Omega-3 and weight loss
More and more individuals are becoming overweight and obese, a condition now considered to be the most common nutritional disorder in the industrialized world. Overweight and obesity can be defined by a body-mass index exceeding either 25% or 30%, respectively. Body-mass index is calculated by dividing weight in kg by the square of the height in meters. Normal values range from 18 to 25%.
In the US 34% of the population is overweight and another 27% is obese. This means that more than 60% of the entire population has what can be defined as a weight problem, which is likely to cause severe health problems, particularly diabetes, hypertension, and elevated blood lipids, all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Fat is the most calorie dense nutrient and high fat diets are linked to excess weight gain, but not all fats are equal. Changing the fat composition of your diet can even assist in losing weight.
Fats are composed of fatty acids. The polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) can act as signalling agents to the cell, switching gene transcription off or on. The fats irrespective of their saturated or unsaturated nature generate 9 cal of energy per gram of fat, but when they are part of the diet, PUFAs give completely different net effects on metabolic energy production and weight gain compared to saturated fatty acids. Thus, saturated fatty acids are the main source of energy in the human body, while PUFAs also fulfil other functions.
If energy expenditure is low such as with a sedentary lifestyle, high intake of saturated fatty acids correlates to increased body weight, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. However, regular intake of PUFAs such as from seafood leads to a decrease of fat storage.
Relief from menstrual pain
For the millions of women worldwide who dread their monthly period, menstrual problems can be taxing and sometimes even disabling. Up to 90% of women suffer from menstrual pain and associated migraines. In most cases there is no identifiable cause, although nutritional factors appear to play a role in managing menstrual symptoms. Research has shown that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids could alleviate this pain and suffering. Modern diets are often short of foods that contain omega-3s, with diet comparison studies clearly showing that omega-3 intake has significantly dropped this century. Fish oils are thought to provide assistance because of their prostaglandin modifying effects.
Omega-3 and migraine
Epidemiological studies during the 1960s in Greenland concluded that migraine was extremely uncommon among the Inuit. Their diet is characterized by a very high intake of fish in combination with meat and fat from sea mammals. The fat from these species is very high in omega-3 fatty acids. Known to have dilating effects on the blood vessels as well as other mode-of-actions important for the prevention of vascular diseases, they were tested for their possible effect on migraine attacks.
Two uncontrolled pilot studies were conducted separately in Sweden and Denmark, testing the prophylactic effect of 4 capsules of an omega-3 concentrate providing a dose of 2.4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily during three months. All patients continued their normal medication. The Swedish study involved 41 subjects. Most of the participants, 33 individuals, had more than 1 attack per week. The other 8 had less frequent attacks.
Effects before and after 3 months of treatment were evaluated by means of a questionnaire. In the Danish study, 57% of those with frequent attacks and 43% of the others experienced fewer attacks after three months of treatment, while 57% and 36%, respectively, had reduced severity of attacks.
For the total group, 87% felt that omega-3 medication had improved their migraine condition.
Preventing skin damage from the sun
Solar radiation is an important environmental hazard with many deleterious effects on the skin, such as sunburn, photoaging, and carcinogenesis. The underlying mechanisms of ultraviolet radiation induced skin damage are complex and not completely understood. Omega-3 fatty acids have shown promising effects "from inside", which have been demonstrated in clinical studies.
Omega-3 deficiency can result in dry skin which ultimately ages more quickly. Therefore increasing the intake of omega-3s can also result in the skin becoming less susceptible to the aging effects of the sun.
Omega 3s can also help reduce the symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. They serve as natural anti-inflammatories and as nutrients for healthy skin cells.