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What are omega-3 fats and what is the science behind the claims relating to foods high in omega-3 fats?
Posted by Jayson Hunter, Last modified by on 22 April 2011 11:18 AM

Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fats that are found in significant quantities in several plants and plant oils (eg. canola, linseed, soy and walnut) and in even greater quantities in many varieties of seafood. The evidence is now quite strong that omega-3 fats are beneficial in at least three areas of human health: heart disease, inflammatory disease, and development of vision and brain function in babies. With respect to heart disease, several risk factors are reduced in response to increased consumption of omega-3 fats, including a reduction in the level of blood triglycerides (TG). In fact, omega-3 is used to treat people with elevated TG and who suffer from pancreatic disease that does not respond to drugs. Omega-3 fats also reduce blood clotting and so may lower the risk that a heart attack will occur, or if it does, reduce the likelihood that it will lead to fatal obstruction of a coronary artery. Eating fish regularly is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Surprisingly, there does not seem to be a dose-response to eating fish. That is, eating fish once a week has the same beneficial effect as eating it three or four times weekly. Rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases (eg psoriasis) generally respond positively to increased consumption of foods containing omega-3 fats. This promotes the formation of molecules called 'cytokines', enhancing the production of less reactive compounds.

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