10 awesome facts about omega 3 fatty acids

omega-3-fatty-acidsOmega 3 fatty acids are a type of fat that are excellent for your body. They’re found in fish, plants and nuts.

Global sales of omega-3 products are expected to hit the $3.4 billion range by next year (1). It stands to reason, given their widely-known reputation as a heart-healthy nutrient. But did you know there are 9 other reasons to love Omega-3 fatty acids?

Here are 10 awesome facts about how and why omega-3s are great for you.  We’ll start with a quick refresher on their heart benefits.

#1. They’re good for your heart. 

A huge, sweeping review study on the effect of Omega-3s provides evidence that the omega-3s in fish oil supplements and fish will greatly improve your cardiovascular health (2). That means fewer deaths from heart disease, the number one cause of death in the US (3).

#2. They are your secret weapon for building muscle.

If you want to tone up your muscles, Omega-3s will boost your weight training efforts considerably. How?  They reduce muscle protein breakdown for starters (4). Secondly, they reduce inflammation which leads to a better recovery after your workout.

#4. They help prevent loss of muscle mass.

While this may not top your list of chief concerns, it’s a pretty big public health issue when it comes to the elderly. Losing muscle means a slow decline into inactivity, more slip-and-fall accidents, and a decrease of overall health.

Omega-3s can actually increase the rate of muscle protein synthesis in elderly people, who lose the ability to generate muscle with each passing year (5).

For the rest of us, it’s relevant because it indicates that omega-3s might aid us all in boosting muscle mass. Indeed, a study (6) was done in 2007 revealing evidence that this might be true.

The study was conducted to find an alternative to stimulating beef cattle with hormones in order to make them grow muscle. However, the scientists also drew relevant conclusions for humans. They suggest the the omega-3s will also help athletes who are trying to increase their muscle mass.

#5. They can help treat depression.

For some people, taking Omega-3s might ease the symptoms of depression (7). The Mayo Clinic warns that they mainly help people who have mild or moderate depression, not severe cases. It also seems to work better for people who do not have a genetic predisposition for mood disorders (8).

Besides, nobody is suggesting that Omega-3s become the primary tool for fighting depression. More studies are needed before that becomes a reality.

#6. They might help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.

The research is still young in this area, but there have been studies which were promising: omega-3s might have a positive effect on the prevention of Alzheimer’s (9). There has not yet been found a link between Omega-3s and people who already have Alzheimer’s, but for those who haven’t, cognitive decline seems to be slowed down by Omega-3s.

People who ate foods rich in Omega-3s had low blood levels of a certain protein that’s associated with Alzheimer’s disease (10). Having high levels of the protein may predict the disease at the point before memory loss starts to occur, so it’s a pretty good indicator.

#7. They protect against skin cancer.

UV rays work to suppress the immune system of the skin, making you more susceptible to skin cancer, among other things. Omega-3s can counteract this suppression, leading to less likelihood of developing skin cancer. This effect has been proven in lab mice, but for the first time it was also shown to be the case on humans as well, in a 2013 study performed in England (11).

#8. They act as both prevention and treatment of symptoms for Rheumatoid arthritis.

For patients with Rheumatoid arthritis, the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s are a godsend. They seem to boost the powers of their anti-inflammatory drugs, thereby helping with joint stiffness and pain. Doctors hope to someday replace certain drugs with Omega-3s (12).

They’ve also been tied to actual prevention of the disease as well. A study took a look at Swedish women whose diets were rich in Omega-3s and found that long-term consumption of fatty fish was tied to lower rates of the condition (13).

#9. They are crucial to infant development.

Especially during early development of infants, Omeag-3s are crucial to infant health (14). It seems that visual health and neurological development are affected.

#10. They might lower the risk of developing prostate cancer.

In a total yin-yang relationship, Omega-3s have been found to inhibit the growth of prostate tumor growth, while Omega-6s have been shown to stimulate the same!  Thousands of prostate cases were examined (15) and the EPA and DHAs found in Omega-3s were found to possibly reduce the risk of total and advanced prostate cancer.


  1. Delivery Methods: the Next Generation of Omega-3s Takes Shape. Supply Side Omega-3 Insights. March 2014 vol.3 issue 1. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://www.ayanda.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Delivery-Methods-The-Next-Generation-of-Omega-3s-Takes-Shape.pdf
  2. Wang, Chenchen et al. n−3 Fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not α-linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease outcomes in primary- and secondary-prevention studies: a systematic review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/1/5.short
  3. Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  4. Kamolrat T, Gray SR. The effect of eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acid on protein synthesis and breakdown in murine C2C12 myotubes. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23438435
  5. Smith GI, et al. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. U.S.National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21159787
  6. Marine Omega-3 Fatty Acids Have Positive Effect On Muscle Mass, Study Shows. Science Daily. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070509161106.htm
  7. Hall-Falvin, Daniel K.M.D. Is there any benefit to taking fish oil supplements for depression?  Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 9/24/2015 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/fish-oil-supplements/FAQ-20058143
  8. Harrar, Sari. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Mood Disorders. Today’s Dietitian. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/011012p22.shtml
  9. Warner, Jennifer. Omega-3 Fatty Acid Slows Alzheimer’s. WebMd. Retrieved 9/14 2015 from http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20070418/omeg-3-fatty-acid-slows-alzheimers
  10. Boyles, Salynn. Fish, Flaxseed May Lower Alzheimer’s Risk. WebMD. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20120502/fish-flaxseed-may-lower-alzheimers-risk
  11. Draxler, Breanna. Omega-3 Shows Protective Effect Against Skin Cancer. Discover Magazine. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2013/02/27/omega-3-shows-protective-effect-against-skin-cancer/#.Vfcw4RFViko
  12. Ariza-Ariza R.et al. Omega-3 fatty acids in rheumatoid arthritis: an overview. U.S.National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9662755
  13. Hacketha, Veronica. Omega-3s tied to lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Reuters. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9662755
  14. Omega-3 Supplements: An Introduction. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/omega3/introduction.htm
  15. Letizmann, MF et al. Dietary intake of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids and the risk of prostate cancer. US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 9/14/2015 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15213050?dopt=Citation
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