Omega-3 deficiency – causes, symptoms and remedies

Omega-3s aren’t just a nutritional buzzword, they’re incredibly important fatty acids that impact our physical and mental health. They are an essential part of our diet, but many of us seem to be missing out on this important factor.

In this article we will talk about what Omega-3 is, what the signs of deficiency are and, of course, how we can correct this situation. Prepare for an exciting journey into the world of health, where we will understand how Omega-3 affects our body and what steps you can take to provide yourself with the necessary amount of this valuable substance.

Role of Omega-3

So, let’s talk about an important element of our nutrition – Omega-3 fatty acids. We’ll look at what Omega-3s are, what types of Omega-3s there are, and how these incredibly healthy fats can support our heart, brain, and joint health.

What is Omega-3

Omega-3 is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that is essential for the normal functioning of the body. They are key elements of our diet because the body is not able to produce them on its own. Therefore, we must get Omega-3 from food or supplements.

There are several types of Omega-3 fatty acids, but the most important ones are:

  • ALA (alpha-linolenic acid): This is an Omega-3 fatty acid that we get from plant sources such as flaxseed oil, walnuts and chia seeds. ALA serves as the starting material for the other two important Omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA;

  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid):  Both of these fatty acids are found in seafood such as salmon, tuna and sardines. EPA and DHA are particularly important for our health and play a key role in maintaining brain and heart function.

The role of Omega-3 in maintaining heart health

Heart health is one of our top concerns, and Omega-3 fatty acids can play an important role in supporting it. EPA and DHA help reduce platelet levels in the blood and improve vascular function, which reduces the risk of blood clots and atherosclerosis. This allows the heart to work more efficiently and reduces the likelihood of heart disease.

The role of Omega-3 in maintaining brain health

The brain is our control center for all body functions, and it needs special care. EPA and DHA are important building blocks for brain cells and may help improve cognitive function, memory and mood. Research has also shown that Omega-3 may be associated with a reduced risk of developing degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The role of Omega-3 in maintaining joint mobility

Joints play an important role in creating and maintaining comfort. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce joint inflammation and pain. This is especially important for people suffering from inflammatory joint diseases such as arthritis.

What are Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9

Before we get into the details, let’s define what Omega-3, Omega-6 and Omega-9 are.

Omega-3  fatty acids include substances such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are found in fish, nuts, flax seeds and some other foods. Omega-3 is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to support heart and brain health.

Omega-6 fatty acids, such as linoleic acid, are found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds. They are important for ensuring the health of our skin and the functioning of our cells, but too much Omega-6 relative to the Omega-3 content is undesirable, as it can lead to inflammatory processes.

Omega-9  fatty acids, such as oleic acid, are found primarily in olive oil, as well as in nuts and avocados. They support heart health and help reduce inflammation.

Why Omega-3 Is So Important for Health

Omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, play a key role in our body for several reasons:

  • Heart protection: Omega-3 helps lower platelet levels in the blood, preventing the formation of clots and reducing the risk of heart disease;

  • healthy brain:  DHA is an important building material for brain cells, which helps improve memory and cognitive function;

  • anti-inflammatory effect:  Omega-3 helps reduce inflammation in the body, which can help with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases;

  • eye support:  DHA is found in high concentrations in the retina of the eye, and taking it can help maintain good vision;

  • Skin health: Omega-3 improves skin hydration, making it soft and supple.

Balance and moderation are the key to health

Despite the importance of Omega-3, we should not forget about the balance with Omega-6 and Omega-9. The modern diet is often oversaturated with Omega-6, which can lead to an imbalance between the fatty acids. This imbalance can worsen inflammation in the body. 

So how do you find balance? Review your diet by increasing your intake of foods rich in Omega-3s, such as salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts. Also try reducing your intake of omega-6 rich foods, such as corn oil and soybean oil. Omega-9 can be obtained from olive oil, avocado and nuts.

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Causes of Omega-3 deficiency in the body

You probably know that Omega-3s are incredibly beneficial substances, but why are we so often deficient? Let’s figure out the reasons for this mystery together.

Genetic Factors: Why Some Absorb Omega-3 Better

Let’s start with genetics. Yes, our DNA plays an important role in how well the body absorbs Omega-3. Some people have a greater ability to metabolize and absorb these fatty acids, while others may have a limited ability. This explains why some people can consume Omega-3s in sufficient quantities but still become deficient.

Such genetic differences are likely related to the historical development of humanity. Our distant ancestors, who lived on the coasts of rivers, lakes and oceans, constantly ate fish, and Omega-3 was an integral part of their diet. However, today our diet has changed a lot, and this often works against us.

Lifestyle: stress and bustle

Another reason for Omega-3 deficiency is our modern lifestyle. Bustle, stress, lack of sleep – all these factors interfere with the normal absorption of Omega-3. A paradoxical fact: stress usually increases the body’s need for these fatty acids, and at the same time reduces the ability to absorb them normally.

Lack of regular exercise can also affect our ability to absorb Omega-3s. Physical activity promotes better blood flow, which in turn improves the transport of Omega-3 to all cells of the body.

Diet: what we eat

Last but not least, the reason is our diet. If your diet is rich in Omega-3s, you are likely not deficient. However, the modern diet, which consists primarily of processed foods and saturated fats, often deprives us of this beneficial element.  

To compensate for Omega-3 deficiency, include more fish, nuts, flax seeds and cereals in your diet. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, then pay attention to vegetarian sources of Omega-3, such as seaweed or microalgae.

Lack of Omega-3 in the diet

So, a lack of Omega-3s in your diet can be a serious problem, and we’ll look at why this is so, what foods to avoid, and what dietary changes can help solve the problem.

Why does Omega-3 deficiency occur?

A lack of Omega-3 in our diet is becoming increasingly common, and one of the main reasons is poor nutrition. Modern diets, rich in processed foods, fast foods and snacks, often lacking vitamins and minerals, also deprive us of Omega-3 fatty acids.

What foods should you avoid?

To understand which foods should be limited, let’s look at several main sources of Omega-3 and their “antagonists”:

  1. Refined Oils:  Popular refined sunflower, corn and soybean oils are rich in Omega-6 fatty acids, which when consumed in excess can create an imbalance between Omega-3 and Omega-6 in the body, which in turn contributes to inflammation and poor health. ;

  2. Fast food  and processed foods:  Fatty burgers, fries, chips and other processed foods are usually low in Omega-3s and loaded with trans fats and saturated fats, which pose a risk for heart health.

  3. High glycemic carbohydrates:  Sugar and white flour products can promote inflammation and reduce Omega-3 levels in the body.

What to do

To correct this situation, we need to make some changes in our diet. Here are some tips:

  1. add fish to your diet:  fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids – try to include them in your menu at least twice a week;

  2. Eat nuts and seeds more often:  walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds are excellent sources of Omega-3;

  3. Avoid trans fats: Reduce your intake of foods containing trans fats, such as fried snacks and fast foods;

  4. Choose healthy oil:  Swap refined oils for healthier options like olive or coconut oil.

Factors affecting Omega-3 absorption

Did you know that there are certain factors that affect how efficiently our body absorbs healthy fats?

Food Sources of Omega-3

The first and perhaps most important factor affecting the absorption of Omega-3s is the source of these fatty acids. Omega-3 is found in a variety of foods, but the richest are seafood such as salmon, tuna, sardines and sea bass. Plant sources of Omega-3s, such as flaxseed oil and nuts, contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which requires additional steps to be converted into the active forms EPA and DHA. So if you want to get the most benefits from Omega-3s, add more seafood to your diet.

Correct EPA to DHA Ratio

Not all Omega-3 fatty acids are created equal. EPA and DHA are considered the most biologically active forms, and they have different functions in the body. EPA helps reduce inflammation and support heart health, while DHA is important for the development and maintenance of brain and eye health. Therefore, when choosing Omega-3 supplements or foods, pay attention to the EPA to DHA ratio to optimally meet your body’s needs.


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