Omega-3 fats are a type of essential fatty acid that the body needs for optimal health. They are “essential” because the body cannot manufacture them, so you must get them from food and/or supplements (e.g., fish oil, flaxseed oil). Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to have a number of benefits relating to prostate and other health disorders.
EPA and DHA are the ones that offer the most health benefits. ALA is a good source of omega-3 that is found in nuts, seeds, and their oils however the issue with ALA is that it must be converted in the body to EPA and DHA and there are also indications that ALA may contribute to more advanced prostate disease. In addition the conversion rate of ALA to EPA/DHA is very low – a mere 10 percent at best – and so it is very difficult to get the amount of recommended omega-3 from ALA alone.
The three types of omega-3 fatty acids are:
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)
Omega-3 fatty acids belong to a broader category of fats called polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Experts generally consider omega-3 fatty acids to be the healthiest fats in the diet, an honor bestowed on them largely because of their anti-inflammatory powers (see box below: “What is Inflammation?”). Omega-3 fatty acids calm the inflammatory response and prevent tissue damage and swelling that lead to pain and illness. Omega 3’s also thin the blood, which helps it flow more freely throughout the body. Omega 3 has also been shown to be beneficial for promoting prostate health.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation can be a good thing when it is the body’s temporary response to injury or infection, as when you cut your finger and blood rushes to the scene, causing the finger to swell. This is part of the healing process, and the inflammation quickly disappears. But inflammation can be a serious problem when it chronic and thus eventually causes harm, developing into conditions such as prostatitis, heart disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and other conditions.
Omega-3 fatty acids also are a vital component of brain, muscle, and immune system cells, and so they are critical throughout the body. In fact, in a study published in 2009, a group of Harvard researchers reported that a deficiency of omega-3s contributed to 72,000 to 96,000 deaths in 2005. Why? One reason may be that omega-3 fatty acids are important for preventing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, both very common and potentially debilitating and deadly diseases.
What the FDA says about Omega 3
Since September 2004, foods containing eiscosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids are allowed to carry a qualified health claim stating that they may help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, responsible for 500,000 deaths annually in the US.
10 Benefits of Omega-3s
- Prevent excessive blood clotting
- Reduce inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation is a major factor in prostatitis, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases
- Lower the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in your bloodstream
- Maintain the fluidity of your cell membranes, which is essential for cells to grow and maintain your health
- Facilitate the ability of your arteries to relax and dilate, good for maintaining normal blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health
- Inhibit thickening of the arteries by decreasing endothelial cells’ production of a substance called platelet-derived growth factor, also good for blood pressure and cardiovascular health
- Reduce the risk of becoming obese by improving the body’s ability to respond to insulin by stimulating the secretion of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate food consumption, body weight and metabolism, and is expressed mainly by fat cells
- Help prevent cancer cell growth, including prostate, esophageal, and colorectal cancer. More on omega 3 and prostate cancer
- Alleviate symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and psychosis
- Enhance memory, recall, and reasoning
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Inability to concentrate
- Dry, itchy skin
- Joint pain
- Brittle hair and nails
The current knowledge about omega-3 fatty acids is still relatively fresh, but even within the last decade or so, scientists have accumulated a great deal of research showing that these essential fats are, well, essential. That fact prompted many scientists and health agencies to draw up some guidelines. Here’s a rundown of their recommendations as of June 2010:
- World Health Organization: for adults, omega-3 intake should equal 1-2% of daily caloric intake
- Institute of Medicine: males 19 and older need 1.6 g/day (approximately 10% becomes EPA/DHA); females 19 and older need 1.1 g/day
- American Dietetic Association: adults should consume 500 mg/day of polyunsaturated fatty acids
- American Heart Association (AHA): The AHA states that consuming 0.5-1.8 grams of EPA and DHA daily either as fatty fish or supplements, or 1.5-3.0 grams of ALA daily reduces the risk for heart disease. It also states that individuals who have heart disease should eat fatty fish at least twice a week and include foods rich in ALA. Patients with coronary heart disease should consume 1 g of EPA and DHA daily from fatty fish, but EPA/DHA supplements may be considered if ordered by a doctor. Patients who have high triglycerides should consume 2 to 4 grams of EPA/DHA daily from fatty fish or supplements
The American Heart Association also cautions that people should not consume more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day unless they are under a doctor’s care, because high intake could cause excessive bleeding in some people.
Generally, the best natural sources of Omega 3 are fatty fish and seafood including the following:
Omega 3 can also be obtained from omega 3 supplements
|FISH/SHELLFISH*||OMEGA-3 TOTAL AMOUNT
(EPA + DHA)
IN 1 SERVING (APPROXIMATE)
|SERVINGS/WEEK TO MEET TOTAL
OMEGA-3 RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE
|Catfish (wild)||350 mg||5|
|Cod (Atlantic)||285 mg||7|
|Cod (Pacific)||435 mg||4|
|Crab (Alaskan King)||350 mg||5|
|Fish Sandwich (fast food)||335 mg||5|
|Fish sticks (frozen)||195 mg||9|
|Halibut||740 mg||3 (high in mercury)|
|Herring* (Atlantic or Pacific)||1,710 mg||3|
|King Mackerel||620 mg||3 (high in mercury)|
|Mackerel (Atlantic)*||1.060 mg||2|
|Oysters (Eastern, farmed,
|Pollock (Alaskan)||280 mg||7|
|Salmon (farmed)||4,500 mg||Less than 1|
|Salmon (wild)||1,775 mg||1 (high in vitamin D3)|
|Shark||585 mg||3 (high in mercury)|
|Swordfish||870 mg||2 (high in mercury)|
|Tilefish or golden bass||1,360 mg||2 (high in mercury)|
|Trout* (rainbow, farmed or
|Tuna (fresh)||900 mg||2 (moderate to high in mercury)|
|Tuna (white, albacore)||735 mg||3 (high in mercury)|