PORTLAND, OREGON. Research carried out over the past 20 years has clearly shown that omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are essential elements in human nutrition. The primary source of DHA and EPA is fatty fish and oils from the tissues of such fish. DHA is a vital component of the phospholipids in cell membranes throughout the body, but is particularly abundant in the brain, retina, and sperm. Fish oils either from whole fish or in the form of supplements have been found to aid in preventing or ameliorating coronary heart disease, stroke, lupus, nephropathy (kidney disorders), Crohn's disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis. Fish oils have been found particularly effective in preventing arrhythmias and sudden death from cardiac arrest. Several studies have shown that people who eat fish once or more each week can reduce their risk of sudden cardiac death by 50-70 per cent. EPA has been found to inhibit blood clotting and EPA and DHA inhibit the development of atherosclerosis. Fish oil supplementation also significantly lowers overall triglyceride and cholesterol levels without affecting the level of HDL ("good" cholesterol).
Recent research has shown that the consumption of high fat meals can initiate the development of atherosclerotic deposits. This effect can be substantially reduced by taking fish oil prior to eating such meals. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to fetal development and a deficiency of DHA during gestation can lead to visual impairment and perhaps, lower intelligence quotients.
In summary, omega-3 fatty acids and in particular, DHA and EPA from fish oils, are essential for human development and in the prevention and amelioration of many common disorders. [38 references]
Connor, William E. Importance of n-3 fatty acids in health and disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71 (suppl), January 2000, pp. 171S-75S