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Omega 3: the allied fat of the brain and heart

Omega 3: the allied fat of the brain and heart

Fatty acids can be classified into three types: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Omega 3 is a polyunsaturated fat. It represents a family of fatty acids and consists of three varieties: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Among the most recognized benefits of omega 3 is the protection of cardiovascular and cerebral health.

EPA and DHA are found in marine animals, especially fish, while alpha-linoleic acid is of plant origin, present in chia and in flaxseed. 1 to 2% of ALA is converted to DHA or EPA. Since only a small portion of this acid from plants can transform into the body, the consumption of other fatty acids is very important.

These fatty acids are called essential because the body can not produce them. When they are ingested, these fats have the noblest function as responsible for the elaboration of the lipid layer around the cell. When cell membranes are filled with these acids the functions of the cells occur much better. Other very important points in which these lipids act are in the formation of the myelin sheath, a component of the neurons, and in the coating of the ocular retina, part of the eyes that has the main role of transforming the luminous stimulus into an electrical stimulus so that the brain can realize the process of seeing. two ways to provide benefits to the cardiovascular system. The EPA regulates the activity of blood platelets, avoiding blood clots, which can lead to a stroke or heart attack. EPA also lowers triglyceride levels, a type of fat that is bad for the body when it is elevated. DHA helps to prevent cardiac arrhythmias, stabilizing the electrical activity in the heart.

The consumption of this omega does not only assume preventive effects. At the Cardiff Medical Research Center in Wales, cardiologist Michael Burr found that heart attack victims increased their chances of avoiding new problems by 29%, eating fish that are high in fat at least twice a week. > A study conducted at the Center for Fetal Programming at the

Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen

in Denmark and published in the American Heart Association journal showed that the risk of women of reproductive age having cardiovascular disorders is much lower who consumed omega 3-rich fish than those who did not eat fish. This survey involved 49,000 women with an average age of 30 years for eight years and concluded that women who rarely or never ate fish had 50% more problems cardiovascular events than those who always consumed food and 90% more than women who ate omega-3 fish weekly. s study by the US Physician's Health Study with 22,000 men concluded that those with higher levels of omega-3 in the blood had a lower risk of sudden death. In addition, the study found that older people who consume a portion of omega-3 rich fish per week are 44 percent less likely to have a heart attack.

Decrease cholesterol:

These fatty acids change the chemical composition of blood , leading to increased levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and decreased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. When LDL is in excess, there is a greater risk of it becoming deposited in the arteries and causing it to become clogged leading to cardiovascular disease, such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, stroke, and stroke. It can also reduce blood triglyceride levels. Regulates blood pressure: Omega 3 is able to prevent the formation of fatty plaques in the wall of the arteries and ensure flexibility of the veins and arteries, ruling out the risk of diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, stroke and stroke. > A study by the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States found that high blood pressure accounts for 31% of the increased risk of heart disease and 65% of stroke risk.

Good for vision:

This fatty acid is essential for vision because it participates in the retinal coating. This part of the eyes has the main role of transforming the luminous stimulus into an electrical stimulus so that the brain can perform the process of seeing.

Degeneration of the macula, part of the retina responsible for the perception of detail, is prevented by consumption Studies published in the journal Ophtalmology, Boston University Tufts University, showed that the macular degeneration index is lower among people consuming omega 3 fish, and has shown that this fatty acid can affect development or the progression of macular degeneration. Approximately 3,000 research volunteers who consumed one or more servings of omega-3 rich fish per week showed a 60% lower likelihood of having advanced macular degeneration.

Good for the brain: Omega 3 acts on the formation of the myelin sheath, a component of the neurons. Thus, there is improvement in cognitive performance, brain activity and communication between brain cells.

Sardine is the second richest omega 3 fish - Photo: Getty Images

A survey conducted by Northumbria University

, UK, noted that consumption of fish, omega-3-rich food, on a weekly basis improves brain circulation and reduces the risk of dementia as it ages.

Other research has pointed to improved school development in children and adolescents. They also observed a decrease in the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer's and mental fatigue and the reduction of anxiety and insomnia after consumption of omega-3 rich foods.

Combat depression: People with depression have low levels of which may lead to a decrease in the number of neurotransmitter and receptor functions. Intake of omega-3s improves the fluidity of membranes that encapsulate nerve cells and increases the production of various neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, thereby improving mood and well-being.

