Singing the Praises of Omega-3s
Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their inflammation-busting heart health benefits, and now, new research is adding to our long list of reasons to eat more of them. Luckily, some of our favorite foods (nuts, avocados, wild fish, etc.) are rich in omega-3s and low in omega-6 fatty acids, which (in excess) have been linked to cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Click here to learn more about healthy fats.
Healing Gum Infections with Fish Oil
Did you know that the second most common disease worldwide is periodontitis, a gum infection that damages soft tissue and bone? 30-50% of Americans currently suffer from it, but researchers think fish oil may be able to reduce that statistic.
Findings published in the Journal of Dental Research suggest that supplementing with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), one of the two fatty acids in most fish oil supplements, may decrease the depth of pockets between the teeth and gums (a symptom of gum disease). DHA also decreased subjects’ gingival index score (which measures the severity of the periodontitis) and reduced gum inflammation. Though these findings are due mostly to the inflammation-fighting properties of omega-3s, researchers are citing potent antibacterial effects that have, until now, been overlooked.
Fast Facts: Findings have linked criminal and aggressive behaviors to low levels of omega-3s in the body. Scientists believe these correlations may be caused by changes in serotonin production (supported by omega-3s), as serotonin helps regulate compulsive and hostile behaviors.
Can Omega-3s Alter Brain Structure?
For years we’ve known about the cognitive benefits of omega-3s, but researchers now think that these friendly fatty acids might actually change the structure of our brains for the better. A recent study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia associated fish oil intake with conserved brain volume and reduced neurodegenerative symptoms. Previous studies have found that omega-3s increase gray matter volume in the brain and support new tissue development as well.
The study followed over 800 subjects either in good, mild, or poor cognitive health and found that, after supplementation, all three groups experienced improvements in brain function. These findings translate to more evidence that we may be able to prevent and even reverse brain shrinkage that we once labeled an inevitable symptom of aging.
Fast Facts: Approximately 8% of the brain’s weight is comprised of omega-3 fatty acids.
Joint Health Linked to Omega-3s
The last study we’re looking at today makes a bold claim: “Dietary factors play a more significant role than mechanical factors in the link between obesity and osteoarthritis.” The study’s senior author is suggesting that certain dietary fats, in this case omega-6 and saturated fats, contribute to osteoarthritis, while omega-3s do just the opposite.
Though obesity is often cited as the number one risk factor for osteoarthritis, researchers found that worsening arthritis was more closely correlated with diet (read: bad fat intake) than body weight in mice that underwent knee surgery. The takeaway? Western diets are generally 14-25 times higher in omega-6 fats than they should be.