There’s one fat, in particular, that is absolutely essential to your health—eye health, brain health, heart health, you name it! Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that is crucial for the optimal function of all cells, muscles, organs and nerves. Your body can’t make omega-3, and depends on you to feed it enough of this essential nutrient. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is deficient in anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting omega-3s and overloaded with pro-inflammatory omega-6s that promote disease when consumed in excess. So plump up your diet and protect your gorgeous peepers with omega-3 fats.
Omega-3s and Eye Health
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 essential fatty acid that is found in highest concentration in the retinas of your eyes. Studies have shown that DHA is critical for proper visual development in infants and for optimal retinal function in adults. Animal studies link low levels of DHA to visual impairment and retinal degradation. Together with the omega-3 eicoapentaenoic acid (EPA), DHA protects against conditions such as dry eye syndrome and macular degeneration. Macular degeneration destroys your central vision and leads to vision loss over time. Studies also suggest that a diet rich in omega-3s can help reduce your risk of eye pressure and glaucoma (which leads to sight loss) by facilitating proper drainage of intraocular eye fluid.
Omega-3s and Anti-Aging
Telomeres are the protective caps on the end of your chromosomes that act in the same manner as caps on the end of shoelaces—they protect your chromosomes from fraying. Every time a cell divides, your telomeres get shorter. When the telomere reaches its end, so does the cell. As you can see, telomeres act as a sort of biological marker to aging. Anti-aging scientists have been searching for the key to slowing telomere shortening, and thus the aging process.
Preliminary research suggests that omega-3s can help slow aging by slowing down telomere shortening. Results from a University of California, San Francisco study showed that out of 608 men and women diagnosed with stable coronary artery disease, those who ate the most omega-3s had the slowest rate of telomere shortening, and those with insufficient omega-3 intake had the most accelerated rate of telomere shortening.
Inadequate omega-3 intake has also been linked to memory loss, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease and asthma.
Eat That Fish!
Salmon, tuna, herring, anchovies and mackerel are your best sources of omega-3s. To reduce exposure to mercury and antibiotics, eat wild-caught rather than farm-raised fish whenever possible. Snack on some nuts and seeds, like walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds for a vegetarian source of omega-3s. If you are looking for an omega-3 supplement to ensure adequate dietary intake, chose a fish oil supplement that contains both DHA and EPA omegas.