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      Plant- versus fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids: Which fats are more effective against inflammation?
      08/22/2020 / By Skye Anderson / Comments
      Plant- versus fish-derived omega-3 fatty acids: Which fats are more effective against inflammation?

      For decades, people thought of fats as unhealthy. Many, if not all, tried to limit their consumption of fats, for fear of the negative consequences to their health. It was only recently that fats — or certain types of fats, at least — were vindicated by studies?that highlighted their importance in the human diet.

      Take omega-3 fatty acids, for instance. A type of polyunsaturated fat found in seafood, nuts and seeds, omega-3 fatty acids, are what experts consider healthy.?According to studies, omega-3 fatty acids offer a lot of health benefits,?particularly for the heart and the brain. They are also credited with having health-promoting properties that contribute to disease prevention.

      So, what are omega-3 fatty acids?

      Omega-3 fats: fast facts?and food sources

      Omega-3 fatty acids perform many functions inside our bodies. For one, they are important components of cell membranes, which surround each cell like a covering. Omega-3 fatty acids also provide calories whenever the body needs energy.

      The human body is incapable of producing omega-3 fatty acids on its own. Because of this, we are obliged to get omega-3 fats from other sources, especially from food. Here are some of the best dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids:

      Aside from?functional foods, you can also get omega-3 fatty acids from nutritional supplements, such as fish oils.

      There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA),?eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). You probably know ALA as an essential fatty acid. Found in plant-based foods and their oils, this omega-3 fatty acid is converted by the body into EPA and, eventually, into DHA.

      Unlike ALA, EPA and DHA can be found in cold-water fish, such as mackerel, herring, tuna and cod. Together, these two fats play a role in fetal development and healthy aging. Both omega-3 fatty acids are also involved in the development of neuronal, retinal and immune functions.

      Omega-3 fatty acids health benefits

      Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the most widely studied nutrients in the human diet. This is because they offer plenty of health benefits, besides serving several functions inside the body. Here are 10 good reasons why you should maintain healthy levels of omega-3 fatty acids: (h/t to Healthline.com)

      • Omega-3 fatty acids can help you beat depression and anxiety. According to Iranian researchers, EPA is the most effective against depression and functions very much like antidepressant drugs.
      • Omega-3 fatty acids can improve your eye health.?DHA is an important component of your retina. Studies show that getting omega-3 fatty acids from your diet can help prevent permanent eye damage or blindness caused by macular degeneration.
      • Omega-3 fatty acids promote brain health.?Researchers from Norway discovered that the children of mothers who supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) during their pregnancy were more intelligent than the children of mothers who didn’t.
      • Omega-3 fatty acids can improve risk factors for heart disease.?Based on literature, omega-3s can help reduce blood?triglycerides, blood pressure and inflammation; increase good cholesterol levels; and prevent blood clots and plaque formation in the arteries.
      • Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome.?Studies suggest that these healthy fats can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce inflammation as well as risk factors of heart disease in people with metabolic syndrome.
      • Omega-3 fatty acids can?stop inflammation.?Inflammation has long been linked to the development of chronic disease. On the other hand, increasing your intake of omega-3 fats can help decrease the production of inflammation-promoting molecules.
      • Omega-3 fatty acids can help treat mental disorders. Researchers have found that people suffering from psychiatric disorders have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, omega-3 supplements?seem to help decrease the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
      • Omega-3 fatty acids can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.?According to a recent?review of published studies, omega-3 fatty acids can help slow down cognitive decline, especially in patients with mild Alzheimer’s.
      • Omega-3 fatty acids?may help prevent cancer.?Some studies?show that people?who eat large amounts of omega-3 sources have lower risks of developing colorectal, prostate and breast cancer.
      • Omega-3 fatty acids can improve bone and joint health.?Research suggests that omega-3 fats can help strengthen your bones by?increasing the amount of calcium in them. Some people have also reported getting relief from aching joints after taking omega-3 supplements.

      Plant- vs. fish-derived omega-3s: Which should you choose?

      An international team of researchers recently explored the difference between various types of omega-3 fatty acids, specifically omega-3 fats from plant-based sources and omega-3 fats from seafood.

      According to the researchers, EPA and DHA, which are both primarily sourced from fatty fish, are known to reduce the risk of heart disease. In contrast, the health benefits of ALA and stearidonic acid (SDA) from plant-based foods are poorly explored.

      For their study, the researchers focused on the anti-inflammatory effects of EPA, DHA, ALA and SDA. They treated cells with the omega-3 fatty acids before triggering inflammation.

      Here’s a summary of what they found:

      • SDA helped decrease the production of a signaling molecule called ICAM-1, which recruits inflammatory immune cells. But EPA and DHA performed better at the same concentration (50 microMolar).
      • EPA and DHA from fish also greatly reduced the production of other pro-inflammatory molecules.
      • At the same concentration, ALA, SDA and DHA decreased immune cells that attached themselves to the cells in culture.
      • DHA also decreased the levels of NF-kB, a central mediator of inflammation.
      • In addition, both EPA and DHA greatly decreased the levels of Cox-2, the protein largely responsible for causing inflammation.

      Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that omega-3 fatty acids from fish have powerful anti-inflammatory activities.?They singled out DHA as the most effective at stopping inflammation.

      Between the two plant-derived omega-3s, the researchers said that SDA was the better anti-inflammatory agent. But neither of the two plant-derived?omega-3 fats was able to match the anti-inflammatory effects of EPA and DHA from fish.

      Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that our body needs for a variety of functions. These fats have proven themselves useful time and time again in over a decade’s worth of studies. Not only do these healthy fats from plants and seafood boost heart and brain health, they also improve mental health and contribute to?disease prevention. To maintain good overall health even in your golden years, make sure to get sufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids by adding the foods listed?in this article to your regular diet.

      Sources:

      HSPH.Harvard.edu

      ODS.OD.NIH.gov

      MedicalNewsToday.com

      Academic.OUP.com

      Healthline.com

      Pediatrics.AAPPublications.org

      Journals.PLOS.org

      Journals.LWW.com

      ScienceDirect.com

      TAndFOnline.com 1

      TAndFOnline.com 2

      FrontiersIn.org

      Nature.com

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