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Is Omega-3 Only Fat?

Updated: Feb 8, 2023


Figure 1. Omega-3s infography


Omega-3s are healthy fats that are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are essential nutrients that cannot be synthesized in the body. Thus, as essential nutrients, Omega-3 fatty acids must be obtained through dietary and supplementation.


Omega-3s are known to reinforce several areas of wellness, from the heart and cognitive health to bone strength, joint mobility and vision. But how about skin and hair?


Beyond its reputation, Omega-3 contribute to skin and hair and gives them a youthful, shiny look. Improving fatty acid composition in the skin balances its inflammatory response that may minimize the effect of sun damage, thereby reducing photoaging and photodamage, and may improve sensitive skin conditions such as irritation and dermatitis by regulating skin oil production and improving balanced hydration. Moreover, Omega-3 nourishes hair at the follicles, which could help act on breakage and hair loss, promoting hair strength, which leads to hair growth.


HOW DOES OMEGA-3 FUNCTION ON HAIR/SKIN?


Essential fatty acids (EFA) are required for the integrity of every cell in the body including skin cells. The stratum corneum, the uppermost layer of the epidermis -skin-, is comprised of cells called corneocytes, encased in a protein and lipid matrix; that provides the barrier functions of the skin, preventing water loss and invasion by microbes and toxins. Furthermore, Omega-3 may reduce collagen damage associated with photoaging by preventing protease activity, enzymes that break down protein, caused by UV radiation. Besides, EFAs alter the ratio of pro- and anti-inflammatory responses by several biochemical mechanisms, which substantially influence skin function and appearance.


DIETARY SOURCES, SUPPLEMENTS AND VEGAN OPTIONS FOR OMEGA-3


There are three well-known Omega-3 fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).


ALA is the inactive form of Omega-3s found in plants such as green leafy vegetables, walnut and flaxseed, whereas DHA and EPA are the active forms of Omega-3s and are predominantly found in fish and other seafood. From ALA, the body synthesizes active compounds, DHA and EPA, that contribute to healthy skin. However, the conversion is relatively inefficient.

Therefore, although plant-based Omega-3s contain the acid that revitalizes skin, they lack the other components that unlock the excellent benefits. Consequently, those following a vegan dietary style must make sure that they get DHA and EPA enough by means of supplementation suitable for vegans.


WARNINGS


High doses of Omega-3 fatty acids may lead to blood-thinning effects. In the case of taking anticoagulants or having a bleeding disorder, asking a doctor for advice is a must before consuming Omega-3.


Note. All images retrieved from Google Images. Credits to their respective authors.


REFERENCES


1. Ablon, G. (2015). A 3-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the ability of an extra-strength marine protein supplement to promote hair growth and decrease shedding in women with self-perceived thinning hair. Dermatology Research and Practice, 2015, 841570. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/841570


2. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). (2012). Scientific Opinion on the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA). EFSA Journal, 10(7). https://doi.org/10.2903/j.efsa.2012.2815


3. Essential fatty acids and skin health. (2016, November 7). Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/essential-fatty-acids


4. Fish oil. (2020, December 8). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-fish-oil/art-20364810


5. Huang, T.-H., Wang, P.-W., Yang, S.-C., Chou, W.-L., & Fang, J.-Y. (2018). Cosmetic and therapeutic applications of fish oil’s fatty acids on the skin. Marine Drugs, 16(8). https://doi.org/10.3390/md16080256


6. Omega-3 supplements: In depth. (n.d.). NCCIH. Retrieved December 15, 2022, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/omega3-supplements-in-depth


7. Thomsen, B. J., Chow, E. Y., & Sapijaszko, M. J. (2020). The potential uses of omega-3 fatty acids in dermatology: A review. Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery, 24(5), 481–494. https://doi.org/10.1177/1203475420929925


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