Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important.
They can have all sorts of powerful health benefits for your body and brain.
In fact, few nutrients have been studied as thoroughly as omega-3 fatty acids.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Here are 17 health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids that are supported by science.
1. Omega-3s Can Fight Depression and Anxiety
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the world.
Anxiety is also a very common disorder and is characterized by constant worry and nervousness (3).
One study even found EPA to be as effective against depression as Prozac, an antidepressant drug (13).
2. Omega-3s Can Improve Eye Health
Bottom Line: An omega-3 fatty acid called DHA is a major structural component of the retina of the eye. It may help prevent macular degeneration, which can cause vision impairment and blindness.
3. Omega-3s Can Promote Brain Health During Pregnancy and Early Life
Omega-3s are crucial for brain growth and development in infants.
Therefore, it's no surprise that infants fed a DHA-fortified formula have better eyesight than infants fed a formula without it (21).
- Higher intelligence.
- Better communication and social skills.
- Less behavioral problems.
- Decreased risk of developmental delay.
- Decreased risk of ADHD, autism and cerebral palsy.
Bottom Line: Getting enough omega-3s during pregnancy and early life is crucial for the development of the child. Deficiency is linked to low intelligence, poor eyesight and an increased risk of several health problems.
4. Omega-3s Can Improve Risk Factors For Heart Disease
Heart attacks and strokes are the world's leading causes of death (28).
- Triglycerides: Omega-3s can cause a major reduction in triglycerides, usually in the range of 15–30 percent (38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44).
- Blood pressure: Omega-3s can reduce blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure (38, 45, 46, 47, 48).
- HDL-cholesterol: Omega-3s can raise HDL (the “good") cholesterol levels (49,50, 51, 52, 53)
- Blood clots: Omega-3s can keep blood platelets from clumping together. This helps prevent the formation of harmful blood clots (54, 55).
- Plaque: By keeping the arteries smooth and free from damage, omega-3s help prevent the plaque that can restrict and harden the arteries (56, 57, 58).
- Inflammation: Omega-3s reduce the production of some substances released during the inflammatory response (40, 42, 59).
Interestingly, despite all 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 (64, 65).
Bottom Line: Omega-3s have been found to improve numerous heart disease risk factors. However, omega-3 supplements do not reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes.
5. Omega-3s Can Reduce Symptoms of ADHD in Children
What's more, numerous studies have found that omega-3 supplements can actually reduce the symptoms of ADHD.
Recently, researchers evaluated the evidence behind different treatments for ADHD. They found fish oil supplementation to be one of the most promising treatments (78).
Bottom Line: Omega-3 supplements can reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children. They improve attention and reduce hyperactivity, impulsiveness and aggression, to name a few.