The role of omega fatty acids in physical and mental health has been extensively studied. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids belong to the family of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential components of brain, nervous system, hormones, adrenal gland function and play an important role in reproductive system. They are also necessary in order to preserve the integrity of cell membranes and contribute to cholesterol metrabolism. Some omega fatty acids are called "essential" because body can not be synthesize them and thus need to be taken from food or supplements. Polyunsaturated fatty acids can be found in nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts), flaxseed oil, evening primrose , safflower oil, borage oil, hempseed oil, hops and oily fish.
Essential fatty acids are alpha linolenic acid (ALA) from the group of omega-3 and linolenic acid (LA) from the group of omega-6. EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoid Acid) are two very important omega-3 fatty acids which are structural components of our cells and very important for general well being. Action of omega 3 fatty acids are:
1) Protection of coronary disease
- Reduction of total cholesterol and LDL.
- Reduction of triglyceride values.
- Inhibition of platelet factor, responsible for cardiovascular disease
2) Protection against cancer
Animal studies have shown that omega-3 supplementation may play an important role in the inhibition of growth of tumors.
3) Anti-inflammatory activity
The omega-3 fatty acids inhibit inflammatory reactions. They have been used successfully in the treatment of symptoms of
- Dermatitis (eczema, atopic)
- Colitis and Crohn's disease
- Erythimatodous lupus and other inflammatory diseases.
Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy prevents blood clots in the placenta and helps the development of the fetal brain.
5) Mental health
Supplementation may reduce the symptoms of attention deficit in children and improve brain function in the elderly.