You may find it unreal but it is true that fat is essential to your health. Our bodies cannot function properly without healthy fats. One of the most important fats needed by our bodies are omega-3s derived from fish oil
Who would not agree with the all the goodness and health benefits of fish oil and eating fish?
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are an elixir for heart and general health.
Since our bodies do not produce these fatty acids, it is important to consume them regularly. And guess what? most people who take omega-3 supplements are not even aware why they are taking it.
According to many studies, fish oil is beneficial for:
- Cardiovascular health
- Helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease
- Improves mental health
- Reverses anxiety or depression
- Helps reduce arthritis pain
- Prevents and kills many cancers
- Help cut oxidative stress and diabetes
- Good for eye health
- Boosts immune system
- Improves nails, skin and hair health
- Improves fertility in men and women
So what is fish oil and why you should care?
As the name suggests, fish oil is the fat or oil that is extracted from the tissue of oily fish like tuna, herring, mackerel anchovies etc. Another source of fish oil is the liver of fishes like cod. This oil is commonly known as cod liver oil.
So what makes fish oil so healthy? it is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids which plays an important role in your brain function, growth, metabolism, digestion, fertility etc according to National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
They are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Though our body can meet the needs of most fats, it cannot produce omega-3 fatty acids. Hence we need to consume these essential fats from our food which are rich in omega-3s or supplement them.
Top three main omega-3s in fish oil are:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) Sourced from fish
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) Sourced from fish
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) Sourced from plants
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) an omega-3 fatty acid that comes from fatty fish. Wild-caught salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies are some of the best fishes sources of EPA and many studies suggest incorporating them into your diets.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) This omega-3 fatty acid is a major part of the human retina, sperm, and cerebral cortex (in the brain).
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) Used by the body to produce energy for the cells.
Top 14 health benefits of omega-3s from fish oil
A recent meta-analysis published in American Journal of Hypertension suggests that EPA and DHA in Omega-3 fatty acids help in reducing blood pressure.
According to the analysis, hypertensive participants who received Omega 3’s DHA and EPA had an average decrease in systolic blood pressure of 4.51 mm Hg, while diastolic pressure fell by an average of 3.05 mm Hg.
It is as effective as making lifestyle changes, exercising, alcohol restriction and cutting salt intake. However, it is effective in people who are already hypertensive.
Omega-3 in fish oil also have the unique ability to cut triglycerides. According to a report published Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA), Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipid, fish oil lower triglyceride levels by reducing the production of VLDL and eliminating excess from the body.
According to many studies, fatty acids from fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties. These very anti-inflammatory properties help prevent and reverse a plethora of cardiovascular diseases and the risk associated with it. Though there are many contradicting studies to the benefits of omegas from fish oil, it should not be a deterrent.
Omega-3 benefits for your heart health, according to experts
- Reduces the chances of heart attack and stroke
- Blood pressure and triglycerides
- It lowers your blood pressure and reduces triglycerides
- They help prevent inflammation of the blood vessels and formation of blood clots.
- Slows down plaque buildup in the arteries and reduces the chances of heart attack and stroke
- Reduces the chances of abnormal heart rhythm and arrhythmias
- Reduces chances of sudden cardiac death in people with heart disease
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease as of today, however, new pieces of evidence suggest that fish oil may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
Apart from other health benefits of omega-3 supplementation, a number of studies have reported that using omega-3 fatty acids supplements may slow cognitive decline and prevent the progression of mental health disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
A study conducted by the researchers at Rhode Island Hospital found that the adults taking fish oil and do not have the genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s known as APOE ε4, experienced much less cognitive decline and brain shrinkage in comparison to those who did not take fish oil.
What it means is that you cannot stop the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or cure it but you can definitely slow down your brain aging and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Mental Health, Anxiety & Depression
Omega-3s are essential for your brain for the fact that the human brain is made up of 60% fats and most of it is omega-3. It plays a vital role in proper brain function.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to improve brain function, help mood swings, increase memory and concentration. A study suggests that high dose supplementing with fish oil may cut some symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (mood swings).
