Get to know the benefits of heart-healthy omega-3s

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(Natural News) Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in many healthy food sources, including fish, seeds and vegetables. While many people swear by their health benefits, it’s still worth understanding what exactly omega-3s are and how they help the body.

A “good” kind of fat

Omega-3 fatty acids are a major class of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Despite having the word “fat” in their name, omega-3 fatty acids are good for your health and are needed by the body for many important processes.

The omega-3 fatty acids you consume are incorporated into cells inside the body. Within days of increasing your consumption of omega-3s, noticeable changes in your cell membranes are bound to happen. The membranes of cells belonging to the retina, brain, and heart are enriched by these fatty acids. In fact, over a third of all fatty acids in the outer segment membrane of retinal photoreceptors – cells that convert light into signals for the brain to process – are omega-3s. The abundance of omega-3s in these cell membranes suggests that they play a role in the proper functioning of these cells.

Omega-3 fatty acids also perform important signaling and communication roles within and between cells. Omega-3s are known to compete with omega-6 fatty acids, another class of polyunsaturated fatty acid, for a place within cell membranes. In particular, arachidonic acid, a type of omega-6 fatty acid, is released by cell membranes in response to external stimuli (e.g., allergies or stress). The body needs arachidonic acid as it influences blood clotting, blood pressure regulation, and immune function. However, studies have shown that elevated levels of arachidonic acid can trigger inflammatory conditions. Therefore, adding more omega-3 fatty acids to your diet displaces arachidonic acid from cell membranes and helps prevent inflammation.

While other forms of omega-3 fatty acids exist, most studies have focused on these three: