Sunday, November 18, 2007

Omega-3 Fatty Acids - Do you need them?

You may have heard that omega-3's are important in treating heart disease, but the list of other ailments that benefit from a diet rich in omega-3's is staggering.

In populations where omega-3's are naturally high in the diet (the Mediterrenean and the Inuit Eskimos) the HDL (good) cholesterol levels are high and LDL levels are much lower. Triglycerides are also lower. Sources of omega-3's in these populations include olives, olive oil, fatty fish, and walnuts.

High blood pressure responds well to omega-3's in clinical studies.

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can help lower tryglycerides and apoproteins(markers of diabetis) so diabetics may benefit from taking fish oil supplements.

Clinical studies suggest that overweight people who follow a weight loss program that includes exercise tend to have better control of blood sugar and cholesterol when their diet includes omega-3's.

Several studies have found that omega-3's reduce tenderness in joints, decrease morning stiffness, and allow for a reduction in the amount of medication needed for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Further studies show marked improvement for other inflammatory diseases such as osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) and painful menstruation. In addition, the inflammatory symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (IBD) are reduced when omega-3's are added to the diet.

In a study of women over 65 with osteoporosis, those given omega-3 supplements showed less bone loss over a 3 year period than the control group. Many also experienced an increase in bone density.

Omega-3's also help nerve cells communicate with each other which is essential for maintaining good mental health. Low levels of omega-3's can lead to feelings of depression and hostility.
Low fatty acid levels are also found in people with eating disorders.

Fatty acids are critical in the healing process for burn victims to reduce inflammation and promote wound healing. Skin disorders that are helped by taking omegas include psoriasis and acne - especially when flax seed is the source. Omega-3's also help protect the skin from UV damage.

Asthma sufferers also noted a marked improvement when they added omega 3's to their diet. The anti-inflammatory properties work here as well.

Hot flashes and increased sweating were reduced in women with the highest levels of omega 3's in a study of 200 Danish women.

Consuming significant amounts of foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids appears to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Low levels of omega 3 in the body is a marker for an increased risk of colon cancer.

The risk of dying from breast cancer may be significantly less for those who eat large quantities of omega-3 from fish and brown kelp seaweed (common in Japan). More research is being done on this valuable finding.

Clinical studies suggest that a low fat diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent prostate cancer. Again more studies need to be done.

Preliminary research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may help protect against autism, ulcers, migraine headaches, preterm labor, emphysema, psoriasis, glaucoma, Lyme disease, systemic lupus, irregular hear beats, multiple sclerosis and panic attacks. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce stress and the effects it has on the body. Exciting research is being done in this area.

So - you know you need it - right? Don't wait. Life is no fun if you don't have your health.

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