Essential components of our cell membranes and precursors for a number of communication tools between our cells, omega-3 fatty acids are involved in a multitude of essential processes for our physical and psychological health.
This means that any deficit in omega-3 can cause a whole variety of imbalances and unpleasant symptoms.
“Does it really do all of that?!”
In 1998, it was the first time that a nutritional supplement manufacturer turned up at my office advertising and trying to sell omega-3. The pharmacist convinced me of the beneficial effects of omega-3 on sleep, stress, depression, swelling, skin, cardiovascular illness.. and I’m sure there were a lot more!
I’ll admit that when he left, I was pretty dumbfounded, wondering how I had never heard of this before!
Of course, since then, I have learnt an incredible amount about how omega-3 affects our bodies and I can now confirm that everything he told me is definitely true!
An essential role for our membranes
Our cell membranes are made of 49% fats and the proportion of omega-3 fatty acids in the membrane directly affect their flexibility.
The same goes for all membranes..
Not only for those surrounding the cells (cell membrane) but also for the membranes within the cell: the nucleus and its components (mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum..).
Omega-3 and the cell membrane
The cell membrane is where communication between the exterior and interior of the cell occurs.
- It contains receptors for the different messages sent by other cells: hormones, neuro-mediators.
- It is also where ‘foreign’ substances are identified and recognised.
- It is where minerals and even water are actively circulated . (Calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium)
By receiving external messages, the cell is able to rapidly adapt to any environmental changes. If the cell membrane has lost its fluidity, it becomes ‘deaf’ to these external messages which then causes abnormal weakening.
Luckily, this weakening is reversible! All you need to do is increase your omega-3 intake.
Omega-3 and nuclear membrane
The nucleus of our cells is also surrounded by a membrane similar to that of the cell membrane.
Remember that the cell nucleus is home to our genetic code and therefore any problems with the functioning of the nuclear membrane slows down the processing of this genetic code.
Omega-3 and the endoplasmic reticulum
The endoplasmic reticulum (yet another great name..) is in fact where proteins are created.
It’s a real ‘factory’ which builds proteins, brick by brick, by following the instruction given by our genetic code.
The endoplasmic reticulum is also made of membranes where fluidity is essential.
Omega-3 and mitochondria
Mitochondria are the power stations of our cells. They are charged with producing energy using carbohydrates and fats found in our diet. So once again, healthy membranes are vital!
..communication between cells
Our cells are constantly communicating between one another and for this require different biochemical and even electrical communication signals.
Among these communication tools are cytokines and prostaglandins, found in both omega-3 and omega-6.
This fabrication process is complex and can easily go wrong at several stages and it was later discovered that only a very small percentage (1%) of omega-3 fatty acids naturally found in rapeseed oil would actually be turned into ADH. Therefore, a concentrated intake of ADH is also important.
The health effects of omega-3
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are direct precursors for anti-inflammatory cytokines which helps to relieve pain, reduce symptoms of arthritis and help with cardiovascular illnesses.
A skin rich in omega-3 is better able to withstand certain external aggressions (pollution, UV rays..). The skin’s epidermis is more resistant, more elastic and softer.
Omega-3 is therefore recommended for those suffering from dry or sensitive skin, eczema, acne, psiorasis..
Omega-3 in nerve cell membranes improves neurotransmission (communication between neurones).
There is therefore a beneficial effect on mood (depression, anxiety), memory and quality of sleep.
Omega-3 can also help to act against neurodegenerative illnesses (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s).
ADH intervenes in the prevention of macular degeneration linked to old age (DMLA), which we will be covering in a following article..
- The age-related eye Disease study 2 (AREDS2) Research group. JAMA. 2013; 309:2005-15
- Barberger-GateauP, et al. J Alzheimer Dis. 2013;33 (Supp 1):S457-463