More Indications for Omega-3 Fatty Acids and How They Work
Researchers have noticed that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids but low in omega-3 fatty acids, such as the typical American diet, may increase the risk of depression or other mental health problems. Early studies suggest that taking fish oil may help antidepressants work better and that fish oil may improve depression associated with bipolar disorder.
Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, osteoporosis, strokes, and heart attacks. However, it is not clear if omega-3 fatty acids are useful for preventing Alzheimer's disease or cancer.
In addition to their basic role as essential nutritional components necessary for normal growth and development, omega-3 fatty acids have many different effects in the body, including:
- Inflammation -- Omega-3 fatty acids seem to decrease inflammation in the body by suppressing a specific enzyme (COX-2) and inflammatory chemicals such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). This is probably how omega-3 fatty acids work for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Triglycerides -- DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids may lower triglyceride levels by several different mechanisms.
- Blood clotting and blood pressure -- Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the production of a chemical called thromboxane A2. This chemical causes blood platelets to stick together, which encourages blood clots and increases blood pressure. Because omega-3 fatty acids decrease thromboxane A2, they can "thin" the blood (perhaps preventing blood clots) and lower blood pressure.
These are just a few of the ways that researchers think omega-3 may work for a variety of conditions. As more studies are done, more information about how omega-3 fatty acids work will become available.