The Basic Facts About Omega 3
Unless you live in an isolated bubble or a cave in the Himalayas, you have likely seen the innumerable headline-grabbing studies on omega-3 fats, with their far-reaching benefits from preventing cancer and heart attacks to treating depression and arthritis.
How can one type of fat affect so many different parts of your body (such as your brain and heart) and ultimately influence your health and well-being? There are two key reasons. Firstly, omega-3 fats are really like vitamins (originally called vitamin F when discovered). Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans are deficient in vitamin F or omega-3 fats.
Second, although few people know it, we have a striking fat imbalance in our diet. Even if you consider yourself health-conscious, you are not likely free of this problem! The problem of this dietary fat imbalance affects you whether you eat heart-healthy, are a strict vegetarian, are a hardcore chicken and protein gulper, or something in between. We eat too much of the so-called heart-healthy fats, which, ironically, interfere with the benefits of omega-3 fats in our bodies.
In short, we have two key problems. We don’t eat enough (and the right kinds) of omega-3 fats. And we eat too much of the so-called healthy fats that hamper omega-3 fat’s benefits.
Omega-3 Fat Is Actually a Vitamin
In the 1920s, one of the several omega-3 fats was discovered. The researchers determined that it is essential for health and met the scientific criteria to be called a vitamin. Appropriately, this fat was named “vitamin F.” Yet you probably haven’t heard of vitamin F. Why not? You can rule out omega-3’s fatty nature as the reason it lacks “vitamin status,” because there are other fat-based vitamins: vitamins A, D, E, and K. At the time of the vitamin F discovery, vitamin E also had just been discovered. Because of the scientific excitement over the newly discovered vitamin E, vitamin F was ignored and disappeared into oblivion (until the last decade). Although research on omega-3 fats has exploded, the name vitamin F never resurfaced. It’s too bad that the vitamin F nomenclature did not stick. That term alone would emphasize how essential these fats are to our body. As with vitamins, our body cannnot make these fats (or enough of them), so they are required in our diet.
After the discovery of omega-3 fats, 50 years passed until the first human case of omega-3 fat deficiency was identifi ed. A child too sick to eat was fed intravenously with a mixture that contained no omega-3 fats. Instead of getting better, the child got unexpectedly worse and displayed symptoms of numbness, tingling, weakness, inability to walk, leg pain, psychological disturbances, and blurred vision. Ralph T. Holman, an expert in omega-3 fats, identified the cause of the child’s problem as a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids. His discovery put omega-3 fats on the map, beyond an esoteric research interest.
The incredible research into omega-3 fats within the context of their role as an essential vitamin helps to explain omega-3’s sweeping effects on health and disease. A new picture emerges of a nutrient deficiency that wreaks havoc in many different parts of the body, from the inner workings of the brain to the battlegrounds of immunity and inflammation.
Different Omega-3 Fats Affect Your Body in Different Ways
Just as there is more than one type of B vitamin (vitamins B₁, B₂, B₁₂, and so forth), there is more than one type of omega-3 fatty acid. Each of these omega-3 fatty acids affects your body in different ways. The types of omega-3 fatty acids found in plant foods are very different from those found in fish. So if you are tanking up on plant sources of omega-3 fat, such as flax meal or flaxseed oil, you still could be deficient in the other omega-3 fats that are found primarily in fish. For example, many of the foods that boast of their omega-3 fat content are fortified with the plant form of omega-3 fat, not the types found in fish. This is not necessarily bad, but some consumers might be under the wrong impression that they are getting enough omega-3 fats when they are actually still deficient in certain types.
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About The Author
Dr. Leroy Rebello is a well established and internationally qualified anti-aging consultant and cosmetologist from Mumbai and a director in Eternesse – the best anti aging clinic in Mumbai. He lectures in reputed Institutions such as AIIMS, JIPMER and other Medical Colleges around India. With over 10 Research Papers published in Indexed Journals, Dr. Rebello is continuously researching and developing new treatments and cures.