November 2022 Importance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
By Brenna Johnson
What if you heard there was a nutrient that has been linked to brain health, heart health, diabetes prevention, reducing the risk of hypertension, and many other beneficial health outcomes? Well, there is, and it’s called an omega-3 fatty acid (omega-3s). These fats are gaining more attention due to their beneficial effects on inflammation and research is showing that they are important for overall disease prevention. Let’s learn more about their heart health benefits!
What are omega-3s?
Omega-3s are a specific type of fat that can be found in almost every cell in the body. They can be used as energy for our cells, reduce the risk of blood clotting, and reduce inflammation, among many other things. Fat is an important component of human nutrition, as it is a macronutrient we all need. Unlike other types of fat, omega-3 consumption in the human diet is critical as the body cannot produce this fat on its own. Making sure we eat a wide variety of different kinds of fats, including omega-3s, can reduce the risk of a deficiency. Omega-3s can be found in both plant and animal sources and can also be supplemented. Typically, fish, seafood, nuts, and plant oils provide the highest dietary amounts. Research on omega-3s has shown they have benefits in various areas of health, from brain health to heart health, along with many preventative disease measures.
What are the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3s?
Research regarding omega-3’s has shown groundbreaking results in cardiovascular health. With cardiovascular disease being the leading cause of death in the United States, managing preventable risk factors through nutrition is important. Recent research indicates consuming adequate amounts of omega-3s plays a role in lowering cardiovascular disease risk. The science behind the benefits of omega-3 consumption shows that the body produces higher amounts of a protein called high-density lipoprotein (HDL). What this protein does is it essentially “carries” cholesterol from the bloodstream to the liver to be removed from the body. This is how omega-3s can help lower blood cholesterol, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids
There are many ways to increase omega-3 consumption. Listed below are some common food sources high in omega-3 fatty acids and the amount in grams per serving. The recommended amount of omega-3s for adults per day is 1.1 grams for females and 1.6 grams for males.
|Source of Omega-3
|Omega-3 amount (g)
|~ 1 tablespoon
What’s the bottom line?
Omega-3 fatty acids have many health benefits and can be found in a wide variety of sources. They have been shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and help lower blood cholesterol. Many recipes can allow for increased dietary intake, such as swapping olive oil for flaxseed oil when cooking or adding salmon and walnuts to a salad. Overall, studies have shown omega-3s to promote cardiovascular health and studies are continuing to show data that supports omega-3 benefits throughout other organ systems as well.
About the Author:
Johnson is a senior majoring in Nutritional Sciences. She is particularly interested in clinical nutrition with an emphasis on cardiovascular health. A fun fact about Johnson is that she loves to go skiing and wants to get better at telemarking to be able to backcountry ski.
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