Omega-3 fatty acids are important components of the human diet that offer a variety of health benefits. While they are mainly found in fish, they are now also available as supplements. Omega-3 may be helpful for lowering triglycerides, preventing blood clots, and reducing blood pressure. Most people respond well to these supplements, but potential side effects include easy bruising or bleeding, nausea, and diarrhea.
What Is Omega-3?
"Omega-3" is short for omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential dietary macronutrients. This means that they are important components of the human diet that must be obtained through food. Three omega-3 fatty acids are important for human nutrition, including:
Recently, there has been much interest in omega-3 fatty acids for a variety of different health benefits (see Omega-3 Benefits for more information).
Omega-3 Versus Omega-6
Many people wonder how omega-3 fatty acids are different from omega-6 fatty acids. Although omega-6 fatty acids are essential to human nutrition, the typical North American diet may actually contain too much omega-6 and too little omega-3. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in a wide variety of commonly consumed foods, like grains and many cooking oils, while omega-3 fatty acids are found in less commonly consumed foods, such as oily fish, certain nuts, and flaxseed.
It seems that the ratio between the two is what is really important. Consuming too much omega-6 compared to omega-3 may increase the risk of numerous health problems, including heart disease, cancer, depression, and various inflammatory diseases.