Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats. They are essential fatty acids which cannot be synthesized in the body. Polyunsaturated fats have numerous health benefits and can help reduce the risk of heart disease. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids:
- Alpha linoleic acid.
- Docosahexaenoic acid.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid.
Alpha linolenic acid is predominantly obtained from plant sources and can be slightly converted to docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. However, the body is not efficient in this conversion. Docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid have far greater health benefits for the body than alpha linoleic acid including improving heart health and brain power. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to reduce blood glucose levels, cholesterol levels and prevent the blockage of arteries. Here some of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for women.
Eases menstrual pain
Menstruation is sometimes accompanied by pain and discomfort, a condition called dysmenorrhea. It is characterized by strong contractions of the uterus caused by compounds in the body which are involved with pain and inflammation. Studies have shown that omega-3 can help reduce pain during menstruation as well as stabilize moods by controlling hormonal fluctuations. Eating a diet rich in omega-3 can be just as effective as medication used to reduce menstrual pain.
It is beneficial during pregnancy
The nutritional requirement for omega-3 is significantly increased during pregnancy for the mother as well as the baby. Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in the development of cognitive functions and vision. Infants also require omega-3 after birth and they obtain it from the mother’s breast milk. Their nutritional benefits are so great that women are advised to take supplements during the period of pregnancy and breast feeding.
Prevents rheumatoid arthritis
Statistics from studies on rheumatoid arthritis show that it affects more women than men. The condition also tends to be more aggressive in women with more severe symptoms. Eating diets high in omega-3 has been shown to reduce the severity of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis such as joint pain and stiffness.
Osteoporosis is a condition which weakens bones making them so brittle that even a mild stress like coughing can cause a fracture. Common osteoporosis related fractures occur in the hip, wrist and spine. Women are genetically predisposed to developing osteoporosis as their bone density is naturally lower than men. The risk of developing this condition is further increased in women when there is a reduction of in estrogen during the onset of menopause. Studies have shown that regular consumption of omega-3 has significant beneficial effects on bone mineral density. It is also advisable to supplement with calcium to enhance this effect.
Unpredictable hormonal fluctuations in women as well stress and aging can significantly increase the risk of depression. Supplementing with omega-3 can help protect against developing major depression.
Reduces the risk of cancer
Studies have shown that diets rich in omega-3 can reduce the risk of breast and rectal cancer. This is due to the increase in omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in the body. High amounts of omega-6 fatty acids have been linked with an increased risk of cancer.