Nothing Fishy About Heart Health and Omega-3 Consumption!
Omega-3 Fatty Acid consumption is important throughout life, but many studies have shown that omega-3s can be exceedingly beneficial as we age. The risk of several illnesses that are common in older adults, like heart attack and high blood pressure, can be reduced by consuming omega-3s. In addition to the benefits for blood pressure and risk of heart attack, omega-3 consumption has also been shown to decrease cholesterol levels while other studies indicate a relationship between omega-3 consumption and improved arthritis symptoms, improved immune function, and reduced blood clotting. Other studies are currently investigating a relationship between omega-3s and reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration, or the loss of the center field of vision.
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that are only found in our diet and cannot be made in our bodies like some other nutrients. Two important omega-3 fatty acids are EPA and DHA. ALA, a third form of omega-3 fatty acid, is found in plant sources. It is unknown whether ALA provides similar benefits as DHA and EPA.
What are DHA and EPA?
Some nutrition labels may specify “DHA” and “EPA” rather than” omega-3 fatty acids” – don’t be confused! DHA and EPA are specific omega-3 fatty acids. Scientific studies have thoroughly investigated and determined the benefits of DHA and EPA, specifically. Look for these omega-3s on the labels of plant sources and fish oil supplements.
Where are omega-3s found?
Omega-3s are found mainly in fish, like herring, salmon, and tuna, but omega-3 fatty acids are also found in smaller amounts in soy (like tofu), canola oil, green leafy vegetables, and walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts. Alternatively, omega-3s can be consumed through supplements, although the evidence of the benefits of omega-3 from supplements and non-fish sources is not as strong as the benefits from omega-3 fatty acids in fish. Fish oil supplements, which contain DHA and EPA, are the most common supplemental form of omega-3 fatty acids.
Two servings of omega-3 per week are recommended for adults. A serving size of fish is approximately the size of a deck of cards*. Omega-3s can easily be incorporated into two meals per week, like adding a tuna steak or salmon to a spinach salad, or eating a handful of chopped walnuts as a snack between meals.
Alternatively, because fish oil supplements vary in DHA and EPA amounts, fish oil supplements should be taken as directed by the label. Usually fish oil supplements are in the form of a pill and are taken daily.
Guest Blogger: Lara Holland
Schweigert, F. J., and J. Reimann. “Micronutrients and their Relevance for the Eye – Function of Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” Klinische Monatsblatter fur Augenheilkunde (2010).
Weitz, D., et al. “Fish Oil for the Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease.” Cardiology in review 18.5 (2010): 258-63.