The Truth About Omega 3
Since Dr Basant Puri, a consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer at London's Imperial College MRI unit, released his findings on Omega 3 and its effect on brain function and depression, many studies have been performed regarding the beneficial effects of this fatty acid. Studies over the past two years have consistently confirmed that Omega 3, a substance lacking in today?s ?diet? is a key component in the brain?s development and proper functioning.
The notion that Omega 3 was linked to depression and other mental illnesses came about based on studies conducted at Harvard University in 1999 on people with bipolar and a 1996 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association studying the prevalence of depression across ten countries. The Harvard study found that fish oil was an effective treatment for bipolar. The study conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association was expanded upon in 1998 when it was discovered that depression was lower in countries that consumed higher levels of fish.
Omega 3 As Part Of A Healthy Diet
Omega 3 is a substance found most commonly in fatty fish such as fresh salmon, tuna, mackerel, pilchards and sardines. Over the last 100 years the western diet has shifted radically to include far less fish and thus the Omega 3 fatty acid. During the same time depression is estimated to have increased up to 100 fold.
To maintain ideal health, the average person should consume five grams daily of essential fatty acids (divided between Omega 3 and Omega 6). As this is not likely to change at any point in the near future some recommendations have been laid out for those who choose to take Omega 3 supplements. These recommendations will be listed further below in the section titled, ?Omega 3 Supplements?.
Omega 3 And The Brain
While the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids can be noticed on many levels, the biggest breakthroughs documented have occurred in improved mental functions and health. Omega 3 has been reported to be effective in the treatment of depression. Numerous studies have indicated that during double-blind tests, patients suffering from depression who take Omega 3 over a placebo report significant benefits.
Similar results have been reported in the treatment of bipolar and schizophrenia. There are theories that Omega 3 could be used to treat other mental conditions such as attention deficit disorder, borderline personality disorder, dyslexia and cognitive impairment however at the time of this writing these beliefs are unsubstantiated by anything more than preliminary data.
Omega 3 And The Body
The main reported benefits of Omega 3 for the body occur in the heart. The American Heart Association recommends eating fatty fish at least twice per week in order to reduce the likelihood of heart disease.
While research is still ongoing into the effects of these fatty acids on the heart, research to date has shown that they:
? decrease risk of arrhythmias, which can lead to sudden cardiac death
? decrease triglyceride levels
? decrease growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque
? lower blood pressure (slightly)
Additionally, Omega 3 has been reported effective as an anti-inflammatory. And according to an article by Judith Horstman for Arthritis Today, ?There?s strong evidence that fish oil supplements with omega-3 fatty acids can ease rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms, help prevent Raynaud?s syndrome spasms and possibly relieve some lupus symptoms.
There is some limited evidence that the reduction in Omega 3 in the average western diet can be a contributing factor to the rise in:
? chronic fatigue syndrome
? cystic fibrosis
? prostate cancer
Omega 3 Supplements
Any good doctor or nutritionist will tell you that the best way to get any nutrient is to go right to the source and eat it through the foods they originate. In the case of Omega 3 this would most likely be in the form of fatty fish, flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil and soybean oil. That said, this is not always possible given the average westerner?s diet and lifestyle. Additionally, for those suffering from sever depression or using Omega 3 to combat an existing condition, the amount contained in the foods we eat may not provide enough of this fatty acid. If this is the case then it is important to know what you are looking for.
The supplement should be high in EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). EPA, along with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are the two active ingredients in Omega 3. EPA is considered to be the therapeutic element. It is thus important to purchase a supplement higher in EPA than DHA.
Due to the recent developments and study of Omega 3 and all of its potential health benefits, the majority of studies and information on it are preliminary and based on smaller test groups. Additional research is underway and should provide additional insight into how it works and exactly what its role is in the brain?s functioning and development.
Currently additional studies are ongoing into the roll of Omega 3 in brain and nerve regeneration, depression, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, neck and back pain, stress and an assortment of other mental and physical conditions.
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