Omega 3 Benefits to our Vision
You probably already know the importance of omega 3 fatty acids for a healthy brain. But did you know that these essential fatty acids (EFAs) may benefit our vision as well?
These fats are called essential fatty acids because without them we die - they indeed are essential.
What Are Essential Fatty Acids?
There are two types of EFAs:
√ Omega-6 EFAs - found in most processed foods, but especially nuts and seeds, and vegetable oils such as corn oil and soybean oil
√ Omega-3 EFAs - found in walnut oil, flaxseed oil, wild caught fatty fish, and marine plankton
The two critical types are:
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and
eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Both DHA and EPA are NOT found in plant food sources such as flax, walnuts or canola oil. These plant sources are however rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
However, the metabolic conversion of ALA to DHA/EPA (combined) is very ineffecient. The most direct way of providing DHA plus EPA for the body is through eating cold water fish or fish oil supplements.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) is a type of omega-3 fatty acid, an essential nutrient that has been studied for its role in heart, brain and eye health.
Although it is found in most tissues throughout the body, the highest concentrations of DHA are in:
1) the brain,
2) the nervous system and
3) the retina of the eye.
The low fat diet craze of the last several years has resulted in a lot of misinformation about the importance of fat in our diet.
I was one of these misinformed people who stuck to a very low fat diet, not realizing how important essential fatty acids are to our brains, muscles, nerves and yes, our eyes.
However, not all fat is good for us. It is important to know what fats to stay away from and what fats we should incorporate into our diet.
Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency
True essential fatty acid deficiency is not that common, however most people, especially those in the U.S., do not get enough essential fatty acids. In fact some sources say up to 99% of our population is low in omega 3s. Why is that? EFAs are fatty acids that cannot be made by the body. We can only get them through the food we eat.
Because it has become increasingly more difficult to get EFAs in the American diet we are seeing many health conditions that can benefit from supplementing with omega-3s. There are several conditions that may indicate a person is low in omega-3s. They are:
Type 2 Diabetes
Dry, itchy skin
Brittle hair and nails
Inability to concentrate
Often, people don't experience the health benefits of fish oil if they are not getting enough servings of oily fish per week.
Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio is Critical for AMD Prevention
To make things a bit more complicated the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s in our diet also affects the benefits we experience from taking fish oils.
According to Dr. Lylas Mgk, M.D., author of Macular Degeneration: The Complete Guide to Saving and Maximizing Your Sight
, one of the main risk factors for developing age related macular degeneration is a diet too high in omega-6 fatty acids and too low in omega-3 fatty acids.
The trouble is that in today's diet, that includes fast foods and boxed and packaged foods, we get way more omega-6 EFAs than omega-3 EFAs.
So to reap the benefit of omega-3's in our diet, we must reduce the amount of omega-6s EFAs. So let's talk about how to get more omega-3's and how to reduce our omega-6 consumption.
The most simple way to reduce omega-6s in our diet is to reduce eating fast food and foods found in boxes or packages. Fast foods and foods such as cookies, crackers and snacks are all high in omega-6s.
Use extra virgin olive oil for your salad dressings. I also put it on my vegetables after they've been cooked.
Cooking at high heat with olive oil can turn this normally healthy oil into one that promotes inflammation.
How do Fatty Acids Help Prevent Macular Degeneration?
These fats are called "essential" fatty acids, because humans don't have the ability to make them in their bodies.
Therefore, they must get these fats from diet or nutritional supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids include:
√ alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
√ docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
√ eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
Both DHA and EPA are long-chain fatty acids, that protect against -
age-related degenerative changes.
These three damaging processes result in the development of age related macular degeneration. Furthermore, long-chain omega-3 FA's, and especially DHA, form a critical part of the healthy retina.
Because of their apparent benefits, the National Eye Institute has performed clinical trials to determine the benefit of these oils in the prevention and progression of AMD.
For More Information:
Go from Omega-3 to Macular Degeneration
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