Omega-3s are a type of fatty acid found in oily fish, and cheaper and more conveniently, in marine oil supplements like fish oil and krill oil. They're also known as essential fatty acids, because our bodies are unable to produce them, so they have to be taken in through the diet, particularly the two longer chain fatty acids, docosohexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosopentaenoic acid (EPA).
Out of all the dietary supplements available, omega-3 fatty acids have some of the most compelling science supporting their benefits. These fatty acids are effective in the prevention and treatment of a huge array of conditions, including cardiovascular disease, arthritis and joint pain and inflammation; they offer beneficial support to brain and nerve health, healthy skin and hair, and they are necessary for development during pregnancy.
It seems like a new benefit is discovered for omega-3s every day, and today is no exception, with an American research team announcing that they have found a link between omega-3 fatty acid consumption and the prevention of hearing loss in women.
The finding was drawn from a massive population study which followed more than 60000 female nurses from 1991-2009 and collected a large amount of data on a number of health related issues. Two of the many variables which were monitored were the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and the self reported incidence of hearing loss. The researchers found a significant correlation, concluding that consumption of two or more servings of oily fish a week, or the equivalent omega-3 in supplement form, was protective against loss of hearing.
While it is good to add to the pile of benefits of consuming omega-3, this is by no means the end of the research. Working out why omega-3 fatty acids have a protective effect on hearing loss is the next, exciting step for scientists, which may even reveal new properties of these essential fatty acids. In the meantime, ensuring you're getting sufficient omega-3s is a great bet to maintain optimum health and prevent disease.
Curhan SG, Eavey RD, Wang M, Rimm EB, Curhan GC. Fish and fatty acid consumption and the risk of hearing loss in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Nov;100(5):1371-7.