Fat is back. The once-vilified macronutrient has earned back its place in a healthy diet, and omega-3 fatty acids have a lot to do with that.
Not only are omega-3s necessary for a healthy, balanced diet, they support the body's optimal functioning. Numerous studies show that omega-3s impact everything from brain function, heart health, and fetal health, to weight management, muscle and joint function, immune health, and sleep. Evidence even suggests that consuming omega-3-rich foods can extend a person’s lifespan by about five years. And yet, more than 80% of people aren’t getting enough.
Here’s what you need to know about this essential fat, and why you should up your intake, stat.
What Are Omega-3s?
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that play a massive role in helping build and maintain a healthy body and brain, says Lifeforce's Medical Director, Dr. Vinita Tandon. They are an essential fat, meaning we can’t make them on our own, so we need to get them from our diet or supplements. And they’re essential for good reason: omega-3s energize the body, while also reducing the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's, dementia, depression, cancer, inflammatory conditions, and sudden death.
The three types of omega-3s are:
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
You can get the longer-chain EPA and DHA from seafood and fatty fish like salmon, oysters, crab, and tuna. ALA is the shorter chain omega-3 found in plant sources, such as edamame, chia seeds, flaxseed, perilla, ahiflower, walnuts, leafy greens, and avocados.
The body can convert ALA into DHA and EPA, but usually in small amounts and at slow rates (unless you have some help from new ingredient technology, like SmartPrime-Om® — more on that later). Having foods rich in DHA and EPA is the best way to meet your omega-3 needs, says Dr. Tandon. Trouble is, not all of us are fans of fish, microalgae or have access to enough omega-3s in our diets. That's where a supplement like Lifeforce Omega can help.
More Omegas, Please
So how much omega-3 do you need? Dr. Tandon recommends having a variety of cold-water fish at least twice a week, and/or taking a daily supplement like Lifeforce Omega. “Most research suggests taking at least 1 to 2 grams of EPA and DHA daily if you don’t have cardiovascular disease. If someone has high triglycerides (a fat in the body) or a high triglyceride to HDL ratio (which increases the risk of heart diseases), then a higher dose may be recommended,” she says.
Reaching for the right supplement is also key. According to Dr. Hector Lopez, Lifeforce’s Scientific and Innovation Advisor and world-renowned expert in dietary supplement formulation and safety, Lifeforce Omega supports three times better absorption of omega-3s, while also promoting optimal blood sugar and cholesterol levels, healthy inflammation response from everyday activities, and mitochondrial health.
7 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Omega-3s
Still not convinced omega-3s should be a fixture in your daily diet? Here are 7 research-backed reasons it’s time to increase your omega-3 intake.
1. Promotes Immune Health
A strong and healthy immune system will help keep you from calling out sick. It’ll also help you recover when you do. Omega-3s are one of the key nutrients that promote the healthy functioning of your immune system. One 2020 study describes omega-3s as “a safe, effective, and low-cost strategy to help support optimal immune function.”
2. Supports Mental Health
More good news: Omega-3s have a powerful impact on mental health, including promoting a healthy mood, mental outlook, and calm mind.
A 2013 study found that depressive and anxiety symptoms are associated with low omega-3 levels. Another study on the effects of omega-3 supplementation on inflammation and perceived stress in healthy young adults showed that omega-3 supplements may promote healthy response to stress levels and inflammation. And a 2018 review also suggests that high doses of omega-3 may support a healthy mood, and relieve stress that is so pervasive in modern society.
A review published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry found that fish oil supplementation is a potential dietary intervention for promoting healthy brain function, attention, focus, and working memory in children. Similarly, another review observed that in numerous studies increasing omega-3 intake may support improved brain function, healthy mood, and cognition in young adults.
3. Keeps Your Brain Sharp
Concerned about healthy brain development and slowing age-associated cognitive decline? Another reason to stock up on omega-3s. According to some studies, consuming omega-3-rich foods may reduce a person’s likelihood of developing age-related brain atrophy (loss of volume/size) of critical areas responsible for memory, balance, coordination, and planning.
A review observed that increasing omega-3 intake may protect a person against risk factors for cognitive decline. Similarly, a 2019 review observed that omega-3s may prevent mild cognitive impairment and age-related cognitive decline.
4. Promotes Healthy Bones
Regularly consuming omega-3s may also benefit your bones and joints. A 2020 study found that omega-3 supplements can help maintain healthy and strong bones and promote improved bone density and structure, including older women.
Additionally, a 2007 study found that omega-3s may reduce joint aches and discomfort associated with exercise, aging, and everyday living, while improving mobility and range of motion. The study noted that omega-3s may enhance joint structure and function due to the role of EPA, DHA, and GLA in cell signaling, communication, and connective tissue integrity.
5. Protects Heart Health
According to Dr. Tandon, “One of the most important benefits of omega-3s is reducing the risk of heart diseases, which lowers the overall risk of mortality and sudden death.”
Research shows that omega-3s are “heart-healthy” unsaturated fats that may promote good heart health and reduce the risk of death from heart disease and heart attack. The researchers found that omega-3s may protect the heart in the following ways:
Maintains already-healthy triglyceride levels
Supports normal HDL levels (good cholesterol)
Promotes healthy blood flow and blood pressure already in the normal range
Supports healthy heart rhythm and normal cardiovascular function
Increases arterial compliance, a marker of heart health
Reduces inflammatory markers associated with exercise, everyday activities, and aging
6. Supports Fetal Development
The benefits of omega-3s get passed down to baby, too. Omega-3s are essential nutrients that promote a baby’s healthy development in the womb and during its first few years.
Evidence suggests that DHA constitutes 97% of omega-3s in the brain and 93% of omega-3s in the retina. The review further highlighted that DHA has significant benefits in brain and retina development from the third trimester to 18 months after birth.
An older study shows that omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy may support cognitive development and improve hand and eye coordination in children. And, another study found that omega-3 supplementation during pregnancy may promote healthy brain development, especially with memory and cognition in the child.
Experts recommend that pregnant women increase their omega-3 intake to 650 mg a day. The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends that pregnant women eat 8 to 12 ounces of fish and other seafood a week to support their baby’s health. Just be sure to stick to fish higher in EPA and DHA and lower in mercury like salmon, shrimp, catfish, sardines, and trout.
7. Promotes Better Sleep
About one-third of US adults don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep each night. Add to that the 50 to 70 million people suffering from sleep disorders, and you get a perfect storm of sleep deficiency, decreased productivity, focus, alertness, and more. Poor sleep is also associated with long-term health consequences like heart diseases, depression, obesity, and diabetes.
Although the benefits of omega-3s for promoting healthy sleep are still being established, studies suggest a link between omega-3 levels and healthy sleep duration. That’s why many experts recommend increasing omega-3 intake to help you optimize your zzz’s. And if you need a little more support when it comes to falling and staying asleep, check out Peak Rest™ here.
Ready to boost your omega-3s? Learn more about Lifeforce Omega here.
The article was medically reviewed by:
Vinita Tandon, MD, ABIM Board Certified in Endocrinology and Metabolism
Hector Lopez, MD, CSCS, FISSN, Lifeforce’s Scientific and Innovation Advisor
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Do not exceed the recommended dose. Consult a physician if pregnant/nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition. Keep out of reach of children.