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Omega-3

Omega-3 is the superstar of healthy fatty acids, improving the health of the heart, skin and other internal organs.

What Omega-3 Does For The Body

Omega-3 performs vital functions at the cellular level and has a wide range of protective benefits for the whole body. It reduces inflammation, protects us from heart disease and increases blood circulation, helping to further lower blood pressure and prevent the formation of varicose veins and blood clots. It also strengthens the blood vessels of the eyes.

Other potential benefits include improvements in rheumatoid arthritis and reduced risk of stroke. Several studies have reported that omega-3 may lower the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancer. It may even make you smarter by shoring up brain processes.

Because omega-3s boost the body's circulation, this fatty acid can help revive dull skin and hair. Fish oil helps the skin retain moisture, resulting in a smoother complexion.

Heart Health

These fats help your heart beat at a steady pace, prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and slow the development of atherosclerotic "plaque" in your arteries. The Nurses' Health Study, which followed 84,000 women for 16 years, found that women who ate fish at least once a week had a 29 to 34 percent lower rate of death from heart disease than women who ate fish less than once a month. Another large study called the GISSI Prevention Trial showed that heart attack survivors who consumed a 1-gram capsule of omega-3 fats each day for three years reduced their risk of sudden cardiac death by half, and were less likely to have a repeat heart attack or stroke.

Pregnancy

Studies show that consuming EPA and DHA increases the length of gestation in pregnancy. It also lowers the risk of premature delivery in women with high-risk pregnancies.

Early Development

Omega-3, and especially DHA, is important for visual and neurological development in babies from the third trimester of pregnancy until the second year of life. DHA is found in high concentrations in the cell membranes of the retina; not getting enough of this fatty acid may cause permanent abnormalities in retinal function.

Studies have also shown that toddlers whose mothers consumed fish oil—and thus EPA and DHA—during pregnancy scored higher for hand-eye coordination and mental processing, although more research is needed.

Brain Power

Omega-3 helps brains of all ages stay fit and flexible. In particular, the "gray matter" in the brain contains high amounts of DHA. Although scientists don't yet understand exactly how DHA benefits brain function, they know that a brain depleted of DHA may suffer from learning deficits.

DHA helps protect against Alzheimer's. One study found that men and women who consumed three servings of fish a week (0.18 grams of DHA per day) had a 39 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's than people who consumed less.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

These essential fatty acids help reduce inflammation, and have been shown to reduce joint pain and tenderness. According to studies, you may begin to see benefits after consuming at least 2.7 grams a day of EPA and DHA for 12 weeks.

What happens if you don't have enough omega-3: Omega-3 is considered an essential nutrient, and with good reason. Though the body requires this fatty acid to function, it is not capable of producing omega-3 on its own.

A person who is depleted of omega-3 increases their risk of heart attack and stroke. Skin can become dry, itchy or flaky.

What happens if you have too much: According to the FDA, we should consume no more than 3 grams per day of omega-3 fats. Avoid consuming more than 3 grams in a given day, unless your doctor prescribes more. Because omega-3 increases blood circulation, exceeding this amount could result in excessive bleeding.

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