Omega-3, omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids are all important dietary fats. Interestingly, each one has a number of health benefits for your body. However, it’s important to get the right balance of omega-3, -6 and -9 fatty acids in your diet. An imbalance may contribute to a number of chronic diseases.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, a type of fat your body can’t make. The term “polyunsaturated” refers to their chemical structure, as “poly” means many and “unsaturated” refers to double bonds. Together they mean that omega-3 fatty acids have many double bonds. “Omega-3” refers to the position of the final double bond in the chemical structure, which is three carbon atoms from the “omega” or tail end of the molecular chain. Since the human body can’t produce omega-3s, these fats are referred to as “essential fats,” meaning that you have to get them from your diet.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends eating at least two portions of oily fish per week, which is rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA.
Omega-3 fats are a crucial part of human cell membranes. They also have a number of other important functions, including:
- Improving heart health: Omega-3 fatty acids can increase “good” HDL cholesterol. They can also reduce triglycerides, blood pressure and the formation of arterial plaques.
- Supporting mental health: Taking omega-3s can reduce symptoms of depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. It can also reduce the risk of psychotic disorders for those who are at risk.
- Reducing weight and waist size: Omega-3 fats play an important role in weight management and can help reduce waist circumference.
- Decreasing liver fat: Consuming omega-3s in your diet can help decrease the amount of fat in your liver.
- Supporting infant brain development: Omega-3s are extremely important for brain development in babies.
- Fighting inflammation: Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory, meaning they can reduce the inflammation in your body that can contribute to a number of chronic diseases.
- Preventing dementia: People who eat more fish, which is high in omega-3 fats, tend to have a slower decline in brain function in old age. Omega-3s may also help improve memory in older people.
- Promoting bone health: People with higher omega-3 intake and blood levels tend to have better bone mineral density.
- Preventing asthma: Omega-3 intake can help reduce symptoms of asthma, especially in early life.
Omega-3 fats are essential fats that you must get from your diet. They have important benefits for your heart, brain and metabolism.