Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of a healthy diet according to Dr. Steven Reisman, a Manhattan Cardiologist. Omega-3 fatty acids are what are known as “essential” fatty acids which means they are not made in the human body but must be obtained directly from an outside source. These substances are very important for normal metabolism. They are important in reducing inflammation in the blood vessels, joints and in other locations. It is suggested that Omega-3 fatty acids be obtained from foods rather than from supplements. Fish high in these substances include salmon, herring, sardines and anchovies. Omega-3 fatty acids may be also obtained from ingestion of nuts and seeds and plant oils but to a lesser degree than from fish.

Eating a diet high in these fatty acids appears to decrease the risk of stroke and possibly cardiovascular and coronary artery disease. It has been shown that in the United States compared to other countries such as Japan there is a reduced percentage of these Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet along with a higher heart disease rate suggesting a protective effect of these substances.  The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish per week and also other sources such as eating walnuts and tofu. These substances have also been found to be useful in the management of rheumatoid arthritis and they have been shown to reduce joint pain and stiffness. A recent study looking at the brain suggests that individuals that have a higher level of Omega-3 fatty acid in their diet have less brain shrinkage, particularly those in their 70’s suggesting a larger brain size. These substances may limit the progression of diseases such as Alzheimers.

Consuming Omega-3 fatty acids along with a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet is highly recommended in an attempt to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and is also useful in decreasing the triglyceride level in the blood according to Dr. Steven Reisman, a Manhattan Cardiologist. Consumption of fish high in Omega-3 Fatty acids does appear to be more beneficial than utilizing supplements.