Another study suggests that fish oils may help young people with behavioral problems, especially attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The report in the journal published in PLOS One, omega-3s from oil helps to improve working memory in healthy young adults.
Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids which includes EPA and DHA. These fatty acids block inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins and converted by the body into powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals called resolvins which help reduce swelling and pain.
According to the results of 13 studies involving more than 500 participants, people with rheumatoid arthritis who took omega-3s supplements reported a reduction in joint pain.
Other studies suggest that omega-3s supplements may help RA patients to lower their dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
EPA & DHA from omega-3s together makes fish oil a potential weapon not only against arthritis but many other ailments too.
A growing body of research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of cancer and also help manage certain cancers. It may also help in cancer therapy more effectively according to American Institute of Cancer Research.
Many scientific studies have been conducted around the world and they have found that fish oil can help in preventing and killing various cancers.
Researchers also prove that fish oils not only make conventional cancer drugs more effective, they are equally effective in standalone natural cancer treatment.
Researchers from Mansoura University, Egypt have found that DHA from fish oil can shrink tumors by almost 80 per cent. The study also saw 100% survival in animals using the combination of chemotherapy and omega-3.
Diabetes and Oxidative Stress
New research suggests that Fish oil could help reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. Researchers at Harvard found that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil increase the levels of adiponectin, a hormone which is linked to insulin sensitivity.
It has also been found omega-3s lower triglycerides and apoproteins which are markers of diabetes. A study published in Brain Research suggests that fish oil reduces the risk of diabetes by protecting hippocampus cells from being destroyed.
Oxidative stress has been linked to diseases like diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis, and cancer to name a few. A recent study confirms that fish oil could help reduce oxidative stress and help in reducing diabetic and cardiovascular complications.
Though fish oil has been known to be beneficial to the heart and brain, it is, in fact, great for eye health as well.
Apart from doing all the good for heart and brain, omega-3 from fish oil is rich in DHA and EPA which can boost your eye health as well. It may also reduce the level of cortical cataracts.
There are many studies which suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can help protect adult eyes from macular degeneration, dry eye syndrome. It also decreases the risk of glaucoma and high eye pressure.
Fish oil supplements have always been in the heat for their health benefits. Till now, experts have doubted the role of omega-3 fatty acids and considered it as immunosuppressive.
According to a new study published in Journal of Leukocyte Biology, fish oils rich in DHA enhances the activity of white blood cells (B Cells) and boost the immune system.
Nails, Skin & Hair Health
Fish oil shield your age and improves the health of your hair, skin, and nails.
According to a journal published in Dermato-Endocrinology, omega-3-fatty acids have been referred as agents capable of promoting skin health, hair, and beauty.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin changes like brown spots, dryness, wrinkles are all linked to sun damages. EPA in omega-3 can provide greater protection from sun damage.
PUFAs found in fish oil, can help you improve the hair quality and density. It can also decrease the instances of hair loss and help restore an overall hair cycle balance.
How Much Omega-3 Should I Aim For?
The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times (two servings) a wek. Each serving size of 3.5 ounces of cooked fish, or about ¾ cup of flaked fish. Opt for Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna because they are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Based on the research on various public health organizations including American Heart Institute, World Health Organization, American Dietetic Association etc.
Omega-3 Recommendations are:
Total omega-3 fats: at least 2.5 grams per day
EPA+DHA: 400-500 milligrams per day included within your total omega-3s
The amount of omega-3 fat you need depends on your age and whether you are male or female. Your doctor may increase or decrease this recommendation based on the risks of heart disease or other illnesses. Talk to your doctor or dietitian for more information.
To follow a healthy diet, aim for at least 2 servings of fish per week which provides about 0.3-0.45 grams of EPA and DHA per day.
How much is omega-3 fish oil safe?