Biologic Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acid (ALA or Alpha-linolenic acid)
ALA is an essential fatty acid. Our bodies can not make ALA (omega-3 short chain), therefore it is required in the diet. ALA is the “parent” molecule for the synthesis of long chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
ALA reduces the risk of heart disease. Population studies (171,921 men and women) demonstrate that ALA-rich diets lower the risk of coronary heart disease, ischemic heart disease, nonfatal myocardial infarction, and stroke.
ALA inhibits inflammation. Inflammation is manifested in multiple chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and Alzheimer disease. ALA is a precursor of the eicosanoids that dampen inflammation; promotes production of interleukin-1 an anti-inflammatory molecule; and blocks the formation inflammatory molecules including arachidonic acid, cytokines, platelet-activating factor, and c-reactive protein.
ALA appears to reduce cancer risk. In a human study, participants who ate a Mediterranean diet rich in ALA showed a 61% reduction in cancer risk.
ALA maintains the nervous system. People with ALA deficiencies display poor growth and neurological problems (numbness, weakness, blurred vision). These clinical symptoms are alleviated with dietary ALA.