Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients but the body doesn’t make them and we must get them through food or supplementation. “Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), flaxseeds and walnuts and also monounsaturated fats such as olive oil. These foods may all contribute to reducing inflammatory processes,” Dr. Schehr explains.
If you don’t frequently eat these foods or don’t meet the recommended fish guidelines of at least eight ounces of seafood per week, you may want to consider supplementation. “Fish contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats,” Blatner said. “Most people do not consume enough fish, so taking an omega-3 supplement can help fill in the gaps.”
There are several different types of omega-3 fatty acids, but the main ones are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). DHA and EPA specifically have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and are primarily found in fatty fish, whereas ALA is found in plant sources. Dr. Schehr says that fish oil supplements, containing EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) balancing your body’s omega 3:6 ratio is a direct way of managing the inflammatory response. “An imbalance in the omega-3:omega-6 ratio, with an excessive intake of omega-6 relative to omega-3, has been associated with inflammation. Ideally, the ratio is 1:1 or 2:1 (omega-6:omega-3).”
One small research study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation Research found that fish oil supplements with a specific formula of omega-3 fatty acids increase the level of anti-inflammatory molecules in the body. Many clinical trials have also looked at omega-3 supplement in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and most have shown that the supplementation may reduce the patient’s use of anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids.
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