Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids: They are necessary for human health but the body can’t make them -- you have to get them through food. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, other seafood including algae and krill, some plants, and nut oils. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. Science suggests that omega-3s offer the following benefits to your health:
A fatty acid deficiency refers to low or inadequate levels of the long-chain fatty acids required to maintain homeostasis – the regulation of cardiovascular health, immune and inflammatory pathways. Generally, deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids are those that cause significant disturbances which can lead to poor health, fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
- Low intake (long-chain omega-3 EPA and DHA are primarily found in fish and shellfish).
- Poor conversion from short-chain fatty acids due to lifestyle and dietary factors (i.e. smoking, alcohol consumption, caffeine, stress, high saturated fat intake, diabetes, viral infections) can inhibit or disrupt the natural ability of the body to make long-chain omega-3.
- Genetic makeup. The ability to convert short-chain to long-chain fats is influenced by genetic makeup. Some individuals simply do not have the ability to manufacture adequate amounts of EPA.
- Increased turnover of long-chain EPA. For example, during an immune response or in response to inflammation, the body will naturally use EPA in these reactions and stores can become depleted.
There are a number of physical signs which indicate a fatty acid deficiency and these are listed below:
- Excessive thirst, frequent urination
- Rough or dry 'bumpy' skin
- Dry, dull or 'lifeless' hair, dandruff
- Soft or brittle nails
- Sleep problems (especially difficulties in settling at night and waking in the morning)
- Attention problems (distractibility, poor concentration and difficulties in working memory)
- Emotional sensitivity (such as depression, excessive mood swings or undue anxiety)
- Deficiencies can easily be rectified through manipulating the diet and lifestyle factors, as well as by supplementation with a combination of EPA and anti-inflammatory GLA.