omega 3 foods

Animal and vegetable sources of omega-3 acids as salmon, avocado, linseed, eggs, butter, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, parsley leaves and rapeseed oil (© airborne77 - stock.adobe.com)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine have uncovered significant details regarding how the genes of African-American and Hispanic-American individuals affect their utilization of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These findings pave the way for “precision nutrition,” a concept wherein personalized diets, specifically catering to individual bodily needs, can lead to healthier, extended lives.

Omega-3 and Omega-6 are types of “healthy fats.” While present in various foods, they are also commonly consumed as supplements. Omega-3 is essential for maintaining a robust immune system and possibly reduces heart disease risks. On the other hand, Omega-6 also supports the immune system, along with other health benefits.

These fatty acids are crucial for cell health. Higher blood levels of these fatty acids correlate with lower risks of diseases like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, breast cancer, and more.

Past studies primarily centered on how genes, especially in people of European descent, mediate the body’s capacity to benefit from Omega-3 and Omega-6.

“People of diverse ancestries have some distinct features in their DNA, and we can find this genetic variation if we include diverse participants in research,” says study author Dr. Ani Manichaikul, of UVA’s Center for Public Health Genomics and Department of Public Health Sciences, in a university release. “The results from this study bring us a step closer to considering a full spectrum of genetic variation to predict which individuals are at increased risk of fatty acid deficiencies.”

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Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids; Healthy Mediterranean diet foods
(© samael334 – stock.adobe.com)

To delve deeper into these genetic variances, researchers analyzed data from over 1,400 Hispanic-Americans and over 2,200 African-Americans, sourced from the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) consortium, an international entity for extensive genetic studies.

Many previous findings concerning fatty acid metabolism in Europeans were also observed in Hispanic and African ancestries. Yet, distinct differences emerged. Dr. Manichaikul’s team discovered previously unrecognized genetic sources that influenced fatty acid levels in both Hispanic-Americans and African-Americans. Such disparities help explain why certain ethnic groups metabolize fatty acids distinctively, such as the observed lower fatty acid levels in Hispanic individuals with significant American Indigenous lineage.

These insights form a basis for future research, exploring how these fatty acid variations might influence disease outcomes or immune system functionalities. With “precision nutrition,” targeted diets or supplements could enhance health outcomes.

“Our study found new fatty acid-related genetic variation that we have never found in our earlier studies that did not include as much genetic diversity,” notes Dr. Manichaikul. “In our future research, we will continue to include as much ancestral and genetic diversity as possible, so that we can learn how the vast array of variations in human DNA affect people’s health.”

The study is published in the journal Communications Biology.

10 foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids

Fatty Fish:

  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Anchovies
  • Albacore tuna

Seeds and Nuts:

  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds (especially flaxseed oil)
  • Hemp seeds
  • Walnuts

Plant Oils:

  • Flaxseed oil
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Algal oil (derived from algae and is a great vegetarian/vegan source of omega-3 DHA)

Eggs: Some eggs are fortified with omega-3s, especially those labeled as pasture-raised or omega-3 enriched.

Krill Oil: This is another marine source of omega-3s and can be taken as a supplement.

Grass-fed Meat: Meat from animals that have been raised on grass contains higher amounts of omega-3s than meat from grain-fed animals.

Edamame: Young, green soybeans can be a good source of plant-based omega-3s.

Brussels Sprouts: When cooked, they can provide a small amount of omega-3s.

Algal Oil: This is oil derived from certain types of algae and can be a great source of DHA, especially for vegetarians and vegans.

Seaweed and Algae: These are some of the only plant-based sources of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

If considering supplements, it’s a good idea to discuss with a healthcare provider to determine the best choice and dosage for your individual needs.

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