Everything you need to know about fish oil
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The omega-3 fatty acid deficiency was identified as the sixth leading cause of death among Americans in a 2009 study that looked at 12 dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic “preventable causes of death.” Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in fish and fish oil, have been shown in studies to be protective against several common causes of death, including heart disease and stroke. What advantages does fish oil have? According to studies, these include lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as the signs and symptoms of depression, hypertension, ADHD, joint pain, arthritis, and chronic skin conditions like eczema.
Fish oil consumption has also been linked to improved energy levels, fertility, and pregnancy. Even the FDA has approved prescription fish oil to lower dangerously high triglyceride levels. Because fish oil is one of nature’s richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties, it offers the majority of these benefits.
Let us now know what exactly is fish oil.
The tissues of oily fish are where fish oil is found. Fish oil can be consumed by humans either by eating fish or by taking a supplement. Cold-water, fatty fish like salmon, herring, white fish, sardines, and anchovies are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as n-3 fatty acids or -3 fatty acids, are concentrated in fish oil, which is a food source. Omega-3s are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, to be more precise (or PUFAs).
The majority of the fats we require can be produced by our bodies, but omega-3 fatty acids cannot. We must obtain these necessary fats from omega-3-rich foods or supplements. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid are two crucial omega-3 PUFAs that are responsible for the health benefits of fish oil (EPA). Because they are primarily found in fish, DHA and EPA are sometimes called “marine omega-3s.”
As previously stated, fish oil’s high omega-3 fatty acid content, particularly of DHA and EPA, is its primary nutritional value. You should read the supplement label for specific information because nutritional data varies depending on the product and fish source. For instance, the typical composition of one teaspoon (four grams) of fish oil from sardines is as follows:
4.5 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated fat)
0 milligrams sodium
0 grams fiber
0 grams sugar
0 grams protein
14.9 international units of vitamin D (4 percent DV)
1,084 milligrams omega-3 fatty acids (DV varies by age and gender)
90.6 milligrams omega-6 fatty acids (DV varies by age and gender)
Benefits of fish oil
What is the benefit of fish oil for mental health? Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to a variety of mood and mental health issues throughout one’s lifetime, including ADHD symptoms and associated developmental issues. A 2012 study involving children with ADHD aged 6 to 12 years old discovered “statistically significant improvements” in the following domains among those taking omega-3 supplements: restlessness, aggressiveness, finishing work, and academic performance. Another study discovered that giving children with ADHD more omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, may enhance their behavior and literacy. Given that 60 percent of the brain is made up of fat, the theory that fish oil affects brain function explains how it supposedly works.
2. Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Health
The relationship between fish oil and Alzheimer’s disease has been investigated for a while now with reliable results. Fish oil contains essential fatty acids that are essential for brain health and that can help older adults avoid brain atrophy as well as slow cognitive decline. According to a study in the FASEB Journal, fish oil may act as a natural defense against Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.
Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital found that adults taking fish oil (who had not yet developed Alzheimer’s) experienced significantly less cognitive decline and brain shrinkage compared to adults not taking fish oil when they looked at the relationship between fish oil supplementation and indicators of cognitive decline.
Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may help with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, particularly joint pain. Another study found that taking supplements containing omega-3 fish oil reduced arthritis pain just as effectively as taking NSAIDs. Given its extremely low risk of side effects, fish oil may be a safer alternative to NSAIDs when used long-term for pain management.
Research has shown that fish oil may aid in the prevention and treatment of several cancers, including breast, prostate, and colon. It might also improve the efficacy of standard cancer treatments. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, in particular, are abundant in intravenous fish oil lipid emulsions and have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. A 2013 scientific review examined the relationship between omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and the prevention of prostate cancer. Researchers concluded that there is a lot of evidence pointing to the antiproliferative effects of omega-3 fatty acids in cancer cell lines, animal models, and people.
The results of research on omega-3 intake about the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, the most common cancer in women, were evaluated in another scientific review in 2014. According to the review, EPA, DHA, and ALA can all inhibit the growth of breast tumors in different ways. The use of omega-3s as “a nutritional intervention in the treatment of breast cancer to enhance conventional therapeutics, or potentially lowering effective doses,” per this review, is supported by strong evidence.
A 2016 study also discovered “very high fish consumption in early adulthood to midlife may be associated with decreased risk of breast cancer.” Endometrial cancer, which affects women, appears to be helped by fish oil as well. A 2015 study found that “long chain omega-3 intake associated with reduced endometrial cancer risk only in normal-weight women,” according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
5. Cardiovascular Illness
The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fish oil may help prevent or treat a variety of cardiovascular diseases. In comparison to EPA, DHA appears to be an especially advantageous bioactive compound for heart, cardiovascular, and brain function, according to a 2019 systematic review. Despite high intakes of fat and cholesterol, some studies have found that eating fish can prevent heart disease. Fish oil has been shown to affect several coronary heart diseases risk factors, such as hypertension, high triglyceride levels, and high LDL cholesterol.
