Subscribe to our Newsletter:
Healthy Diet Plans >>  Articles >>  Diet and Wellness

Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid: Does Consuming Fish Help Protect Your Heart?

Submitted by Sharon Hopkins on July 6, 2007

Omega-3 fatty acids belong to the family of polyunsaturated fats. A fatty acid molecule has a methyl group at one end and carboxylic acid at the other. Carbon atoms in it are identified on the basis of their distance from the carboxylic acid. The last atom in the Greek letters is omega and thus the carbon atom in the methyl group is named omega in the long fatty acid chain. As the name suggests omega-3 fatty acid has double bond three carbons away from the methyl carbon.

Omega-3 fatty acid is an essential fatty acid as the body cannot synthesize it and it should be supplied by external dietary sources. Three main kinds of omega-3 fatty acids are – alpha-linolenic acid, docosahexanoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Dietary sources of alpha-linolenic acid are flaxseeds, green leafy vegetables, and various other vegetables.

Dietary sources of docosahexanoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid are oily cold water fish like tuna, sardines, salmon, mackerel, bluefish, halibut and herring. Omega-3 fatty acid is also found in buffalo, walnuts and venison. Commercially available fish oils in capsule form are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Is omega-3 in fish helpful to protect heart?

Omega-3 fatty acids present in fish offers many health benefits and help prevent heart diseases.

Listed below are the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids –
  1. Helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
  2. Improves mood swings and mental health.
  3. Helps to reduce the risk of heart diseases, blood clots and strokes.
  4. Decreases join pain, inflammation, stiffness and swelling. Thus is beneficial for patients with arthritis or other inflammatory condition.
  5. Helps to prevent and relieve cancer symptoms.
There are no specific dietary guidelines drawn for omega-3 fatty acid consumption.

However, according to American Heart Association one should not exceed the oily fish consumption beyond three serving per week. This conclusion is made by the scientists after studying various fishes and the level of metal contamination (mercury, lead), pesticides and toxins in them. As in the process of gaining benefits from omega-3, these contaminants may adversely affect one’s health. Before taking any nutritional supplement containing capsules with fish oil, it is recommended to do so under the guidance and supervision of a health care professional.

If omega-3 fatty acid is used the recommended levels, may pose health risks; increase the risk of bleeding, hemorrhagic stroke, low glycemic control in diabetes, increase risk of forming biologically active oxidative products due to oxidation, decreased resistance to infection due to suppression of immune system and inflammatory responses.

Read more articles from the Diet and Wellness Category.