It is important to consume omega-3 fatty acids. They are an important component of your cell membranes. Your body also needs it to produce signaling molecules called eicosanoids, which help your immune, pulmonary, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems function properly. Omega-3s are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). The main omega-3s found in food are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), as well as their essential precursor, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
An omega-3 deficiency means your body is not getting enough omega-3 fats. This can expose you to negative health effects. Here are 5 possible signs and symptoms of omega-3 deficiency, how to tell if your omega-3 status is low, and how to increase your omega-3 intake.
Omega-3 rich fish
To date, few studies have looked specifically at the signs and symptoms of an omega-3 deficiency. Thus, most of the studies presented in this article have analyzed something similar but distinct, the health benefits of omega-3s. Additionally, there is currently no standard test to diagnose omega-3 deficiency, although that there are several ways to analyze omega-3 levels. To better understand this topic, scientists need to do more research on the signs and symptoms of omega-3 deficiency in particular, and researchers may need to develop better tests to identify it.
Here are 5 potential signs and symptoms of an omega-3 deficiency.
1. Skin irritation and dryness
If your body lacks omega-3 fatty acids, one of the first places you may notice it is your skin. For example, sensitive and dry skin, or even an unusual increase in acne, can be a sign of omega-3 deficiency in some people. Omega-3 fatty acids improve the integrity of skin barriers, preventing moisture loss and protecting the skin from irritants that can lead to dryness and irritation. One small study gave women a daily dose of 1/2 teaspoon (2.5ml) of ALA-rich flaxseed oil for 3 months. Women who took it saw a decrease in skin roughness and an increase in skin hydration by almost 40%, compared to those who received a placebo. A 20-week study gave omega-3-rich hemp oil daily to people with atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, a condition that causes dry, itchy skin. Participants saw a reduction in dryness and itchiness and needed fewer topical medications.
Additionally, having more acne than normal may be an indirect indication of omega-3 deficiency in some people. Studies have shown that omega-3s reduce inflammation, which scientists believe can trigger acne. Also, some research has shown that taking omega-3 supplements can help reduce acne breakouts and skin inflammation.
Overall, omega-3 fatty acids are important for maintaining optimal skin health, so if they’re lacking in your diet, you might notice changes in your skin.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential component of the brain and are known for their neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. They may even help treat neurodegenerative diseases and brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and bipolar disorder. Many studies show a correlation between low omega-3 status and a higher incidence of depression. An analysis of 26 studies including 2,160 participants found that taking omega-3 supplements had a beneficial effect on symptoms of depression. Specifically, an omega-3 supplement containing at least 60% EPA , taken at a dose of 1 gram or less per day, appeared to be helpful. Another meta-analysis of 6 studies and 4,605 participants concluded that an average intake of 1.3 grams of omega-3s per day reduced symptoms of mild to moderate depression in older adults, compared to a placebo . Although many factors contribute to the development of mental health disorders, a diet rich in omega-3s may help reduce the risk of certain mental health disorders.
3. Dry eyes
Omega-3 fatty acids play a role in eye health, including maintaining eye moisture and possibly even tear production. For this reason, many health doctors prescribe omega-3 supplements to help relieve dry eye syndrome. Symptoms of this syndrome often include eye discomfort and even blurred vision. A high-quality study in 64 adults with dry eye disease looked at the effects of taking omega-3s. One group of participants consumed two capsules daily, each containing 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA. The other group of participants took a placebo. After 30 days, those who had taken omega-3 supplements saw less tear evaporation, improved dry eye symptoms, and increased tear production. Additionally, in an analysis of 17 studies involving 3,363 people, researchers found that taking omega-3 supplements significantly reduced dry eye symptoms compared to taking a placebo.
If you have noticed an increase in dry eyes, this may be an indication that your diet is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids. That said, many health conditions can contribute to dry eye symptoms. It is therefore important to consult your doctor if you suffer from dry eye or other eye-related symptoms.
4. Joint pain and stiffness
It is common to experience joint pain and stiffness with age. This pain and stiffness may be linked to a condition called osteoarthritis, which causes the cartilage covering the bones to break down. They may also be linked to an autoimmune inflammatory disease called rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Some studies have shown that taking omega-3 supplements helps reduce joint pain and increase grip strength. Research also shows that PUFAs may help with osteoarthritis, although more human studies are needed. Additionally, research suggests that omega supplements may help reduce disease activity in people with RA, as well as improve symptoms in people with the disease. If you’ve noticed an increase in joint pain or related arthritis symptoms, your omega-3 fat levels may be low and taking supplements may help. However, it is important to talk to your doctor if you experience joint pain or arthritis symptoms. They can help you determine the appropriate treatment.
5. Hair changes
Just as omega-3 fatty acids help retain moisture in the skin, they also help keep hair healthy. Changes in hair texture, integrity and density can indicate low omega-3 levels. A 6-month study gave 120 participants omega-3s, along with omega-6 fatty acids and antioxidants, in a daily supplement.
At the end of the study, those who had taken the supplement saw a reduction in hair loss and an increase in hair density compared to the control group. If you are experiencing increased hair loss or have noticed that your hair is thinner or dry and brittle, taking omega-3 supplements can help.
The Western diet is known to be high in saturated fat and low in unsaturated fat, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Among populations that consume more fish, omega-3 deficiency is less of a concern. You may be at higher risk of omega-3 deficiency if you don’t eat fish, seafood, and food sources of ALA or take a supplement containing EPA and DHA.
How to improve your omega-3 levels
Some foods, like chia seeds and other plant foods, contain the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Fish and other foods of primarily animal origin contain DHA and EPA. ALA is a precursor to DHA and EPA, which means your body can convert some of it into these two omega-3 fatty acids. However, the conversion rate is very low. So it’s best to focus on getting enough EPA and DHA directly from your diet or supplements, rather than consuming ALA. Oily fish are the best dietary sources of EPA and DHA. They include salmon, herring, trout, mackerel, bass and sardines. However, you should also incorporate good sources of ALA into your diet. Some of the best sources of ALA include vegetable oils, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
You can take DHA and EPA supplements made from fish oil or krill oil. However, there are also vegan omega-3 supplements, which derive the nutrient from seaweed, not seafood. Studies indicate that omega-3s derived from seaweed are effective in increasing omega-3 levels. 3. If you think your omega-3 levels are low, you can increase your dietary intake and consider a supplement.
* At press health we strive to transmit medical knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace medical advice. [HighProtein-Foods.com]