Signs You Have an Omega 3 Fatty Acid Deficiency from Signs You Have an Omega 3 Fatty Acid Deficiency
Signs You Have an Omega 3 Fatty Acid Deficiency
Signs You Have an Omega 3 Fatty Acid Deficiency
Omega-3 fats are essential to a person’s overall health and they are promoted for their protective effects, especially on the brain, heart and eyes. The body can’t make these essential fats on its own, unlike most types of fat, and it must get them from (preferably) food or supplements. Severe Omega-3 deficiency would most likely occur in the setting of a lack of intake of foods containing either plant based OM3 (alpha-linolenic acid: canola, flaxseeds, soybeans, walnuts) or marine based OM3 (fish: salmon, sardines, albacore tuna), Michael Miller, a practicing cardiologist and author of “Heal Your Heart,” says.
“This is a common symptom that has been linked to low levels or deficiency of OM3,” Dr. Miller says. Research has shown that two omega-3 fatty acids— DHA and EPA—are important for proper visual development and retinal function. Studies have shown that animals that do not get enough DHA in their diets suffer visual impairment and degradation of the retina, according to the American Optometric Association.
Reduced capacity for learning
Omega-3s are crucial for brain health. They are highly concentrated in the brain. So if a person doesn’t have enough, his or her cognitive function will be affected and he or she may have problems learning new things and forming memories, Dr. Miller says. Recent evidence suggests a connection between defects in highly unsaturated fatty acid metabolism and dyslexia. The benefit of OM3 supplementation has been studied, but evidence remains limited.
ADHD is another symptom linked to low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, Dr. Miller says. Children with the disorder may have low levels of EPA and DHA. In a clinical study of nearly 100 boys, those with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids had more learning and behavioral problems (such as temper tantrums and sleep disturbances) than boys with normal omega-3 fatty acid levels, according to UMM.
There is no definitive link and studies have produced mixed results. However, emerging research is establishing an association between omega-3 fatty and major depressive disorder. Epidemiological, laboratory and clinical studies suggest that dietary fish/seafood consumption and other nutritional factors may influence susceptibility and outcome in depressive disorders.
In a clinical study of 30 people with bipolar disorder, those who took fish oil in addition to standard prescription treatments for bipolar disorder for four months experienced fewer mood swings. Two-thirds of the placebo cases in the study had already relapsed, while only two out of the 14 omega-3 subjects relapsed. “Data is scant as to whether replacement of OM3 in these groups significantly improves mood changes,” Dr. Miller adds.
Early clinical evidence suggests that schizophrenic patients who take omega-3 fatty acids experience an improvement in symptoms, according to UMM. A study involving people at very high risk of developing schizophrenia showed that a 12-week intervention with omega-3 PUFAs prevented transition to full-threshold psychotic disorder and led to sustained symptomatic and functional improvements in the young adults.
“The most consistent finding of OM3 supplementation is lowering of triglycerides and studies are underway testing whether OM3 can reduce risk of heart disease in men and women with high triglycerides,” Dr. Miller says. Taking 3 grams to 9 grams of fish oil per day has been shown to increase LDL blood cholesterol levels in some people, according to Food & Nutrition Magazine, which is published by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Lack of appetite
A study trying to establish the differences between a high and low omega-3 diet examined 324 people who wanted to lose weight. During an 8-week period, they cut calories by consuming one of two diets. At the end of the study the group who ate a higher amount of omega-3 fats lost significantly more weight and had a curbed appetite. However, “consuming too many OM3 capsules that are often calorically dense may cause weight gain,” Dr. Miller says.
Sleep problems, especially difficulties in settling at night and waking in the morning, can be a sign of OM3 deficiency, according to a study, conducted by the University of Oxford in the UK. Researchers observed 7- to 9-year old children for 16 weeks. Still, Dr. Miller says, there is not enough scientific evidence demonstrating the benefit. “The thought is that OM3 might reduce inflammation and if sleep habits are disrupted due to living in a pro-inflammatory state, it ought to help, but proof is lacking that it helps.”
Dr. Miller says joint pain may not be a prominent symptom of OM3 deficiency. However, “there are studies showing that OM3 supplementation reduces joint pain in patients with arthritis likely due to its anti-inflammatory properties,” he adds.
Dry eyes and macular degeneration
“Because of its anti-inflammatory properties around the eye surface and into the retina, OM3 intake has been reported to be associated with improvement in dry eyes as well as reduction in age-based macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa,” Dr. Miller says.
PUFAs play a critical role in normal skin function and appearance. Rough, dry or bumpy skin may be a symptom telling you that you need to increase your Omega-3 intake; brittle hair that is dull and dry can be another sign, according to the Micronutrient Information Center at Oregon State University. Omega-3s a particular role in barrier function of the skin, preventing water loss and invasion by microbes and toxins.
Studies examining how omega-3 fatty acids can help asthma symptoms are mixed, according to UMM. In one small, well-designed clinical study of 29 children with the condition, those who took fish oil supplements rich in EPA and DHA for 10 months experienced fewer symptoms compared to children who took placebo. However, many studies have shown no effect. It has recently been shown that fish oil (omega-3 PUFA) supplementation reduces airway hyperresponsiveness after exercise.
Coronary artery disease
Eating fatty fish once or lean fish twice a week is recommended for both primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease, according to medical reviews. The American Heart Association recommends 1 gram daily of EPA and DHA. This should ideally come from fish; but it can be hard to get by diet alone, so a supplement may be needed.