There are three primary forms of omega-3 fatty acids:
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- ALA (alphalinolenic acid)
Seafood is the best source of EPA and DHA, which in turn have the greatest impact on our health. Many foods from plants contain ALA, however, our bodies are only able to convert a small amount of ALA into DHA and EPA. Since the human body cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids, it’s necessary to include omega-3 rich foods in our diet. Omega-3 supplements have become one of the most commonly purchased supplements in the U.S. for this reason as well.
Brain Function and Dementia
Omega-3 fatty acids are involved in a variety of neurological transmission pathways in our brain, and they also seem to help protect the brain during aging. As we age, both white and grey matter volumes decline, and plaque can build up that contributes to decreased memory and cognitive function. People who consume more omega-3 fatty acids have better cognitive function and a reduced risk for dementia, with some studies showing a 40-50% reduced risk. Supplementing your diet with omega-3 fatty acids in the form of ﬁsh oil shows inconsistent results, with some people experiencing improved brain function and others experiencing no change.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in protecting against peripheral artery disease, heart attack, atherosclerosis, and stroke. EPA and DHA help reduce inﬂammation (a key cause of cardio-vascular disease), decrease risk of abnormal heartbeat (which can lead to a heart attack), and improve the function of the blood vessels to reduce plaque, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of stroke.
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