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What Is Omega-3 Good For?

When it comes to staying healthy, you should look for ways to get the biggest bang for your buck. Exercise falls into this good-for-everything category. So does stress relief.

And so does omega-3.

Found in marine animals as well as certain plants, the omega-3 fatty acids—particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), as well as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—have been found to play a role in numerous bodily processes, making them a crucial nutritional path to optimal wellness.

Good All Over

There are two main reasons why omega-3 fats are so useful.

The first involves cell membranes; those that function poorly keep cells from fully serving their purpose. On the other hand, “when you have healthy cell membranes, the cells are able to communicate more consistently with each other,” says naturopathic doctor Keri Marshall, MS, ND. “Every cell membrane is made of lipids .They are highly dependent on what type of fat we consume on a regular basis.”†

Omegas Out of Balance

A big problem is that the ratio between omega-6 fats, which are often found in processed foods, and omega-3s has become skewed. Glassman explains that our ancient ancestors ate both types in an optimal 1:1 ratio; now it’s more than 10:1.

Besides increased consumption of packaged and fast foods, “much of the meat we eat nowadays is grain-fed,” says Keri Glassman, RD, CDN, author of The New You and Improved Diet (Rodale). “Grass-fed animals have much better omega-6 to omega-3 ratios.”

All of this helps explain why eating more omega-3s from sources such as fatty fish (and through supplementation) is so crucial for health.

Heart of the Matter

The effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the cardiovascular system have been extensively studied.

“There are many well-controlled studies that show fish oils are beneficial for heart disease,” says Marshall. In one study, people with the highest levels of omega-3s in their blood saw their risk of death fall 27%, mostly due to a drop in cardiovascular mortality.†

The American Heart Asso­ciation has noted, “Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.”†

Omega-3 fats help the head as well as the heart. “I like to think of omega-3s as ‘brain boosters,’” says Glass­man. “This means improved memory, reduced stress and better mood.”†

Better Vision and Other Benefits

Another part of the body for which omega-3 seems to have a special affinity is the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that translates images into electric signals and sends them along to the brain.

DHA accounts for between 50% and 60% of the fatty acids in rod outer segments (ROS), key components in the retinal cells responsible for low-light vision. This may help explain why higher omega-3 levels have been linked to a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness.†

Scientists keep finding other ways that omega-3 fats may enhance well-being. Fish oil has reduced allergic reactions in children and reduced pressure sores in critically ill hospital patients. Researchers also believe omega-3s may be helpful in dealing with non-alcoholic liver disease and psoriasis, and that these fats play roles in maintaining bone and kidney health.†

Getting to the gym and learning to chill? That’s great—but don’t forget to add omega-3 to your wellness checklist.

†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.

The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.

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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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