Guest post contributed by Emily Woodman of Arya Derm
Omega fatty acids have numerous health benefits, many of which are yet to be unraveled. What we know so far is that they have tremendously positive effects on the heart, bones and skin, They also support mental health, reduce weight, help fight inflammation and decrease liver fat. Some studies suggest omegas prevent dementia, bipolar disorder and asthma.
How Do Omegas Work?
Some 90 percent of dietary fats come in the shape of triglycerides, which are composed of glycerol and fatty acids. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are components of cell membranes that help fight inflammations and regulate blood pressure.
Our bodies can produce most of the fatty acids, with the exception of linoleic acid (LA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Because they need to be consumed through the diet, they are called “essential fatty acids.”
Recommended daily intake for LA and ALA stands at 4 percent and 0.5 percent of the total energy, respectively. EPA and DHA, recommended daily intake is 250 mg a day. Dietary sources of Omega-3s include fish, fish oils and plants rich in a-linolenic acid (grains and oils).
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There are numerous types of omega-3s, with the three most common ones being eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
EPA produces eicosanoids, which are the chemicals responsible for reducing inflammation and fighting depression.
DHA makes up ca. 8 percent of brain weight and is, hence, of extreme importance when it comes to normal brain development.
ALA is used as an energy source and can be converted into EPA and DHA, to a degree.
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Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega-6s serve primarily as an energy source. The most common one is linoleic acid, which can be converted into arachidonic acid (ARA). ARA produces eicosanoids, which fight inflammation.
However, the production of too many eicosanoids may increase the risk of inflammation diseases, hence omega-6s should be taken in moderation. The modern Western diet contains more omega-6s than the body needs.
Other notable omega-6s include gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
Omega-9 Fatty Acids
Omega-9 fats can be produced by the body, but consuming foods rich in them has numerous beneficial health effects, nevertheless. For one thing, they reduce triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
The most common omega-9 is oleic acid, a major energy source for cells that regulates the biosynthesis of numerous essential metabolites.
Omegas and the Skin
As stated above, omegas are anti-inflammatories, which means that they protect the skin from inflammation and the UV rays. Thus, they keep the skin hydrated, fighting the appearance of wrinkles.
Omega-3s prevent and treat various skin conditions, including psoriasis. The latter is normally treated by dietary and supplemental Omega-3s. Omega-3s decrease the risk of skin cancer, photo-aging, atopic skin conditions and sunburn.
The metabolism of LA and ALA is limited to the skin, while both omega-3s and omega-6s influencing the inflammatory response of the skin.
It is important to understand that omegas work best when ingested. Many people believe that applying them topically will suffice, but that is not exactly the case. In fact, there are only two fatty acids that need to be applied topically: oleic and linoleic acid.
Being a major structural component of the skin, DHA takes care of cell membranes. EPA regulates hydration and oil production of the skin, as well as premature aging. It reduces the risk of acne and prevents hyperkeratinization (the cells lining the inside of a hair follicle).
On top of regulating inflammation, omega-3s help prevent the development of psoriasis, rosacea, scaling, erythema and acne. One of the major functions of the omega-3s is to decrease insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and to reduce scaling, erythema and pruritis.
Sources of Omega Fatty Acids
Foods high in omega-3 fats include fish, fish oil, nuts, seeds and algal oil.
Amounts per 100 grams of the common omega-3 rich foods are:
- Salmon: 4g EPA and DHA
- Mackerel: 3g EPA and DHA
- Sardines: 2.2g EPA and DHA
- Anchovies: 1g EPA and DHA
- Chia seeds: 4.9g ALA
- Walnuts: 2.5g ALA
- Flaxseeds: 2.3g ALA
Omega-6 fats are found in refined vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
Amounts per 100 grams of the common omega-6 rich foods are:
- Soybean oil: 50g
- Corn oil: 49g
- Mayonnaise: 39g
- Walnuts: 37g
- Sunflower seeds: 34g
- Almonds: 12g
- Cashew nuts: 8g
Similar to omega-6s, omega-9 fats are found in refined vegetable oils, nuts and seeds.
Amounts per 100 grams of the common omega-9 rich foods are:
- Olive oil: 83g
- Cashew nut oil: 73g
- Almond oil: 70g
- Avocado oil: 60g
- Peanut oil: 47g
- Almonds: 30g
- Cashews: 24g
- Walnuts: 9g
Recommended daily amounts for ALA:
- Men: 1.6 g
- Women: 1.1 g
- Pregnant women: 1.4 g
- Children 1 to 3: 0.7 g
- Children 4 to 8: 0.9 g
- Boys 9 to 13: 1.2 g
- Girls 9 to 13: 1.0 g
- Teenage boys: 1.6 g
- Teenage girls: 1.1 g
Omega Fatty Acids: General Benefits
Much has been said about the benefits of essential oils with new discoveries never failing to deliver. It is true that we still have a lot to learn, but the facts we are already aware of speak in favor of omega fatty acids.
Skin health benefits of omegas go deeper than just the surface. A healthy body spells healthy skin, so it is crucial to eat a balanced diet instead of simply taking supplements.
After all, it has been proven that communities consuming a fish-based diet have low heart attack and stroke rates, with consumers’ triglyceride levels being decreased by 15 to 30 percent. On top of that, they also have higher HDL cholesterol levels (“good cholesterol”).
Finally, EPA alone helps fight anxiety and depression. These are the world’s two sole most common mental illnesses, with anxiety disorders affecting 18.1 percent of the U.S. population every year, and MDD (major depressive disorder) and PDD (persistent depressive disorder) combined affecting 9.2 percent of people.
That being said, concluding how a balanced diet rich in omega fatty acids is beneficial on multiple levels should not be a difficult leap. Take good care of your skin and overall health at all times.