Omega 3 Benefits

What is Omega-3 good for? What are the benefits of taking omega 3?

Benefits Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids can bring a number of recognized health benefits. Some of these benefits have stronger scientific support that others.

In some cases more research is needed to further validate health claims made by manufacturers of omega-3 supplements.

Omega 3: Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

Perhaps the most well known benefit of omega-3 is its effects on reducing primary and secondary cardiovascular disease CVD.

Primary refers to the first instance of cardiovascular disease and associated complications, secondary refers to a recurrence of associated complications.

Evidence suggests that omega-3 is more effective in preventing secondary CVD.

For example, a number of studies have that shown fish and fish oil supplements, rich in omega-3, can reduce risks of secondary CVD events in patients with CVD [6,7].

The beneficial relationship between omega-3 and the prevention of CVD , came to light following the discovery that Greenland Eskimos, who have a diet rich in omega-3 , also have a low incidence of CVD [1].

More evidence is required to support claims that omega-3 can prevent primary CVD. However taking omega-3 from the diet or from supplements is widely seen as a way of preventing CVD.

Given that Eskimos took EPA and DHA omega-3 through their fish based diet, early research has focused on EPA and DHA omega-3 on CVD. However, ALA omega-3 derived through other food sources are thought to give similar benefits.

Omega-3 Qualified Health Claims

In the United States, approximately half a million people die from CHD a year.

It is only in recent times that the health benefits of Omega 3 are being recognized by official health related organizations.

Qualified health claims help consumers select foods and supplements which may benefit their health.

Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Omega-3 Health Claims

Following supportive, but so far inconclusive research, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given qualified health claims for omega-3.

In 2000, the FDA announced a health claim that the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA from dietary health supplements can reduce the risk of CHD (coronary heart disease.)

In 2004, the FDA extended the previous 2002 health claim to include conventional foods which contain EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. It should be noted that throughout its history, the FDA has issued only a very small number of health claims to food items.

American Heart Association Omega-3 Health Claims

The American Heart Association (AHA) used research as a basis for the endorsement of omega-3 in preventing cardiovascular heart disease [2].

Omega-3 & Cancer

There is conflicting evidence on the role of omega-3 in preventing or fighting cancer.

In a review of 38 studies and articles of omega-3 and cancer, Dr MacLean and colleagues found that there was insufficient evidence to support the idea that omega-3 could influence the mechanism by which cancers developed.

They also found there was little evidence that the risk of cancer could be reduced by taking more omega-3 fatty acids [12].

Other claimed benefits of omega-3 which may require more evidence include:

  • helps to keep the joints supple
  • can help to maintain clear unblemished skin
  • helps reduce high blood pressure.
  • can improve cognitive functioning including memory and concentration