Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to many health benefits. In particular, they may help promote brain and heart health, reduce inflammation, and protect against several chronic conditions.
Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important.
They have many powerful health benefits for your body and brain.
In fact, few nutrients have been studied as thoroughly as omega-3 fatty acids.
Here are 17 health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids that are supported by science.
Symptoms often include sadness, lethargy, and a general loss of interest in life (
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Of the three, EPA appears to be the most beneficial for depression (
Omega-3 supplements may help treat and prevent depression and anxiety. EPA seems to be the most effective at reducing symptoms of depression.
When you don’t get enough DHA, vision problems may arise (
An omega-3 fatty acid called DHA is a major structural component of your eyes’ retinas. It may help prevent macular degeneration, which can cause vision impairment and blindness.
Omega-3s are crucial for brain growth and development in infants.
- improved cognitive development
- better communication and social skills
- fewer behavioral problems
- decreased risk of developmental delay
Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy and early life is crucial for your child’s development. Omega-3 supplementation is linked to improved cognitive development and a lower risk of developmental delay.
Heart attacks and strokes are the world’s leading causes of death (
These benefits include:
- Triglycerides: Omega-3s can significantly reduce levels of triglycerides (
- HDL cholesterol: Some older studies suggest that omega-3s could raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels (
21, 22, 23).
- Blood clots: Omega-3s can keep blood platelets from clumping together. This helps prevent the formation of harmful blood clots, according to some older research (
- Inflammation: Omega-3s reduce the production of some substances released during your body’s inflammatory response (
26, 27, 28).
Despite these beneficial effects on heart disease risk factors, there is no convincing evidence that omega-3 supplements can prevent heart attacks or strokes and many studies find no benefit (
Omega-3s may help improve numerous heart disease risk factors. However, omega-3 supplements do not seem to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity (
What’s more, numerous older studies suggest that omega-3 supplements could help reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
However, more research is needed, as other studies have found no benefit of omega-3 supplementation on ADHD symptoms (
Omega-3 supplements may help reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children. However, more research is needed, as studies have turned up mixed results.
Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions.
It is a major public health concern because it increases your risk of many other illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes (
Omega-3s may have numerous benefits for people with metabolic syndrome. They could improve blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and improve several heart disease risk factors.
Inflammation is a natural response to infections and damage in your body. Therefore, it is vital for your health (
Long-term inflammation can contribute to almost every chronic illness, including heart disease and cancer (
Omega-3s may reduce chronic inflammation, which can contribute to heart disease, cancer, and various other diseases.
In autoimmune diseases, your immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign cells and starts attacking them (
Type 1 diabetes is one prime example, in which your immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas (
According to one study, increased intake of several types of fatty acids during infancy, including DHA, was linked to a lower risk of type 1 diabetes-associated autoimmunity later in life (51).
Omega-3 fatty acids may help treat and prevent several autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis.
Low omega-3 levels have been reported in people with psychiatric disorders (
People with mental disorders often have low blood levels of omega-3 fats. Improving omega-3 status seems to improve symptoms, but more studies are needed.
Many people experience a decline in brain function as they get older.
One review of controlled studies suggests that omega-3 supplements may be beneficial at disease onset, when the symptoms of AD are very mild (
Keep in mind that more research is needed on omega-3s and brain health.
Omega-3 fats may help prevent age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is needed.
Omega-3 intake may decrease the risk of some types of cancer, including colon, prostate, and breast cancer. However, more research is needed.
Severe asthma attacks can be very dangerous. They are caused by inflammation and swelling in the airways of your lungs (
What’s more, asthma rates in the United States and around the world have been rising over the past few decades (
Omega-3 intake has been associated with a lower risk of asthma in children.
However, research suggests that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce liver fat and inflammation in people with NAFLD (
Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce liver fat in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Osteoporosis and arthritis are two common disorders that affect your skeletal system.
Theoretically, this should lead to a reduced risk of osteoporosis. However, more research is needed, as studies have turned up mixed results on the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on bone health (
Omega-3s may also help treat arthritis. According to one review of six studies, omega-3 supplements were able to significantly reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis of the synovial joints (
Still, more large, high quality studies should be conducted to understand how omega-3 fatty acids may impact bone and joint health.
Omega-3s may improve bone strength and joint health, but more research is needed.
Menstrual pain occurs in your lower abdomen and pelvis and often radiates to your lower back and thighs (
It can significantly affect your quality of life.
One 2011 study even determined that an omega-3 supplement was more effective than ibuprofen in treating severe pain during menstruation (
Omega-3 fatty acids might help reduce menstrual pain. Plus, one study found that an omega-3 supplement was even be more effective than ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug.
Good sleep is one of the foundations of optimal health.
Omega-3 fatty acids — especially DHA — may improve the length and quality of your sleep.
DHA is a structural component of your skin. It is responsible for the health of cell membranes, which make up a large part of your skin.
- promoting skin hydration
- preventing hyperkeratinization of hair follicles, which appears as the little red bumps often seen on upper arms
- protecting against premature aging of your skin
- reducing the risk of acne
Animal studies suggest that omega-3s may also help protect your skin against sun damage (
However, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that you should use omega-3 supplements in place of sunscreen.
Omega-3s can help keep your skin healthy, preventing premature aging and safeguarding against sun damage.
Omega-3 fatty acids are vital for optimal health.
Getting them from whole foods — such as fatty fish two times per week — is the best way to ensure robust omega-3 intake.
However, if you don’t eat a lot of fatty fish, then you may want to consider taking an omega-3 supplement. For people deficient in omega-3, this is an affordable and effective way to improve health.