Relieves symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis:

The consumption of omega 3 contributes to the relief of the symptoms of this disease because it has anti-inflammatory action. This fatty acid acts as a blocker of enzymes that produce the inflammatory process. It is important to note that the lipid will help in the treatment of the problem associated with other medicines. For its anti-inflammatory action, omega 3 is also interesting for other inflammatory autoimmune diseases. Omega 3 and diabetes:

A study conducted by the University of Valencia in Spain analyzed the consumption of meat and fish in 945 people between 55 and 80 years of age at high cardiovascular risk and found that fish consumption, which is rich in omega 3, is associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes and a decrease in glucose concentration, while consumption of red meat is related to obesity.

Researchers believe this is because increased fatty acid in skeletal muscle cells improves insulin sensitivity. Another study published by Harvard University noted that omega-3s prevent type-diabetes 2. This lipid increases the levels of a hormone called adiponectin that regulates blood sugar and inflammatory processes.Omega 3 and obesity:

Omega 3 helps fight obesity because of its anti-inflammatory action, as obesity is a process that causes inflammation. The body also uses omega-3 to produce prostaglandins, chemicals that have a role in many processes, including fighting inflammation of blood vessels. In addition, omega-3s can modulate the expression of neurotransmitters that control hunger and reduces the presence of proteins responsible for increasing appetite. In a preliminary study with mice, the nutritionist and researcher at the State University of Campinas Dennys Cintra observed these benefits of omega 3 in relation to obesity.

Omega 3 and pregnancy

Omega 3 is very beneficial for pregnant women. A study by the University of Kansas Medical Center in the United States revealed that fatty acid helps women to have stronger babies and reduce the incidence of preterm birth. In addition, other research indicates that omega-3 consumption in the last trimester of gestation and in the first months of breast-feeding increases the babies' IQ. The guidance for pregnant women is to ingest omega-3s through diet. Eating cold-water fish such as salmon and sardines two or three times a week and including oil-rich nuts such as walnuts in snacks among the main meals are great options.

Fatty acid supplementation is only case-oriented the pregnant woman can not ingest nutrient-rich foods. However, great care and guidance is required from a healthcare professional when taking these supplements. An early-stage study of rats by researchers at the Medical College of Georgia in the United States and the Agharkar Research Institute in India found that fetuses and pups were sensitive to excess omega-3s and that this had a negative effect on development of the animal's brain.

How Much to Eat from Omega 3

The recommended daily amount of omega 3 is controversial. Although the American Heart Society guideth up to 4 grams a day, it is precisely this portion that in some studies leads to health complications. Therefore, other experts advocate a portion of up to 1 g of omega 3 per day. Omega 3 Foods

Foods with the highest amount of omega 3, DHA and EPA, are cold water fish . This is because as they live in a cold environment they tend to accumulate more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, especially omega 3.

Check out the species that have the best amounts of the fatty acid and see what percentage of the daily value and the quantity that the portion of 100 grams of fish carries omega 3.


Quantity of Omega 3

Percent Daily Value of Omega 3


1,2 to 3, 1 grams



1.5 to 2.5 grams

275%Salmon1 to 1.4 grams
120%0.5 to 1.6 grams
90%Cod0.2 to 0.3 grams
25%Sole0.2 to 0.3 grams
25%0.2 to 0.3 grams
25%Sources: The Nutrition Source, Fats and Cholesterol: out with the bad in the good, Harvard School of Public Health; Suárez-Mahecha H, Francisco A, Beirão LH, Block JM, Saccol A, Brown-Carrasco S. Curtis-Prior, P. The eicosanoids. West Sussex: Wiley, 655 p; Frazen-Castle LD, Ritter-Gooder P; Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Schmidt EB, Dyerberg, J, Omega-3 fatty acids. Current status in cardiovascular medicine. Drugs 47: 405-24 and the National Institute of Metrology, Quality and Technology (Inmetro).Soybean and canola oils, nuts and seeds of chia and linseed are rich in omega 3, in this case alpha-linolenic acid . The recommended daily amount of flaxseed, 10 grams, has 0.54 grams of the fatty acid. Chia also has good amount of omega 3.
It is important to remember that only a small amount of alpha-linolenic acid turns into DHA or EPA, so it is important to also consume fish to have good amounts of omega-3s.Omega 3 SupplementsOmega Supplements 3 should be consumed only after medical advice and are advised if the person can not get the fatty acid through eating with the ingestion of fish and seafood.
It is necessary to be aware of the fraud of capsules, as currently many of them do not contain omega 3. One way to ensure this is to consume cod liver oil, it is usually avoided because of its considered unpleasant taste, but that is exactly what will ensure that it is rich in fatty acid. A warning: It contains a lot of vitamin A and may be contraindicated in some cases.Supplement Facts and DetailsSupplementation is contraindicated for people with bleeding disorders, such as those with haemophilia, as there is a risk of bleeding since the fatty acid leaves the blood more fluid.

