What's up with omega-3s? Part II

Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease and rheumatism. But what about the omega-3 fatty acids? Can a component of fats actually have these beneficial effects? The first part of this article shed light on the role of omega-3 fatty acids in the group of fats, what difference they make from omega-6 fatty acids, and what they mean to our body.

What are Omega-3 fatty acids? Short and concise!

Here are the key points in brief:

  • The omega-3 fatty acids are like the omega-6 fatty acids to the polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • These two fatty acids have very different properties and effects on our body. In particular, the omega-3 fatty acids have many beneficial effects that we can take advantage in the prevention, but also the treatment of various diseases.
  • The main source of omega-3 fatty acids are cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna. However, the intake of omega-3 fatty acids is often too low in our latitudes. Even two fish meals per week can make a good contribution to a sufficient supply.

in the second part Let us now investigate whether omega-3 fatty acids actually have beneficial effects in diseases such as coronary heart disease (CHD), rheumatism and atopic dermatitis.

The Eskimo diet on the trail

The original traditional diet of the Greenland Eskimos consisted mainly of raw, fatty fish, whale and seal meat. Almost 150 years ago, the German physician Dr. Prosch for the first time on the special dietary habits of the Greenland Eskimos and their robust health.

More than 100 years later, studies have shown that populations such as the Greenland Eskimo, where large amounts of fish are part of their original eating habits, are less likely to suffer from heart disease, asthma, psoriasis, and certain cancers. In the 1970s, the cause of the rarity of these diseases was investigated, and the long-chain and highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which are found predominantly in fatty fish species, came on the track.

Eicosanoids - highly active in small quantities

Many years of research have shown that the polyunsaturated fatty acids are involved in complex metabolic processes. From the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the human body tissue hormones, the so-called eicosanoids are formed. These tissue hormones are biologically highly active in minimal concentrations and play an important role in the regulation of many metabolic processes, such as the proliferation of cells, inflammatory reactions and blood clotting.

Interestingly, the effects of tissue hormones (Eicosanoids), which are formed from the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, very different. In the organism they even often act as opponents.

As explained in detail in the first part of this article, the derivatives of omega-3 fatty acids have different functions, which are important for the effect on certain diseases (especially in cardiovascular diseases and inflammatory diseases). For example, they have an anti-inflammatory, vasodilator effect and reduce blood clotting.

Heart and circulation

Omega-3 fatty acids have many effects that have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system:

  • they seem vasodilator,
  • they improve the Flow properties of the blood,
  • they hold the Arteries elastic,
  • you lower the triglycerides in the blood and
  • they seem anticoagulant

They thus prevent arteriosclerotic changes of the vessels. In people who have already had a heart attack, a fish-rich diet and the consumption of fish oils can significantly improve the chances of survival and reduce the risk of a second infarction. This was proven in more than 11,000 patients in the most comprehensive cardiac infarction prevention study (GISSI prevention study).

Inflammatory diseases

The anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids may aid in inflammatory diseases. For example:

  • rheumatism
  • eczema
  • Psoriasis (psoriasis)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis).

The best studied is the anti-inflammatory effect of omega-3 fatty acids on the inflammatory diseases of the rheumatic type. It has been proven that a corresponding change in diet can reduce discomfort and reduce the intake of medication. It is not only important to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

At the same time, intake of the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid, which occurs predominantly in animal products such as meat and sausage, should be reduced. Thus, in addition, the production of pro-inflammatory messengers (eicosanoids) is reduced.

Brain development and nerves

Omega-3 fatty acids promote brain function, as they increase the overall circulation and thus improve the oxygen supply to the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are therefore considered to play an important role in the central nervous system. An adequate supply already during the pregnancy can promote the brain development and the intelligence of the child in addition to the eyesight and the defenses.

Current research areas

Ongoing research has focused on the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in the immune system and suggests that it has a positive impact on asthma and kidney disease. Fish oil may also be present depressions Protect and damage the nerves Alzheimer brake.

Mackerel or fish oil capsule?

The positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids on certain diseases are now well established. An adequate supply is therefore absolutely essential. Just two fish meals per week can make a good contribution to this. There are no limits to the preparation. Both at lunch and at dinner fish can be on the menu.

Here are some examples:

Having lunch:

  • stewed (in a vegetable bed, with tomato, dill or mustard sauce)
  • fried or grilled (with lemon, skewer, in aluminum foil with herb butter and onions)
  • as a casserole (with potatoes, pasta or vegetables)

Dinner:

  • as salad (for example herring salad)
  • smoked / pickled (for example smoked mackerel, sweet and sour pickled herring)
  • as fillets (with vegetables, in aspic, oil or different sauces)

In assisting the treatment of certain diseases, a much higher dosage may be required to achieve the desired effect than can be achieved by a normal diet. The use of high-concentration omega-3 fatty acids may be useful in these cases. There are products available in the form of fish oil capsules, formula diets and infusion solutions. The preparations used should additionally be enriched with vitamin E. The intake and dosage should be discussed in advance with the attending physician.

Swell: German Society for Nutrition et al. (Ed.): D-A-CH Nutrient Feed Reference 2000 German Nutrition Society (ed.): Nutrition Report 2004 Adam O (2002) Diet and advice on rheumatism and osteoporosis, Walter Hädecke Verlag

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