Omega-3 Fish Oil: 13 Research-Backed Benefits for Your Health
More and more people stand up for the consumption of natural products. In this sense, fish oil has gained a great popularity in recent years due to the incredible benefits it produces for health. This is mostly because of the goodness to its high content of Omega-3 fatty acids. These are polyunsaturated fats, also called essential fatty acids, a type of fat that the body cannot create and must be supplied through food and supplements. The body needs Omega-3 to work properly, since it participates in the formation of cell membranes and hormones, the proper functioning of the nervous system (neurons and chemical transmissions) and the immune system, retinal formation, between other things.
Fish oil can be consumed by eating fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, salmon, canned sardines, herring, and tuna. But, you can also turn to fish oil supplements in pills (capsules), which more and more companies commercialize and usually at low prices. Supplements usually also include small amounts of vitamin E to optimize the conservation, and calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C or D.
The following are the surprising benefits of taking fish oil either through food or supplements and the scientific evidence that endorses it.
1. Against arteriosclerosis
Fish oil seems to slow or slightly reverse the progress of atherosclerosis in the arteries that supply blood to the heart (coronary arteries) and helps reduce cholesterol by limiting its absorption in the intestine. Moreover, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the cholesterol-lowering ability of fish oil is boosted when combined with vitamin B12 intake.
2. Friend of the heart
Natural Standard claims that there is strong scientific evidence on the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids in reducing mortality from cardiovascular disease, their daily consumption is associated with a lower risk of heart failure.
3. Stroke prevention
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database reports that moderate consumption of fish (once or twice a week) would reduce the risk of strokes by 27%. However, it also warns that consuming large quantities (more than 46 grams of fish per day) would increase the risk of a stroke.
4. Ally against hypertension
The NLM notes that the omega-3 fatty acid present in fish oil helps expand blood vessels and this causes blood pressure to drop. A 2007 study by the University of Connecticut found that fish oil had a significant effect on lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension.
5. For diabetes
A Harvard School of Public Health study found that fish oil supplements raise the level of adiponectin in the blood, a protein hormone that has positive effects on metabolism, such as regulating glucose. Research has shown that by increasing levels of this protein, the risks of diabetes are reduced.
6. Lowering high triglycerides
There is solid scientific evidence indicating that omega 3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil supplements can significantly lower triglyceride levels. A dose of four grams per day would lower triglyceride levels by up to 40% according to Natural Standard.
7. Fighting against rheumatoid arthritis
According to Natural Standard, there is solid scientific evidence on the effects of fish oil on the immune system of people with rheumatoid arthritis. Studies showed an improvement in morning stiffness and joint pain with regular consumption of fish oil supplements.
8. For strong bones
According to the NLM, standalone fish oil intake or combined with evening primrose oil (Oenothera Biennis) and calcium would reduce the loss of bone mass and increase bone density in the spine and the femur in the elderly with osteoporosis.
9. Breast cancer prevention
A recent study notes that postmenopausal women taking supplements of fish oil may reduce their risk of breast cancer. The study focused on the potential health benefits of 15 different “special” supplements to see if they affected the risk of breast cancer, said the study lead author Emily White, an epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “The only one that had an effect was the fish oil,” she said.
In the study, White and her colleagues asked 35,016 women in Washington State who were between the ages of 50 and 76 and had gone through menopause to answer questions about the use of “non-vitamin and mineral supplements. All were participants in the vitamins and lifestyle cohort study (VITAL) and none had a history of breast cancer.
After six years of follow-up, 880 cases of breast cancer were detected. When researchers looked at women taking fish oil supplements, they found they had a 32 percent lower risk of breast cancer, which appeared to be limited to invasive ductal breast cancer, the most common type.
The study appeared in the July 2010 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
10. Helps with chemotherapy
Cancer patients taking fish oil would prevent some of the side effects of chemotherapy, such as excessive weight loss and decreased strength, a study from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, showed.
11. Good for the brain
According to a study conducted by the University of Aberdeen, fish oil raises the IQ scores and slows down the aging process, while the NLM claims that it has earned the reputation of “brain food” because it aids for depression, psychosis, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other disorders. This is because it helps maintain the function of dopamine and serotonin, the two hormones according to experts play an important role to develop some of the above-mentioned conditions.
12. For eye health
Dry eye is more common as people age. The problem develops when the eye cannot maintain a suitable tear film. Dry eye can be produced by hormonal changes due to menopause. There are also many other causes that include environmental or workplace conditions (such as the wind or air conditioning), sun exposure, smoking or other cigarette smoke, or anti-cold medications or allergies.
While artificial tears or ointments are common treatments for dry eye, studies suggest that consuming omega-3 foods may also alleviate this problem. Omega-3 oils appear to improve the function of the meibomian glands of the eye that produce the oily component of tears. Improving the functioning of these glands can reduce dry eye symptoms according to the National Eye Institute.
A study of more than 32,000 women in the Women’s Health Study (WHS) published in 2005 determined that those who consumed more omega-3 fish had a 17 percent lower likelihood of developing dry eye compared to women who consumed few or no sea products. More recently, a study in the International Journal of Ophthalmology concluded that omega-3 fatty acids “really play a role in relieving dry eye syndrome”.
Omega-3 oils can also help in the treatment of other eye diseases. These oils may reduce the development of abnormal blood vessels that occur in age-related macular degeneration and other vascularity diseases of the retina.
13. For wrinkles
A study published in the Journal of Lipid Research (JLR) found that the components of Omega 3 block the release of enzymes induced by UV rays and help maintain the cellular function of the skin in good condition. Putting fish oil on the wrinkles would rehydrate the skin.
What the FDA says
In September 2004, Dr. Lester M. Crawford, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner, issued a statement stipulating that Omega 3 manufacturers were allowed to claim benefits for the health of these fatty acids in products labeling.
Consult your doctor first
Talk to your doctor about the convenience of taking fish oil pills and what amounts are needed since they can interact with some medications such as aspirin and hypertension drugs, analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs.