What is omega 3?
Omega 3 is an essential fat needed for many functions in the body. When omega 3 is not consumed in high enough quantities or regularly enough it can contribute to many problems. Omega 3 fats are found in a variety of food sources such as oily fish, nuts and seeds. Omega 3 comes in 3 main forms.
ALA Alpha linolenic acid
This is the kind of omega 3 that is found in plant foods such as nuts and seeds. ALA is beneficial to the body generally. However, to make the most of it, your body has to convert it into its active forms which are called EPA and DHA. Some people are unable to make this conversion effectively and require a direct source of EPA and DHA from animal or algae sources.
EPA Eicosapentaenoic acid
This is the main fat found in the membrane of skin, hair and nail cells and contributes towards moisturisation and flexibility. EPA is the form needed in the highest ratios in most adults. EPA only comes from animal or algae sources and is most abundant in oily fish.
DHA Docosahexaenoic acid
This is the third type of omega 3 and again is only found in animal or algae sources. DHA is the most abundant omega 3 in the brain. We need more DHA as children and as we age.
Why is omega 3 great for skin, hair and nails?
Improves blood flow
Omega 3 fats are needed for blood. They may help to keep blood less sticky and at the right thickness. This is important as thick, sticky blood does not circulate well and blood flow to the tiny capillaries that serve the skin cells may become impaired. When blood flow is not optimal, neither is nutrient delivery to the skin, nails and hair follicles meaning their function will also be impaired.
Improves skin flexibility
Omega 3, particularly EPA, is needed for the cell membranes. The skin cell membranes contain a lot of fat, and every type of fat you consume will be incorporated into the skin cells. Too much saturated fat in the diet causes a problem with the skin as they are hard and inflexible which gives the skin the same properties.
EPA is a flexible fat which allows the cell membranes to move easily and increases their integrity. The same principle applies to the nails. Weak and brittle nails may mean that you do not have the right ratio of fats in your diet.
Omega 3 fats support the moisturisation of the skin and nails in a few ways. Firstly, it helps to prevent cracking and flaking by providing the best fats for the skin cell membranes. Secondly it is excellent for the gut.
The gut and the skin are deeply connected. Omega 3 fats have been shown to support the adherence of probiotics onto the gut wall, helping them to thrive. These probiotics then go on to produce short chain fatty acids which are absorbed and find their way to the skin where they provide moisturisation.
Omega 3 fats contribute towards the production of anti-inflammatory hormones. These are needed to keep excess inflammation at bay and create balance within the body. Excess inflammation appears on the skin as redness and can be reduced or eliminated with the right intake of omega 3 fats.
What are the other health benefits of omega 3?
Omega 3 isn’t just for the skin, there are plenty of other reasons to take it daily.
Brains as well as beauty
Omega 3 fats are needed for the brain. DHA provides the main structural component of the brain, and EPA is needed for communication between brain cells.
Omega 3, especially EPA, contributes towards the formation of anti-inflammatory hormones. Excess inflammation in the body contributes to chronic disease such as arthritis, frequent infections and general fatigue.
As omega 3 fats are so essential for the brain, research has shown that an increased intake may contribute to improved mood.
Omega 3 plays several roles in the health of the heart including the health of the blood vessels, cholesterol balance and supporting a normal thickness of the blood.