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.
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world.
Anxiety, also a common disorder, is characterized by constant worry and nervousness (3Trusted Source).
Interestingly, studies indicate that people who consume omega-3s regularly are less likely to be depressed.
What’s more, when people with depression or anxiety start taking omega-3 supplements, their symptoms improve
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA and DHA. Of the three, EPA appears to be the best at fighting depression
One study even found EPA as effective against depression as a common antidepressant drug .
SUMMARYOmega-3 supplements may help prevent and treat depression and anxiety. EPA seems to be the most effective at fighting depression.
DHA, a type of omega-3, is a major structural component of the retina of your eye.
When you don’t get enough DHA, vision problems may arise
Interestingly, getting enough omega-3 is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, one of the world’s leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness
SUMMARYAn 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.
DHA accounts for 40% of the polyunsaturated fatty acids in your brain and 60% in the retina of your eye
Therefore, it’s no surprise that infants fed a DHA-fortified formula have better eyesight than infants fed a formula without it
Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy is associated with numerous benefits for your child, including
- Higher intelligence
- Better communication and social skills
- Fewer behavioral problems
- Decreased risk of developmental delay
- Decreased risk of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy
SUMMARYGetting enough omega-3s during pregnancy and early life is crucial for your child’s development. Supplementing is linked to higher intelligence and a lower risk of several diseases.
Heart attacks and strokes are the world’s leading causes of death.
Decades ago, researchers observed that fish-eating communities had very low rates of these diseases. This was later linked to omega-3 consumption .
Since then, omega-3 fatty acids have been tied to numerous benefits for .
These benefits address:
- Triglycerides: Omega-3s can cause a major reduction in triglycerides, usually in the range of 15–30%
- Blood pressure: Omega-3s can reduce blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure
- “Good” HDL cholesterol: Omega-3s can raise “good” HDL cholesterol levels
- Blood clots: Omega-3s can keep blood platelets from clumping together. This helps prevent the formation of harmful blood clots
- Plaque: By keeping your arteries smooth and free from damage, omega-3s help prevent the plaque that can restrict and harden your arteries
- Inflammation: Omega-3s reduce the production of some substances released during your body’s inflammatory response (36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).
Despite these beneficial effects on heart disease risk factors, there is no convincing evidence that omega-3 supplements can prevent heart attacks or strokes. Many studies find no benefit (41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).
SUMMARYOmega-3s improve numerous heart disease risk factors. However, omega-3 supplements do not seem to reduce your risk of heart attacks or strokes.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity (43Trusted Source).
What’s more, numerous studies observe that omega-3 supplements can reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
Omega-3s help improve inattention and task completion. They also decrease hyperactivity, impulsiveness, restlessness and aggression (46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source).
SUMMARYOmega-3 supplements can reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children. They improve attention and reduce hyperactivity, impulsiveness and aggression.
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 (51Trusted Source).
SUMMARYOmega-3s can have numerous benefits for people with metabolic syndrome. They can reduce insulin resistance, fight 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.
However, inflammation sometimes persists for a long time, even without an infection or injury. This is called chronic — or long-term — inflammation.
SUMMARYOmega-3s can 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.
Omega-3s can combat some of these diseases and may be especially important during early life.
Studies show that getting enough omega-3s during your first year of life is linked to a reduced risk of many autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, autoimmune diabetes and multiple sclerosis (62Trusted Source, 63Trusted Source, 64Trusted Source).
SUMMARYOmega-3 fatty acids can help fight 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 (69Trusted Source).
Studies suggest that omega-3 supplements can reduce the frequency of mood swings and relapses in people with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (69Trusted Source, 70Trusted Source, 71Trusted Source).
Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may also decrease violent behavior (72Trusted Source).
SUMMARYPeople with mental disorders often have low blood levels of omega-3 fats. Improving omega-3 status seems to improve symptoms.
A decline in brain function is one of the unavoidable consequences of aging.
One review of controlled studies suggests that omega-3 supplements may be beneficial at disease onset, when the symptoms of AD are very mild (76Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that more research is needed on omega-3s and brain health.
SUMMARYOmega-3 fats may help prevent age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is needed.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the Western world, and omega-3 fatty acids have long been claimed to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Additionally, omega-3 consumption is linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. However, not all studies give the same results (79Trusted Source, 80Trusted Source, 81Trusted Source).
SUMMARYOmega-3 intake may decrease the risk of some types of cancer, including colon, prostate and breast cancer.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease with symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing.
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 US have been rising over the past few decades (82Trusted Source).
SUMMARYOmega-3 intake has been associated with a lower risk of asthma in both children and young adults.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is more common than you think.
It has increased with the obesity epidemic to become the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the Western world (85Trusted Source).
SUMMARYOmega-3 fatty acids reduce liver fat in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Osteoporosis and arthritis are two common disorders that affect your skeletal system.
SUMMARYOmega-3s may improve bone strength and joint health, potentially reducing your risk of osteoporosis and arthritis.
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 study even determined that an omega-3 supplement was more effective than ibuprofen in treating severe pain during menstruation (93Trusted Source).
SUMMARYOmega-3 fatty acids can reduce menstrual pain and may even be more effective than ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory drug.
Good sleep is one of the foundations of optimal health.
SUMMARYOmega-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.
A healthy cell membrane results in soft, moist, supple and wrinkle-free skin.
- Managing oil production and hydration of your skin.
- Preventing hyperkeratinization of hair follicles, which appears as the little red bumps often seen on upper arms.
- Reducing premature aging of your skin.
- Reducing the risk of acne.
SUMMARYOmega-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 a cheap and highly effective way to improve health.