Brittle nails and dry skin could signal an omega-3 deficiency

What is omega 3 and why do we need it?

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Our bodies require a range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to stay healthy. However, sometimes it can be difficult to get all of these from diet alone. In some cases this can result in a deficiency.

Omega-3 fatty acids are needed by the body for a multitude of reasons.

They are a family of polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils, nuts and seeds as well as seafood and fish.

Shona Wilkinson, registered consultant nutritionist for Nutrigums, spoke exclusively with to explain more. She warned that a lack of omega-3 could raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.

“Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are key to maintaining the cell membranes throughout the body and crucial for keeping your heart healthy,” she said.

“Omega-3 fatty acids also help to lower triglycerides, a kind of fat that circulates in your blood.

“A high level of triglycerides can put you at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

“It is also crucial for creating the regulating hormones for blood clotting, contraction and relaxation of artery walls which pump blood.

“EPA and DHA found in omega-3 also help with cognitive function, skin health and vision. Omega-3 is essential as the body can’t make it from scratch, it must be ingested through foods such as oily fish, nuts, seeds and leafy vegetables.”

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Symptoms of an omega-3 deficiency

Signs that you could be deficient in omega-3 include brittle nails and dry skin.

Ms Wilkinson said: “There are a number of possible signs that you might not be getting enough omega-3.

“Dry skin can be an indicator, as omega-3 fats help the skin to absorb healthy nutrients and get rid of harmful waste products.

“The same goes for your hair as the same omega-3 fats found in skin cells are also found in hair follicles.

“These essential fats go a long way to nourishing your locks and supporting luscious, thick hair.

“Brittle nails can also be a symptom of deficiency, along with other common symptoms such as poor concentration and general fatigue. Skin rashes and a flaky, itchy scalp can be as a result of not enough omega-3 in the diet.”

What to do if you think you are deficient

“You should always consult a doctor if you think you may be lacking in certain essential nutrients,” she added.

“There are simple ways to up your omega-3 levels, one of these is consuming more nutrient-dense foods.

“Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and anchovies and some shellfish like oysters, clams and mussels are a great source of omega-3.

“Other plant-based sources include flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, spinach and walnuts.

“You may find that increasing the amount of omega-3-rich ingredients in your diet may alleviate deficiency symptoms.

“Some people may benefit from taking an omega-3 supplement, however it’s always a good idea to talk to your GP before taking new supplements.”

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