Increasing Omega Bites

Further studies may show that omega-3’s, already a proven ally in heart health, have even more benefits

The leading cause of blindness in old age is macular degeneration, which starts as a blur in a person’s vision but can progress to blindness. Naturally, researchers looking for ways to prevent macular degeneration were excited to see that omega-3’s, an essential fatty acid prevalent in certain fish, might reduce the risk. This would add another benefit to an already extensive list for omega-3’s, but don’t cancel that appointment with your eye doctor just yet.

“There will need to be more evidence-based studies before the omega-3’s effect on eyesight can be fully supported,” says Luanne Aquino, MD, an Internal Medicine physician at St. Joseph’s/Candler’s Medical Group – Bluffton. “What we do know for sure is that omega-3’s are heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory.”

With a glance at omega-3’s more well-known benefits, one can plainly see that they are a great addition to the diet, whether they help your eyesight or not. Omega-3’s have been shown to reduce joint pain and stiffness related to rheumatoid arthritis. They also play a role in reducing inflammation in blood vessels. The cardiovascular benefits don’t end there, however.

“Omega-3’s found in fish oil have been shown to reduce arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat,” Aquino says. “This is especially important when you consider that some arrhythmias can result in cardiac arrest.”

There is also evidence that omega-3’s can lower the level of triglycerides in the body. High levels of these compounds in a person’s bloodstream have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease.

The human body cannot make omega-3’s on its own—they must be obtained from food. This is where certain fish swim to the front of the class (see below). Dr. Aquino recommends consuming at least two servings per week of these omega-3 abundant fish.

“A good serving amount is around three ounces,” Aquino says. “That’s about the size of a deck of cards.”

Those looking to stack the deck against heart disease can also find omega-3’s in dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oils, and certain vegetable oils. Meanwhile, researchers continue to study of omega-3’s, not only for its effects on macular degeneration but also for its possible benefit in protecting against dementia, depression, and even asthma. But since omega-3’s have already proven themselves in matters of the heart, their essential role in one’s diet is easy to see.

Heart Health By The Ounce

Omega-3’s exist in several different types. Two of the most beneficial types discovered by researchers are called EPA and DHA. But these abbreviated names won’t be much help to you in the supermarket. What people really need to know is what foods contain the most beneficial omega-3’s. Here are some of the items Dr. Aquino suggests you add to your shopping list

Cold water oily fish:
 -anchovies
 -herring
 -lake trout
 -mackerel
 -salmon
 -sardines

Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil

Walnuts

Spinach

Canola oil and soybean oil

Supplements are another way of introducing more omega-3’s into your diet. Speak with your physician to determine if you would benefit from fish oil supplements, how much you should take, and what side effects may be possible.
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