समाचार

Omega 3 fatty acid: The trendy medicine among Nepali population

Neutraceuticals business is now gaining momentum in Nepal in the recent years. It even caught controversy in the recent days in Nepal when decisions were made that neutraceuticals should not be prescribed for the patient. I am not writing in that line today, rather am going to stick to one of them called Omega fatty acid.

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In Nepal now a day consuming omega 3 fatty acid is on the rise. With a large chunk of Nepali population living abroad, many Nepali are increasingly importing omega 3 fatty acids from various countries abroad and taking them without proper consultation of any medical personnel. Some others resort to buying them online from different countries too. Therefore, consuming the Omega fatty acids has become a new trend of our society, more so of our elderly population. Have anyone of us thought about the real benefit of the Omega 3 fatty acids? So let’s see what are OMEGA 3 Fatty Acids.

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They are poly unsaturated fatty acids which are predominately present in fish, fish oil, krill oils.  They are originally synthesized by microalgae, and not by the fish. It is when the fish consume phytoplanktons that consumed microalgae, they accumulate the omega-3s in their tissues.  Besides fish soyabean, walnuts are also good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3s play important roles in the body as components of the phospholipids that form the structures of cell membranes.  Omega 3 fatty acids in particular, is especially high in the retina, brain, and sperm. In addition to their structural role in cell membranes, omega-3s (along with omega-6s) provide energy for the body.

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Though the human body makes most of the fats it needs from other fats or other resources within the body. The case for Omega-3-fatty acids is a little different. They fall under essential fats-body needs to get them from food intake. Various food are rich in the essential fat- fish, vegetable oils, walnuts, flax seeds, leafy vegetables.

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How much to take?

Intake recommendations for omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) (now called the National Academy of Medicine) ,USA. DRI is the general term for a set of reference values used for planning and assessing nutrient intakes of healthy people.

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Adequate Intakes (AIs) for Omega-3s

Age Male Female
Birth to 1 year 500 mg 500 mg
1-8 years 700-900 mg  700-900 mg 
9-13 years 1200 mg 1000mg
14 years onwards 1600 mg 1100 mg
Pregnant women   1400 mg
Lactating women   1300 mg

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Is it beneficial?

Most of the literature suggests that it is beneficial. A study conducted in Illnois, USA found that the dietary intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can  promote healthy aging. It is said that Omega 3 fatty acids are effective in various conditions such as in depression, insomnia, MI, fatty liver, cancer, brain development, anxiety, arthritis, etc. But according to the study published in The New England Journal of Medicine the people who consumed fish in diet regularly every week omega 3 supplement wasn’t beneficial to them. Also according to a study conducted in UK omega 3 fatty acid was not found effective in arthritis patients.

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The results of randomized controlled trials during pregnancy suggest that omega-3 Fatty acids (PUFA) supplementation may result in modest increases in length of gestation/pregnancy, thereby decreasing the chances of preterm birth, especially in women with low omega-3 fatty acid consumption.

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Also read our article on:

समय नपुग्दै जन्मिएका बच्चा जोगाउन हामी कतिको सक्षम ?

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The Side effects

Although the side effects of omega-3 supplements are usually mild like unpleasant taste, bad breath, bad-smelling sweat, headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea.

Several large studies have linked higher blood levels of long-chain omega-3s with higher risks of prostate cancer. Omega-3 supplements may even interact with drugs that affect blood clotting.

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Summing up

Though, Omega-3 supplements may be useful in some cases, and that the side effects seem to be minor. They ought to be taken with caution, more so if one is on blood thinning agents. So taking advice from medical personnel before taking any supplements or mentioning about the supplements you are taking during the doctor visit is extremely important. Let it not be that a side effect from this is taken as a new disease condition and you are prescribed a drug which isn’t necessary for you at all.

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Dr Binaya Shrestha

Assistant Professor of Pharmacology

Kathmandu Medical College

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