How Beneficial Are The Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Nikki Attkisson | Last Updated : December 15, 2021

Not all fatty substances are harmful to us. Polyunsaturated fats or PUFA are actually said to have a good impact on our overall development and growth. They are said to take care of our hearts. They nourish our brain cells and boost memory.

How Beneficial Are The Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids

They can even enhance one’s skin texture as they have a role in building strong membranes. One such talked-about PUFA is omega-3-fatty acid. But are they really that beneficial? Controversies evade their efficiency. 

How Beneficial Are The Essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3-fatty acids are considered to be a group of useful polyunsaturated fats that are essential for our health, and hence, are often called healthy fats.

The common fatty acids that belong to this family are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), and stearidonic acid (SDA). Of all these fatty acids, ALA, EPA, and DHA are the ones that are most commonly heard about. ALA is required for both DHA and EPA production. However, the rates of conversion are very less.

The omega-3-fatty acids are supposed to keep our heart cells ticking for longer by keeping away chronic heart diseases. They are said to help in reducing high triglycerides (TGs) and cholesterol levels in the blood, and systolic pressures improving heart health.

Several studies bear testimony to the good side of fatty acids. Studies suggest that high doses of EPA reduced the triglyceride levels by 25%. A study headed by Prof. Fereidoon Shahidi of Memorial University, Canada, and Prof. Priyatharini Ambigaipalan of Durham College, Canada, reported that omega-3-fatty acids helped in ameliorating non-cardiovascular diseases.

However, controversial studies regarding the role of omega-3-fatty acids in protecting our hearts have also been found. Studies from Prof. Sahidi and Prof. Ambigaipalan have reported that the intake of these fatty acids did not show any promising results in preventing severe heart conditions like deaths due to cardiac arrests, strokes, or heart attacks. Even people with no history of any kind of heart ailment reported such contradictions.

Low cholesterol levels are essential for a good heart. A study showed that 1.2 g of DHA helped to reduce TGs, decrease the levels of bad cholesterol or LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) and increase levels of good cholesterol or HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein).

However, in spite of having this quality, studies with 80,000 volunteers who got omega-3-fatty acid supplements, failed to show any significant result regarding deaths caused by cardiac conditions or any other cause.

Omega-3-fatty acids have been reported to help cancer patients by improving their tolerance to chemotherapeutic agents. Daily supplementation of the fatty acids EPA and DHA to cancer patients has been shown to help them with their weight and maintain muscle loss.

However, there is no scientific evidence to prove their efficiency in preventing them. A study with over a million candidates, who were given 5-15 g of daily omega-3- fatty acid supplements were unable to show any reduction in lung cancer risks. In fact, a few showed increased symptoms of lung cancer.

However, not everything is controversial about these essential fatty acids. These acids are said to lower blood pressure by improving the quality of the blood vessels with the increased supply of nitric oxide. In an artificially induced case of nitric oxide to relax blood vessels, results showed reduced pressures.

Fatty acids are potent anti-inflammatory agents that help in reducing oxidative stress and inflammations. They are also said to do away with depression. Studies show that while EPA showed maximum benefits in dealing with depression, DHA showed the least especially in young people aged 15-25.

 Markets are flooded with PUFA rich oils that promise to protect our hearts and omega-3-fatty acid supplements like fish oil capsules are readily available.

Omega-3-fatty acids have long been related to good heart health and a healthy mind. But many contradictory studies also suggest that they are not that capable of keeping us healthy. With evidence going both for and against, this is still a debatable topic that requires more scientific evidence

Nikki Attkisson

With over 15 years as a practicing journalist, Nikki Attkisson found herself at Powdersville Post now after working at several other publications. She is an award-winning journalist with an entrepreneurial spirit and worked as a journalist covering technology, innovation, environmental issues, politics, health etc. Nikki Attkisson has also worked on product development, content strategy, and editorial management for numerous media companies. She began her career at local news stations and worked as a reporter in national newspapers.

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