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These will do a fatty lot of good; Know your fatty acids from your faddy acids? Oil the cogs with these omega basics, says ABI JACKSON.

WE ALL know that omegas are important to our health, but are you entirely clear on which ones do what? And does eating foods with lots of one kind of omega, make up for not getting much of another? While some fatty acids play roles in similar or closely linked functions within the body, there's a whole load of complex science behind how they really work. Even if you don't know all this science, having a rough idea of the basics will still help.

Contradictory headlines can confuse us, and as such, recent research has suggested a lot of people are still confused over whether all dietary fats are 'bad', and which ones are 'good'.

If you want some clarification, and if you want to make omegas your amigos, read on...

OMEGA 3 |IMPORTANT FOR:Heart health, brain function and preventing diseases.

FIND IT IN:Oily fish, flax, linseed, walnuts and certain oils. ARGUABLY the most well-known of the omegas, there's been a wealth of research into omega 3 and its benefits, particularly for heart health and brain function in children and adults (some studies have even suggested eating fish during pregnancy may improve childhood neurodevelopment).

Omega help boost In fact Babi Chana, biochemist and nutritionist for dietary supplements and vitmains suppliers Pharma Nord, believes that increasing omega 3 intake is the single biggest change - in terms of health benefits - we could make in our diets.

"Increasing our omega 3 intake can help safeguard against brain and behavioural problems, including mood, behaviour and learning ability, heart and circulatory disease, stroke, pain and inflammation, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, asthma, skin disorders and all manner of chronic illnesses," she explains.

"Other fats in the diet are used as storage or fuel, but omega 3s are functional and play an extensive role as messenger substances known as eicosanoids, which control blood clotting, blood pressure, pain, inflammation, as well as structural roles in all cell membranes that profoundly affect the sensitivity of each cell to respond to messages from hormones, enzymes, immune signals and neurotransmitters.

"It is the only substance that gives us the gift of sight; vision is only possible due to the concentration of omega 3s on the retina."

Omega 3 is known as an 'essential' fatty acid as the body can't produce it, "so it's really important you get enough in the foods you eat", notes British Dietetic Association spokesperson, Emer Delaney.

capsules can your intake "Foods rich in omega 3 include oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, herring, trout and fresh tuna, flaxseed and walnuts.

"Linseed, rapeseed, soya and walnut oils are other good sources."

Because oily fish may contain contaminates, which over time could build up in the body to potentially damaging levels, guidelines advise people to eat between two and four portions per week.

"Everyone should have oily fish at least twice a week," notes Emer, pointing out that signs of a deficiency include fatigue, dry skin, memory loss, low mood and poor circulation.

OMEGA 6 |IMPORTANT FOR:Heart health, brain function, cell growth and the nervous system.

FIND IT IN:Vegetable and sunflower oils, avocados, olives and nuts.

IF YOU'VE paid close attention to the health headlines in recent years, you'd be forgiven for being a little confused about whether omega 6 is actually a 'good' or 'bad' fatty acid. So what's the truth? "It depends what you read!" says Emer. "Some people believe omega 3 and omega 6 compete with each other in the body, so the ratio you eat them in is important. Other experts believe that both are healthy oils and we shouldn't limit intake of either.

"As a dietitian, I advise a balance and aim to eat oily fish twice a week."

Like omega 3, omega 6 is vital and plays an important role in heart health and maintaining levels of 'good' cholesterol, as well as in the function of eicosanoids. Omega 6 is also an essential fatty acid, meaning we get it solely from the foods we consume.

But there is a key difference: "Omega 6 is abundant in all the foods we eat, even processed foods and junk foods like cake and pastries," notes Babi.

Some experts believe consuming too much omega 6, along with too little omega 3, may have negative effects, and could even be potentially detrimental to heart health if the balance is especially skewed.

Another potential pitfall is that some foods may appear labelled as being high in omega 6, giving the impression they're a 'healthy' choice - but this doesn't necessarily mean they're something you should eat a lot of, especially if the product is also high in saturated fat (linked with bad cholesterol) and sugar.

And lots of omega 6 certainly does not make up for a lack of omega 3, so fish-avoiders should be extra careful.

OMEGA 7 IMPORTANT FOR: Healthy mucous membranes.

FIND IT IN:Certain dairy products and high quality supplements. UNLIKE 3 and 6, omega 7 is not an essential fatty acid, which means the body can produce it - though some people could still be lacking and benefit from topping it up.

"Omega 7 is particularly important as the preferred building block for all our mucous membranes, which are all the wet linings of the eyes, ears, nose, throat, gastrointestinal, vaginal, urinal and anal passages," explains Babi.

"Dryness, irritation or any conditions affecting the health of these linings, such as dry, red


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Oct 10, 2014
Previous Article:On the beat with Robert Nichols.
Next Article:Fats the way to be healthy.

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