If you're looking for a go-to food worthy of being included in your weekly diet plan, you could do a lot worse than to make fatty fish – think salmon, mackerel and tuna – a part of your regular fare at the lunch or dinner table. In fact, consider it a requisite. A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in such fish, is a leading preventable cause of death in the United States, per nutraceuticalbusinessreview.com.
Our Body Can't Produce Omega-3'sAmerican guidelines generally suggest that we eat fatty fish two or three times a week. Without the omega-3 fatty acids provided by the consumption of fish, it has been estimated that 28 million life years are lost every year due to ill health, disability or premature death brought on by that lack of omega-3 intake. In place of the fish itself, money-saving fish oils as nutritional supplements also can be a rich provider of omega-3 fatty acids. These oils usually contain a lesser amount of environmental toxins than those found in species of commercial fish. It's interesting to note that other maritime sources of omega-3's include whale and seal meat and blubber, which are mealtime staples of the Greenland Inuit, per naturalproductsinsider.com, although those might pose a problem in most parts of the U.S. if you go looking for them in your local grocery.
Three Healthy ComponentsThe omega-3's found in fish oils consist of three main components, all of which play a key role in delivering health benefits to us. One thing to keep in mind in all this, and it goes against the grain of conventional thinking – fats are an essential part of our diet. That's not a green light, however, to drop your fork, and start loading up on milkshakes, donuts and coconut crème pie. Saturated fats, like those found in most meats and some dairy products, can lead to the formation of fatty deposits that can block up arteries, per doctoroz.com. Trans-fatty acids? Even worse. What we are looking at with omega-3's are polyunsaturated fatty acids; the kind that are most beneficial to our health. Let's look at the three fatty acids that comprise omega-3's and the role(s) that each plays:
- DPA (docosapentaenoic acid). This is the relative newcomer on the scene as far as the three fatty acids go, having in recent years been distinguished from the other two and identified as separate by scientists. DPA bears a strong resemblance to EPA, described below, but it has two more carbon units in its chain, per xtend-life.com. One area in which DPA plays a vital health-enhancing role is in its dealings with inflammation within the body. This fatty acid, per omegaprotein.com, has molecular mechanisms that are involved in anti-inflammatory actions, which makes it a potential health aid in dealing with chronic conditions. These include heart disease, atherosclerosis and obesity – all of which are tied in to inflammation. A recent Harvard study that involved more than 30,000 participants, revealed that greater plasma concentrations of DPA were linked to reduced risk of heart attack, per naturalproductsinsider.com.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). This fatty acid plays a dominant role in the nerve cells of fetal and infant brains, as well as being a central player in our visual system's development. DHA, as you might have surmised, is necessary for a child's healthy growth and development, to include the brain. In this regard, some health experts have advised women, especially once they become pregnant, to make DHA – and therefore omega-3 fatty acids – a core part of their diets. Per igennus.com, children need a hearty ingestion of these fatty acids up to the age of five, or around the time they are starting school. From that point on, the child's need for DHA isn't so pronounced, and it is when the role of EPA consumption takes on added importance.
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Between the ages of five and 65 is when EPA takes over in terms of what our body demands. Otherwise, reduced EPA levels in adolescents has been shown to be directly tied into the development of mental health issues – such as depression and dyslexia – as well as heart issues, bone and joint afflictions, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson's, per igennus.com. Cognitive function also factors in. Continuing to consume high levels of fish oils that include EPA has shown at least some success in reducing the chances of developing or worsening cognitive decline and dementia, which includes Alzheimer's disease.