Skin and eye problems can be signs of omega-3 and omega-6 deficiency.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids deficiencies are linked to dry eye syndrome, dermatitis such as eczema and dry and rough skin.
Dietary consumption of fish oil or taking fish oil extract can help treat skin disorders such as dermatitis, skin cancer, and skin infection.
The three main omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential as our body cannot make it.
Fish is a good source of EPA and DHA while ALA is mainly found in plant oils.
Walnuts, chia seeds, soybean, hemp seed and flaxseed oils are high in ALA whereas salmon, trout, sardines, and mackerel are high in EPA and DHA.
A diet high in sunflower, peanut oils and corn, which are low in ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) but high in LA (linolenic acid), can also cause omega-3 deficiency.
Gamma-linolenic acid or GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid found to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Evening primrose oil and borage oil are rich in GLA and dietary supplementation of these reduces skin dryness and dermatitis.
Patients with atopic dermatitis (eczema) have been shown to have lower Dihomo-GLA that is synthesized directly from GLA.
Treating dry eye syndrome
Low level of essential fatty acids like alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in the body can cause dry eye syndrome.
This is a condition in which tears are not able to make enough moisture and lubrication for the eyes.
It causes redness, soreness, dryness, irritation, blurriness, pain, and a sandy or gritty feeling.
A study by Professor Reza Dana and colleagues shows that topical drop application of ALA will significantly reduce the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
In a different study, consumption of tuna has been shown to reduce the risk of dry eye syndrome.
The risk of dry eye syndrome was reduced 68 percent in women who had five servings of tuna per week compared to women who only had one serving of tuna per week.
Dr Debra Schaumberg, the senior author of the study, said:
“We are accustomed to the mantra ‘you are what you eat’ and our study suggests that this also applies to a person’s vision.
Based on this report, preventing dry eye syndrome is another potential reason to follow a diet rich in tuna and other foods plentiful in omega 3 fatty acids.”
Boosting cognitive function
With ageing, DHA deficiency can occur resulting in impaired memory, learning processed, and age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Dietary intake of DHA supports antioxidant activity, improves membrane fluidity and increases the expression of several proteins that are key for improving memory functions.
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The review was published in the journal Marine Drugs (Huang et al., 2018).