What are Omega 3 Fatty Acids?
Omega 3 fatty acids are probably the most studied chemical in recent times in regards to Human Health. It is an essential fatty acid which serves various vital functions in the body. Also, it helps in many major metabolical, psychological and physiological operations of the body.
In simple words, Omega 3 is basically an acid particle with a fat particle attached to it. They are a Polyunsaturated fatty particle. It is also known as the ω-3 fatty acid and n-3 fatty acid.
Our body is not capable of synthesizing these fatty acids naturally. But since they play a vital role in metabolical function, our body absorbs short-chained fatty acids from various food items we consume. Our body has the capability to combine these short-chained acid particles and form a long chain fatty acid compound. Such long chain fatty acids are required for the normal and optimum metabolism.
There are basically 3 types of fatty acids that are essential to us:
- Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA)
- Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
- Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
Alph Linolenic acid (ALA) is the shorter chained particle among the 3. It consists of 18 carbon atoms and 3 double bonds. Plant seeds, such as Pumpkin, Chia, Sage, Clary seeds etc. contain a good amount of ALA. Similarly, plant oils and walnuts are also a good source of ALAs.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) contains 20 carbon atoms and 5 double bonds, while Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) contains 22 carbon atoms and 6 double bonds. Both DHA and EPA are found in fish oil, squid oils, chicken eggs, and krill oil.
- Symptoms of Deficiency
- Causes of Deficiency
- Foods Rich in Omega 3
- Patients Queries
Symptoms of Omega 3 Fatty Acids Deficiency
Since omega 3 fatty acids play such an important role in the various function of our body, you should always be on alert for the symptoms of its deficiency. Generally, the deficiency of Omega 3 fatty acid can only be confirmed with a blood test. The symptoms can be mild to severe, depending on the Levels of Omega 3 fatty acid in the blood.
The initial symptoms will appear on your skin, nails, and hair such as:
- Brittle and weak nails.
- Peeling and breakage of the nails.
- Rough, dry and lifeless hairs.
- Itchy scalp and Dandruff.
- Dry and itchy skin.
- Bump and mild rashes on the skin.
- Sleep disorders, difficulty in sleeping, and irregular sleep.
Furthermore, you may feel some psychological symptoms as well, such as:
- Difficulty in waking up, tiredness.
- ADHD like symptoms, difficulty in concentration.
- Forgetfulness, Trouble in remembering things.
- Unstable emotions, Moods swings.
- Depression, anxiety and excessive sensitivity.
It is easy to confuse some of the symptoms with other cosmetic issues of the skin, hair, and nails. However, if you are noticing a combination of any 3-5 symptoms listed above, you should test you Omega 3 fatty acids level. You can easily cure most of the symptoms with a healthy, fatty acid rich diet.
Causes of Deficiency
In general, the causes of Omega 3 fatty acids deficiency are having an unhealthy lifestyle and inadequate eating habits. However, the causes can be much more complex and there can be many other factors for the deficiency of fatty acids. Here are the factors that can contribute to lower the levels of Omega 3 fatty acids:
1. Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Omega 6 fatty acids are very similar to Omega 3, but they are not as necessary as Omega 3’s. They tend to utilize the same enzymes in the body, which are used by Omega 3 acids.
If your diet contains high levels of Omega 6 Fatty acids, t can reduce the levels of Omega 3. Also, omega 6 acids are capable of reducing the synthesis of long chained omega 3 acids.
2. Inflammatory Conditions and Immunity
During some inflammatory health conditions such as psoriasis, cold, and lung disorders – our Immune system utilizes more of long chained omega 3 EPAs. Suffering from such condition for a longer duration can cause a deficiency of Omega 3 fatty acids.
3. Metabolism of Fat Particles
The capability of Metabolising fat particles and synthesizing of long chain Omega 3 acids depends on each individuals lifestyle and genetics. Generally, individuals with a sedentary lifestyle or prevalent conditions like Eczema or ADHD have a slower rate of fat metabolism.
4. Hereditary Conditions (Genetics)
Some genetical conditions can also affect your bodies capability of synthesizing long chained fatty acids. This can lead to the deficiency of Omega 3 fatty acids.
Foods Rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Here are few foods which can help you overcome the deficiency of Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
1. Fish and Marine Foods
Many varieties of fishes, especially oily fishes such as sardine, salmon, anchovies, mackerel, herring etc. contain high amounts of Omega 3. Consuming fish twice a week can help you overcome the deficiency symptoms. Fishes are the main source of DHA and EPA.
2. Plant Seeds
Plant seeds, especially oil-producing seeds such as pumpkin seeds, echium seeds, linseeds also contain short-chain fatty acids. Along with this, the seeds are a rich source of fiber, zinc, vitamins, proteins, magnesium and other nutrients. Including seeds in your diet is always a better option. Echium seeds also contain a special content called Stearidonic acid, which promotes the conversion of EPA to DHA.
3. Chicken Eggs
Eggs of the Chicken fed with Flaxseed contain a good amount of small chain fatty acids. Including such eggs will satisfy your need for omega 3.
4. Omega 3 Supplements
There are now so many supplements, capsules, and powders available to fight omega 3 deficiency. However, fish oil and cod oil capsules will not be sufficient to prevent cardiac conditions caused by Omega 3 deficiency.
Benefits of Omega 3 Fatty Acid
- Omega 3 helps in reducing stress and anxiety. Studies have confirmed that EPA is as effective as Prozac in reducing psychological disorders. Also, patients who take Omega 3 supplements shown the reduced symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety, and nervousness.
- It also helps in maintaining better eye health. As DHA is one of the important components of Brain cells and Retina, it has been reported that Omega 3 can prevent macular diseases.
- Omega 3 can reduce the risks of getting cardiovascular diseases. It has effective properties against the formation of triglycerides and cholesterol, prevents plaque.
- Omega 3 is also helpful in improving the elasticity of blood vessels and helps in reducing high blood pressure.
- Furthermore, Omega 3 helps in reducing symptoms of Autoimmune diseases, ADHD and fights inflammatory conditions.
- Balanced levels of Omega 3 also improves the metabolism and help you in balancing a healthy body weight.
- Omega 3 improves the health of the fetus and is also beneficial for pregnant women. Research has proven that taking Omega 3 supplements during pregnancy improves the growth of the fetus and prevents developmental disorders such as ADHD and Asthma.
- It is also proven that Omega 3 can fight age-related mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Bipolar disorders, and decreases mood instability and violent thoughts.
- Obese and overweight patients have a higher chance of developing the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Omega 3 helps in reducing the amount of fat stored in the liver and prevent chronic liver disease.
- Apart from this, omega 3 helps in improving bone health. It helps in the accumulation of more calcium in the bone and can prevent various skeletal and bone problems such as Osteoporosis.
What are the Foods to avoid if I have Omega 3 deficiency?
As omega 3 fatty acids are long chain form of fatty acids, there are certain foods which can hamper the absorption or synthesis of Omega 3. Here’s are some foods that you should avoid:
- Nicotine and Alcohol
- Red Meat (Especially from the animals fed with Grains)
- Foods filled with Trans and saturated fats
- Avoid consumption of processed foods
- Reduced consumption of refined oils and vegetable oils, as they have higher amounts of Omega 6 than Omega 3.