Omega 3 Fatty Acids

(This is an extract from a document prepared by Alan J Snow.)

Omega 3 Fatty Acids:

Omega 3 is a general description for the highly polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish oils. It refers to the position in the fatty acid chain (three carbons away from the end of the chain). This is the position of the first double bond or pair of missing hydrogens in the polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish oils. Omega 3 fatty acids normally have 15, 17 or 19 carbon atoms.

Fish oils are the richest source of Omega 3 fatty acids. The major Omega 3 fatty acids in fish are:

EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

Linolenic acid is an omega 3 fatty acid found in small amounts in plants but its fatty acid chain is not as long nor as unsaturated as omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil.

Research has shown that the consumption of fatty fish causes a dramatic reduction in the levels of triglycerides in the blood, even in people with extraordinarily high triglyceride levels. Consumption of fish oil actually restored blood triglycerides to their normal range in people with very high triglyceride levels.

One of the major benefits associated with the consumption of seafood is the presence omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are principally found in seafood and have been shown to play a role in both controlling and treating coronary heart disease, types of asthma, and possibly even cancer.

The body's immune system is responsible for reactions that we call inflammatory ` responses. Examples of these responses are:

*coughing and wheezing of asthma attacks,

*red weals of hives,

*sneezing of hay fever,

*pain of arthritis.

These symptoms are caused by the immune system of the body using its forces to combat the invasion by foreign particles.

Prostaglandins are a group of highly reactive compounds made from polyunsaturated fatty acids. The consumption of omega 3's influence prostaglandin metabolism in specialized cells in the body.

Diseases of the coronary arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart is the most common heart ailment. Coronary heart disease is characterized by an atheroma, a fatty deposit of cholesterol beneath the inner lining of the artery. The atheroma obstructs the passage of blood thereby, reducing the flow nourishment to the heart muscle. It also sets up conditions for a blood clot in the coronary artery.

There are a number of contributing factors to heart disease. These are:

*a family history of heart disease;

*eating foods which are rich in saturated animal fat and cholesterol;

*smoking;

*obesity;

*male gender;

*hypertension or high blood pressure;

*high cholesterol levels in the blood.

Platelets are small cells in the blood responsible for blood clotting. They have the ability to clump together to form a clot at the site of a wound. They can also stick to the side of blood vessels that have been damaged by arteriosclerosis, a thickening of the arterial wall. When the flow of blood to the heart is restricted by these lipid deposits and platelet clumps, a heart attack can occur. A similar process to the brain is called a stroke.

The consumption of foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids reduce the incidence of heart disease by:

(*lowering the level of triglycerides in the body;

(*reducing blood clotting by lowering blood viscosity;

(*reducing inflammation in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma;

(*improving the immune system.

Only animals that are part of the food chain from the sea have these long chain omega-3 fatty acids available for consumption.

This is because these substances are made in the first place by phytoplankton -- the tiny aquatic plants that serve as food for small fish and produce oxygen for the atmosphere. Fish devouring other fish accumulate fats and the omega-3 fatty acids become concentrated through the food chain.

When we eat seafood rich in omega 3 fatty acids, the omega 3's become part of the platelet membranes. Once there, they inhibit the growth of blood clotting material in platelets thus having the effect of slowing the formation of blood clots which would prevent the flow of blood to the heart or brain. This has the effect of greatly reducing the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

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