Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids, this means we have to consume them from the diet as our bodies are unable to produce them. The two main forms of omega-3 are EPA and DHA. The best source of these fats is fish and in particular oily fish such as; mackerel, salmon, sardines, kippers and trout.  Omega-3’s play an important role in heart health and brain development/function.

In recent year’s the health benefits of omega-3 fats, particularly EPA and DHA have been widely publicised and the subject of many scientific studies. It has been found that a low intake of omega-3 is linked to an increased incidence of certain diseases whilst a high intake is associated with improved health.  Here are just some of some of the potential health benefits of omega-3’s which have been discovered...

Prevents Inflammation

Whilst inflammation is important in order to fight an infection or help tissues recover from an injury, sometimes inflammation can occur without unnecessarily despite the absence of an infection/injury. When this type of inflammation continues for a prolonged period of time it is referred to as chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been found to be a risk factor for most diseases including heart disease and cancers [1].

Omega-3’s are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that omega-3’s reduce the release of those substances which are associated with inflammation [2]. Consequently omega-3’s have been proposed to protect against western diseases by preventing chronic inflammation.

Reduces the risk factors of Heart Disease

The link between omega-3 and heart disease was first suggested after a low incidence of heart disease was observed in Greenland Eskimo’s who ate lots of fish. Since then it has also been found that in Mediterranean countries and Japan the risk of heart disease is lower than in the UK and USA. The large amount of fish these countries consume has been proposed as one of the reasons for this.

Many studies have investigated this link and have shown that omega-3’s can improve the risk factors of heart disease:

- Lowers Blood Triglycerides: Studies have shown that omega-3’s can help reduce triglyceride (fat) levels in the blood. It is thought that omega-3 can reduce blood triglyceride levels by as much as 15-20%, with the size of the reduction is dependant upon the baseline level. [3]

- Lowers Blood Pressure: Omega -3s are thought to potentially reduce blood pressure by triggering the relaxation of the blood vessel walls or preventing inflammation. [4]

How much Omega-3 do I need to consume?

It is recommended that adults should consume about 450mg of EPA and DHA per day. This can be achieved by eating just a couple of portions of fish per week (preferably oily fish). However lot of people don’t eat enough fish because it is either too expensive or they don’t like the taste.  In this case taking a supplement is a great way of ensuring you are consuming these all important fatty acids.