Omega 3 acids are classified as essential fatty acids, that is, as the name suggests, the human body can not function properly without them.
Omega-3 fatty acids can have a positive effect, i.a. on the work of the cardiovascular system or the immune system. As important as they are, deficiencies of these compounds are still widespread in society.To counteract them, it is worth following a healthy and balanced diet, as well as considering taking supplements rich in omega-3 acids.
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids belong to the group of polyunsaturated fatty acids, as well as essential fatty acids (EFAs).
The name omega-3 results from the chemical structure of the compound, specifically from the presence of a double bond at the third carbon atom, counting from the methyl end of the chain.
Types of omega-3 fatty acids
In the group of omega-3 acids, we distinguish primarily compounds such as:
- eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),
- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA),
- alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Interestingly, the human body can synthesize EPA and DHA from α-linolenic acid.
Sources of omega-3 fatty acids
Products rich in eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid include:
- fatty sea fish (sprats, tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines),
In turn, α-linolenic acid is found mainly in products such as:
- chia seeds,
- vegetable oils (rapeseed, soybean, linseed),
- green leafy vegetables.
Demand for omega-3 fatty acids
According to the Nutrition Standards developed by the Institute of Food and Nutrition, sufficient intake (AI) of DHA and EPA among adults is 250 mg / day.
Among pregnant and breastfeeding women, 250 mg of EPA and an additional 100-200 mg of DHA are recommended every day.
In turn, the intake of ALA in all these groups should be 0.5% of energy from the diet.
Among children from the age of two, the supply of DHA and EPA at the level of 250 mg / day is also recommended.
It is extremely important to take omega-3 and omega-6 acids in the right proportions. The correct ratio of these compounds should be from 1:2 to 1:5.
Properties of omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for the proper functioning of the body.
These substances can have a positive effect on the work of the heart and circulatory system, showing cardioprotective effects. In addition, DHA, EPA and ALA have hypotensive properties, so they can reduce the tension of the walls of blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
As if that were not enough, omega-3 fatty acids may have anticoagulant effects, thus they can inhibit the processes of creating thrombotic factors in the human body. In addition, these substances can support brain function, improve memory and concentration.
Omega acids are a component of the retina, which is why these compounds can positively affect the organ of vision.
In addition, omega-3 acids can also strengthen the body's immunity, as well as positively affect bones and joints. These essential fatty acids may also reduce the risk of arthritis and alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid diseases.
Omega-3 fatty acids in the athlete's diet
Physical activity can contribute to oxidative cell damage. Regular exercise increases the level of defense mechanisms in the body, but sometimes the production of reactive oxygen species may exceed the antioxidant capacity of muscles. Then damage to lipids, proteins or DNA may occur. However, omega-3 fatty acids can affect the immune system and the inflammatory response, and thus prevent inflammation and muscle pain.
In addition, omega-3 acids can positively affect muscle anabolism, contribute to an increase in muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle soreness. Supplementation with the compound may also contribute to increasing VO2max and improving endothelial function.
Deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids
The main cause of omega-3 deficiencies in the body is an improper, poorly composed diet.
Instead of reaching for healthy fats found in fish, nuts and seeds, people often choose highly processed products rich in saturated trans fatty acids, which can negatively affect health.
The main symptoms of omega-3 deficiency include:
- reduced immunity,
- problems with memory and concentration,
- muscle cramps,
- mood disorders,
- dry skin,
- weak nails,
- feeling of tension in the muscles of the neck, arms and shoulders.
Excess omega-3 fatty acids
Excessive supply of omega-3 acids is an extremely rare phenomenon associated primarily with the erroneous intake of dietary supplements.
It can contribute to symptoms such as:
- temporary weakness.
Dietary supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids
An improperly balanced and not very varied diet may promote the occurrence of omega-3 deficiencies.
In the Polish population, low consumption of fish is observed, which promotes the occurrence of deficiencies of EPA and DHA. Therefore, it is recommended to use supplementation and reach for preparations rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Supplementation with essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 fatty acids, should be considered especially among people who are exposed to cardiovascular ailments, e.g. among the elderly.
Also, people who struggle with autoimmune diseases may have a greater demand for these ingredients, which is why it is also worth considering the use of dietary supplements.