Turn back time with Omega 3
Is omega 3 our answer to longevity?
Fats were once given bad press with "Fat makes you Fat" philosophy,
Thankfully, times are turning and the importance of fat in our diet is finally been given the credit it deserves. Fat, and in particular - omega 3 fatty acids, could be key to staying young and fighting off age related decline.
For years we have been told how eating fat is bad, but the truth is that fat has an important role in health. Fats are essential to many normal body functions, and the need for them in the diet cannot be over emphasised. Fats are a source of energy, a back up energy store, they are essential for growth development and cell functions, they aid prior function of the nerves and brain, help maintain healthy skin and tissues, they transport essential vitamins and aid many functions of the body.
So what are omega 3s?
Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the “good fats” , a polyunsaturated fatty acid that are vital for our body to function. Omega 3s come in different forms:
ALA - an essential fatty acid as our body cannot make it, thus is therefore required through our diet. It can be used by our body to make other omega 3 fats and can be found in oils, rapeseed, flaxseed, nuts and leafy greens
EPA & DHA - have the most direct health benefits and can be made by ALA in our body although only small amounts are made so the best way to ensure enough EPA & DHA is to each foods rich in these such as oily fish.
Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the most studied nutrients and research suggests EPA & DHA are vital for optimal health and longevity.
Can Omega 3s help you live better for longer?
The brain is largely made up of fat and needs a steady supply of fatty acids for optimal performance, Studies have shown that omega 3 intake can have significant benefits on the brain and its function though out our lives, from infant brain development to depression and anxiety. Some research also suggest that omega-3s may help protect against Alzheimer's disease and dementia, and have a positive effect on gradual memory loss linked to ageing.
So if you want to get the most from your brain and mental health as you age then omega 3 is a must.
Omega 3s have been shown to have numerous benefits for heart health. For years, fish eating communities have shown low rates of heart disease and stroke which has been found partially due to omega 3. With Omega 3s showing positive effects on cholesterol, blood pressure, artery plaque and inflammation, all factors linked to heart disease, by ensuring you are getting omega 3 in your diet you will help fight off metabolic and heart decline as you age.
We all notice the extra pounds creep up on us as we get older but omega 3 may help you fight off the expanding waistline. Studies have shown that fish oil in particular can assist in weight loss
Osteoporosis and arthritis are common complaints that effect our skeletal system, particular as we age, making us less mobile and causing joint pain. Omega 3 has been shown to increase bone strength and reduce pain and inflammation.
Inflammation is one of the key areas which is getting attention where omega 3 is concerned. Inflammation is a crucial part of our immune system allowing us to fight infection and repair damage. However in western society today, chronic inflammation (persistent, long-term) is becoming increasingly more common and is known to contribute to almost every chronic disease including heart disease and cancer as well as effect our quality of life. Omega 3 has anti inflammatory qualities and higher omega 3 intake as been shown to reduce inflammation.
A recent study has shown that omega 3 intake can help with a more diverse gut microbiome, which is associated with many health benefits and lowering the risk of many, particular age associated conditions such as diabetes, obesity, gut diseases
So how do we ensure that we get enough omega 3 in our diets?
Omega 3 v Omega 6 ratio
Unfortunately, many diets do not have enough omega 3, and what we do get is often counteracted by too much pro inflammatory omega 6 which can compete with omega 3 in the body. Although Omega 6 is important for our body, our diets today are just too high in them, mainly from the use of cheaper vegetable oils for cooking and in virtually all processed and pre prepared foods. Our intake of omega 3 should thus be considered with our olga 6 intake
Once upon a time, it is suggested that our diets contained a ration of 1 omega 6 to 1 omega 3 1:1 However, todays western society is said to more like 12:1 - 25:1 in favour of omega 6.
It is advised that a ratio of 4:1 - omega 6 to omega 3, although some anti ageing experts think this is still too high.
Eat Omega 3 rich foods
It is recommended to eat at least 2 servings of omega 3 rich oily fish each week such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna. Some would even suggest more. Flaxseeds and chia seeds are also higher in omega 3, although plant based omega 3 is not converted in our bodies as efficiently so if possible try to get fish in your weekly diet if your are a meat eater (if not supplement).
Cut back on processed oils high in omega 6
Virtually all pre prepared snacks, meals and foods contain some sort of vegetable oil high in omega 6, so the less you consume the better your omega 3 v omega 6 ratio will be and the better your health will be. Try cooking with oils that have a better ratio such as olive oil, rapeseed oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil.
The rule should always be that supplementation is actually that - to supplement your diet where needed. You should try to get your nutritional needs from real foods rather than supplementation but in many circumstances with omega 3s this may not always be possible. Unless you eat plenty of fish and vegetables and prepare everything your self, it is highly unlikely you will be getting adequate omega 3, so you may consider supplementation as well.
In modern day society the general population are living longer, but what we need to make sure is that we can live better in those extra years. Ensuring that you get adequate omega 3 in your diet and that the balance with omega 6 is right could help you achieve this.
Whether you are drastically changing your diet or considering taking supplementation you should always speak with your doctor, especially this with conditions, on medications, pregnant.