Omega−3 fatty acids, also called ω−3 fatty acids or n−3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), they are important constituents of your lipid metabolism, and they play an important role in your diet and physiology. (1-3)
The levels of DHA in the brain increase during your development (4) and decrease with aging (5), and both your retina and brain levels of DHA are altered by your dietary ω-3 and ω-6 fatty acid supply (6).
It seems that in human history the intake of these guys has changed ranging from a ratio of 1:1 to 20:1 (7,8)
The three types of omega−3 fatty acids involved in your physiology are α-linolenic acid (ALA), found in plant oils, and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both commonly found in marine oils. (9)
There are plant-based sources such as: walnut, edible seeds, clary sage seed oil, algal oil, flaxseed oil, Sacha Inchi oil, Echium oil, and hemp oil; as well as animal sources such as: include fish, fish oils, eggs from chickens fed EPA and DHA, squid oils and krill oil (basically middle-men between you and the original source which is the marine algae). (10)
DHA and EPA combinations have been shown to benefit attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, and aggression. For the affective disorders, meta-analyses confirm benefits in major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder, with promising results in schizophrenia and initial benefit for borderline personality disorder. (11)
Information on the functional importance of DHA in infant development is available from studies on the effects of feeding formulas without and with DHA, often with 20:4ω-6, with the most robust benefits of DHA for visual, mental and motor skills development in preterm infants. (12)
However, clinical evidence from controlled trials, open studies, and case reports have yielded mixed results from DHA/EPA supplementation in AD/HD and its comorbid conditions. (13)
On the other side, multiple studies keep showing improvement in cognitive areas in humans infants. (14-16)
And although more research is needed to achieve consensus on cancer and heart disease (17,18), you still need them to keep a healthy brain.
• Omega-3 can be found both in animal and plant sources. • Although there are mixed reviews about their role in cognitive decline, numbers seem to still favor the positive side. • More research is need about their role against heart disease and cancer.
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