Home » Healthy Nutrition » Nutritious Food

Omega Fatty Acids

  • are essential to proper body function
  • Absorption of nutrients, this and like nutrients, is one of the most important metabolic processes
  • are crucial to proper metabolic function and operation


Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of unsaturated fatty acids that are nutritionally very important. The essential omega-3 fatty acids are: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid and alpha linoleic acid (ALA). Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids cannot be produced by the body. They are essential nutrients and therefore must be obtained from food. Nearly all polyunsaturated fat consumed in the human diet is from essential fatty acids. Omega-3 and omega-6 can be found in shellfish, fish, flax seed oil, hemp oil, rapeseed oil (canola), soya oil, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and leafy vegetables.

Omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fatty acids (EFAs). They are called EFAs because they are essential to human metabolism. They play a critical role in numerous metabolic processes, and research has shown that a deficiency in essential fatty acids, or where the balance of EFA types is not right, that may be a contributing factor in the development of a number of illnesses, one of which may be osteoporosis.

The American Heart Association states that omega 3 EFAs can benefit the heart of healthy people and people who are at risk of cardiovascular disease. It recommends eating fish rich in essential fatty acids at least twice a week such as lake trout, herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon or albacore tuna.

Alpha linoleic acid may become omega-3 fatty acid within the body. The extent of the conversion maybe minimal, however, and further scientific research is required to fully assess the benefits. Good sources of alpha linoleic acid include soya beans, tofu, walnut, canola and flaxseed, and their oils.

Scientific studies have also shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of arrhythmias. This is abnormal electrical activity in the heart which might cause the heart to beat either too fast or too slow, and it may also cause an irregular heartbeat. Cardiac arrhythmia can lead to death.

Omega-3 fatty acids can also decrease triglycerides which are a type of fat found in the blood. An excess of triglycerides in the blood (known as hypertriglyceridemia) is linked to the development of coronary artery disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the rate of growth of atherosclerotic plaque. Atherosclerotic plaque involves thickening and hardening of arterial walls caused by fat deposits on the inner lining of the artery. Atherosclerotic heart disease is known to be the leading cause of death in the United States.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also known to have a beneficial effect in slightly lowering blood pressure. They reduce inflammation and can provide protection against arthritis, cardiovascular disease, depression and skin conditions.

Omega-6 can assist with pre menstrual syndrome symptoms such as pain and bloating. It is also helpful in maintaining healthy nails, skin and hair and nails. It is beneficial in that it promotes emotional and hormonal balance.

The balance between omega-3 and omega-6 is critical to good health as they interact with one another. Combined, they affect the production eicosanoids which are hormonal type messengers. This has an important impact on all bodily functions at a cellular level as well as inflammation in the body.

Omega-9 may help prevent cardiovascular disease, stroke and arteriosclerosis.

Omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, and as such are healthier than saturated fats. They have a number of metabolic functions, and therefore maintaining a healthy balance through supplementation of omega fatty acids is worth consideration.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.