Omega-3s are a group of essential fatty acids that can’t be produced in the body and thus have to be obtained from dietary sources. They are regarded as good fats as they have a variety of health benefits ranging from promoting brain health to eye and heart health. Despite their numerous health benefits, many people have an omega-3 deficiency with some experiencing a severe shortage. Omega-3 can be obtained from plant or animal sources. The three types of fatty acids include:
- Alpha-linolenic acid – mainly comes from plant oils such as chia seed oil and black seed oil. Flaxseed and soybeans also contain alpha-linolenic acid.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid –obtained from animal fats.
- Docosahexaenoic acid – obtained from animal fats.
Certain diets such as a high amount of red meat and poultry can raise the risk if omega-3 deficiency. However, this deficiency can be prevented by observing the following signs of potential shortage that require a check of omega-3 levels.
Problems with hair, skin, and nails.
Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in the functioning of every cell in the body, this includes cells in the skin, hair, and nails. It is an important part of the skin's lipid content and helps improve the skins barrier function. When functioning properly, the skin is able to lock in moisture and keep out irritants. A deficiency in omega-3 can therefore be characterized by dry skin and premature wrinkles. The same omega-3 found in skin is also found in hair follicles. A deficiency in omega-3 can lead to scalp inflammation and hair loss. Soft and brittle nails are also a sign of an omega-3 deficiency.
Fatigue and trouble sleeping.
While sleeping problems and fatigue may be brought about by a variety of issues, a shortage of omega-3 can also be a likely cause. Studies have shown that people with higher levels of omega-3 experienced better quality sleep as well as increased energy levels.
Difficulty in concentration
A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids has been linked with poor concentration, difficulty with memory, and anxiety. Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is important for optimum brain health since they form about 60% of the brain. When there is a shortage, the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells can get depleted thus messages sent through the brain are either slowed down or stopped. This can be outwardly characterized by poor concentration and problems with memory.
Joint pain and muscle cramps
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. They reduce swelling and inflammation in joints as well as the entire body. Experiencing joint pain may point towards a deficiency in omega-3. Regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce stiffness in joints and can result in less medication for people with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be essential for heart health. They protect against heart disease by controlling levels of harmful cholesterol. Experiencing cardiovascular problems may, therefore, be linked with omega-3 deficiency.
Difficult menstrual cycles
A deficiency in omega-3 can lead to prolonged, heavy periods with clotting. Increasing intake of omega-3 may provide great relief from these symptoms.
Weight gain and obesity
Omega-3 fatty acids are present in most metabolically active cells and tend to increase their activity. A deficiency of omega-3 can reduce metabolism leading to weight gain. Studies have shown that taking omega-3 supplements can reduce body fat in people who are overweight.