It won’t come as a surprise to most people that Omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fatty fish are good for your health, but a new study revealing just how these important acids fight inflammation shows they might be even more beneficial than believed. It turns out they work their magic by activating the self-cleaning process in certain types of immune cells.Omega-3 fatty acids have long been known to help reduce inflammatory reactions. While some inflammation can help fight against infections, inflammatory reactions that are too strong or that occur even when there are no viruses or bacteria can be very harmful. Immune cells found in your body’s tissues and organs known as macrophages play a vital role in managing your body’s inflammatory reactions. Autophagy occurs when unnecessary or dysfunctional proteins and other cell components essentially eat themselves so your body can get rid of them, and scientists are increasingly discovering that it is a crucial process when it comes to your health. It is constantly occurring in cells, and it is heightened when cells become injured or starve. Scientists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) set out to determine whether omega-3 fatty acids were able to dampen inflammation by elevating the autophagy process in macrophages.
To test their theory, they studied macrophages that had been isolated from humans and mice. They discovered that while these acids did indeed dampen many of the inflammatory mechanisms in macrophages, there was one that they reduced in particular: The type 1 interferon response. Macrophages secrete something known as factor CXCL-10 as part of the type 1 interferon response in the presence of certain types of stimuli.
They then took a look at blood samples taken from a clinical study of patients who had been given cardiac transplants. They knew that supplementing with omega-3 had improved these patients’ clinical status, and they discovered that omega-3 fatty acids had decreased their CXCL-10 levels.
Omega-3 can help conditions like cancer, MS, meningitis and Alzheimer’s
Essentially, this means that autophagy changes within macrophages as a response to omega-3 and reduces the secretion of inflammatory factors related to interferon response, especially CXCL-10. Therefore, they concluded that supplements of omega-3 fatty acids can help patients with conditions that are aggravated or caused by CXCL-10 and strong interferon responses, such as multiple sclerosis, meningitis, jaundice, Alzheimer’s disease, and many types of cancer. The researchers emphasize, however, that more research needs to be carried out.
Another recent study, this one out of Aberdeen University, found that a diet rich in omega-3 can boost a person’s odds of surviving colorectal cancer and stop deadly tumors from spreading throughout the body. They discovered that people with the highest proportion of omega-3 metabolizing enzymes in relation to omega-6 had the best survival chances and the least tumor spread. Other studies have shown that it has a similar effect on prostate cancer.
Omega-3s have been the subject of lots of research recently, with another study released a few weeks ago showing that these essential fatty acids can help treat the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Although omega-3 has long been linked to brain health, this particular study was good news for the many people caught in the midst of the Alzheimer’s epidemic hitting the nation.
How to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids
You can find omega-3s in fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines, tuna, swordfish and mackerel. Chia seeds, spinach, flaxseed oil and walnuts are also good sources of omega-3. If you can’t get enough omega 3 from your diet, supplements can help make up the difference.