Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
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).
- Triglycerides -- DHA and EPA 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 these 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 fatty acids may work for a variety of conditions. As more studies are done, more information about how they work will become available.
Omega-3 fatty acids (usually in the form of fish oil) have been studied quite a bit and seem to provide numerous health benefits. People take supplements for a variety of uses, and some of these uses have more scientific evidence in their favor than others (see Does Omega-3 Work? for more information).
Because omega-3 has been studied quite a bit, good information about dosing is available. Although it is probably best to obtain omega-3 fatty acids through your diet, this is difficult for many people.
(Click Omega-3 Fatty Acids Dosing for more information.)