty acids are important for health, but have you ever wondered how it specifically helps? Here are seven amazing things they can do for you:
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for growing babies and children
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain development of the in utero and growing child. Higher IQs in children have been linked to higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids consumed during their mother’s pregnancy. A high amount of omega-6 fatty acids during pregnancy has been linked to higher rates of breast cancer in subsequent generations in animal studies. This suggests that a good balance of omega-3s to omega-6s is especially important during pregnancy. Plus, a study of 500 children found that those low in omega-3 fatty acids had more trouble reading.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent cardiovascular problems
Omega-3s have long been linked to better heart health. In fact, some scientists believe there is compelling evidence that doctors should use omega-3 fatty acid therapy for preventing both primary and secondary cardiovascular diseases. This is exciting and important news, considering that more people die every year from heart disease than cancer. The American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish (salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, lake trout, herring or sardines) twice a week to lower the risk of coronary heart disease, cardiac arrest, heart failure and stroke.
Omega-3 fatty acids, dementia and brain health
There is also some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids could help prevent dementia. Whether that’s because dementia is linked to cardiovascular health, or a more direct link isn’t know for sure, but there is evidence that it could help both the heart and the brain. In fact, omega-3s are linked to bigger, healthier brains that bode well for the aging body.
Omega-3 fatty acids in fish may help prevent breast cancer
Eating omega-3 rich fish could also help prevent breast cancer. Research in Asian countries where seafood is commonly eaten shows reduced breast cancer rates, for example. Scientists who work specifically in the field of breast cancer have long recommended the addition of omega-3s, although not all studies show the same positive results.
It’s the one supplement found to be especially helpful for bipolar depression
In a review of different supplemental therapies for bipolar depression, omega-3 fatty acid was the one that showed the highest promise for making a difference. There have been many studies done on depression in general with omega-3 fatty acids, but there have been inconclusive results.
Teens feel more anxious when low in omega-3’s
An interesting study that does link omega-3s to how you feel is one that shows that teens low in this important nutrient are more likely to feel anxious. Considering that the teen years are already full enough of normal fears and anxiety, making sure they have adequate omega-3s in their diet can help prevent excessive anxiety.
Pregnant women suffer less anxiety when eating fish
Similarly, expectant mothers who consumed more fish also experience less anxiety. Vegetarian mothers, with their lack of animal protein, struggled with anxiety in higher numbers. The authors of the study felt that it was because of the lack of omega-3s in their diet.
As always, eating a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet can help your body be healthy in many ways. Including foods rich in omega-3s can definitely give your body a boost in preventative care.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally updated in February 2014.