People with cardiac prostheses should also avoid consumption. As for pregnant women, supplementation can be done, provided that with the correct doses, because too much omega 3 can cause problems in the fetus.

Combining omega 3

Omega 3 + vitamin E:

Combining food rich in omega 3, like fish, with foods rich in vitamin E is a good idea. This is because these fatty acids oxidize very easily, losing their properties. The best sources of vitamin E are palm oil, peanut, sunflower seed, almonds, avocado and green leaves like spinach and cabbage.

Nutrients similar to omega 3

There are no nutrients similar to omega 3, but there are other polyunsaturated fatty acid which is also very important for the body. It is the omega 6 that as well as omega 3 is an important component of cell membranes.

In addition, omega 6 helps in healing, acts on immunity, attenuates hair loss and even increases body fat burning. In order to avoid this problem it is important that there is a balance in the consumption of omega 6 and omega 3. Unfortunately, because omega 6 can be easily found in food, especially in Omega-9 is a monounsaturated fat that is present in extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocado, sesame, and onions. some oil seeds. It has an anti-inflammatory action as strong as omega 3.

Equilibrium between omega 3 and 6

The current concern has been regarding the proportion of consumption between omega 6 and omega 3 fats, since equilibrium between these two types of fatty acids confers a protective metabolic effect to the body. Exaggerated consumption of omega 6 compared to omega 3 is seen as a fact extremely harmful to human health, mainly because it is related to the onset of heart disease and cancer. In modern food there is a large supply of processed foods and refined oils, and a low consumption of food of plant origin and fish and seafood.

The values ​​suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) for a good balance between amounts of omega 6 and omega 3 in the diet is the ratio of (5: 1). Proportions above this recommendation, with more omega 6, is not interesting, because the excess of this acid is pro-inflammatory. Researchers estimate that the current ratio is 20: 1 or 30: 1. To achieve these values, researchers Simopoulos and Robinson have published guidelines that can be found in the Seven Steps Dietary Guide to Omega Diet. However, they should be associated with well-planned food.

1.Escolher foods rich in omega 3 fatty acid, and fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout, herring and mackerel), nuts, green vegetables and flaxseed; 2.Usar monounsaturated oils such as olive oil and avocado oil;

3. Eat seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day;

4.Come more vegetable proteins, including peas, beans and nuts;

5. Avoid fatty meats and dairy products with high fat content due to the presence of saturated fat;

6.Evitar oils rich in omega 6, such as corn, canola, safflower, sunflower, soybean and cotton;

7.Reduza trans fat intake, eliminating the following products:

How to preserve the nutrient

When consuming the fish, it is important to have it braised, grilled or roasted. Frying this food is not interesting because it drastically decreases the amount of omega 3.

To obtain the omega 3 of flaxseed, it is necessary to grind it because the fatty acid is inside a cellulose layer. However, when breaking this cap, a very sensitive oil is exposed. So the guideline is to grind the whole amount of the bag with the seeds, put the powder into a plastic mat with lid and store it in the freezer. Thus, the food is protected from light, oxygen and high temperature, preventing oxidation. This procedure is very important, if it is not done and the fat from the crushed food oxidize, this can be very harmful to health.

Omega 3 rich recipes

Salmon is the third most omega 3 food - photo: Getty Images

Learn how to make delicious recipes that contain omega 3

citrus juice with watercress and chia

Salmon with sesame

tuna with sweet and sour sauce

flaxseed Empadinha

Sources consulted :

nutrition specialist Jose Alvez Lara Neto, vice president of the Brazilian Association of Nutrition (ABRAN)

nutrologist Valeria Gourlart, director of the Brazilian Association of Nutrition (ABRAN)

Nutritionist Dennys Citra, a researcher at the State University.. of Campinas (Unicamp).

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