According to some studies, omega-3 fatty acids are also linked to higher heart attack victim survival rates. According to a study in the medical journal Circulation, people who took a high dose of fish oil daily for six months after having a heart attack had their hearts function better overall and had a decrease in biomarkers of systemic inflammation.
Despite stating that “research indicates that omega-3 supplements do not reduce the risk of heart disease,” the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health also informs us that “people who eat seafood one to four times a week are less likely to die from heart disease.”
6. Anxiety and depression
There is growing evidence that n-3 PUFAs may contribute to depression, according to a 2017 study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, and they “deserve greater research efforts.” The majority of studies indicate that PUFAs have a modestly positive effect on depressive symptoms when compared to placebo.
It has been established that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the growth and operation of the central nervous system. The lack of omega-3 PUFAs in the diet may contribute to the development of mood disorders, according to evidence from randomized placebo-controlled trials, and supplementation may offer a new option for treating depression and other mood-related issues. Several mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory effects and direct effects on membrane properties in the brain, are thought to contribute to the antidepressant effect of omega-3 PUFAs, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Integrative Neuroscience.
7. Complications of diabetes
According to a study that appeared in the journal Brain Research, fish oil can be extremely beneficial for diabetics. Fish oil protects the hippocampus cells from degeneration, according to research, which lowers the risk of diabetics developing cognitive deficits. Additionally, the study demonstrated that fish oil may lessen oxidative stress, which is a major contributor to the emergence of diabetes complications in the microvascular and cardiovascular systems.
8. Eye and vision-related conditions
According to studies, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids together can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. There have been conflicting findings regarding the ability of omega-3 fatty acids to slow the progression of advanced macular degeneration (AMD).
In the outer segments of the eyes, retinal photoreceptors contain a significant amount of DHA as a lipid. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenesis properties have been demonstrated to be effective in preventing AMD.
9. Hair and Skin
The ability to nourish the skin with fats and fat-soluble vitamins, which aid in maintaining a smooth, elastic texture, is one of the many benefits of fish oil for the skin. Additionally, there is proof that fish oil guards against melanogenesis, skin cancer, allergic reactions, dermatitis, cutaneous wounds, and signs of photoaging (wrinkles).
Fish oil can reduce inflammation, which is one of the main factors contributing to skin health. Fish oil supplements have even been shown in studies to lessen sunburn pain and inflammation. Dietary deficiencies in EPA and DHA are linked to age spots, sun spots, psoriasis, dandruff, thinning hair, and other skin conditions.
In one study, people who consumed fish oil with 1.8 grams of EPA saw a significant improvement in their eczema symptoms after 12 weeks. According to researchers, fish oil’s capacity to lower leukotriene B4, an inflammatory compound that contributes to eczema, maybe the cause of these effects.
10. Pregnancy and Fertility
How could fish oil benefit your sex life? Omega-3 fish oil consumption may enhance both male and female fertility, according to recent studies. DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid byproduct that is essential for sperm mobility and health, provides one of the biggest advantages for men. Additionally, fish oil has been shown to support female fertility by lowering inflammation, balancing hormones, and managing menstrual cycles. It might also be useful for treating ailments that can impair fertility, like polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis.
Fish oil is also very advantageous for expectant mothers and their unborn children. A woman needs even more omega-3 than usual during pregnancy and while nursing. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the majority of American women are deficient in EPA and particularly DHA before becoming pregnant, and their levels decrease even further during pregnancy as the placenta provides DHA from the mother’s tissue to the fetus.
A crucial component of the fetal brain, eyes and nervous system is omega-3 DHA. Omega-3 fatty acids are still essential for a baby’s healthy immune system and brain development after birth. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids appear to lessen the possibility of early delivery. Consuming EPA and DHA can support successful labor and delivery outcomes. After giving birth, the mother’s mood and general well-being are also helped to return to normal by this omega-3 pair.
It is possible to link an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to a number of health issues affecting Americans. While omega-6 fatty acids aren’t always bad for you, they can contribute to chronic disease if consumed in large quantities without omega-3s. Omega-6 to omega-3 ratios are currently 20:1 in the average American, whereas a healthy ratio is preferable to be around 2:1. In other words, there are typically 14–25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids in the typical American diet.
The excessive consumption of foods high in omega-6 fatty acids is the main contributor to an omega-3 deficiency. Fried foods, fast food, and packaged foods with vegetable oils are sources of omega-6 (like soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, and corn oil). According to research, having a lower omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio can lower the risk of developing a variety of common chronic diseases, such as ADHD, asthma, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and more.
Drug Interactions, Risks, and Side Effects
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When taken at recommended doses, omega-3 supplements usually only have minor side effects, if any at all. Three grams of fish oil per day is the maximum amount that the American Heart Association deems “safe.” “Patients taking more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from capsules should do so only under a physician’s care,” the recommendation reads. The majority of doctors would consider consuming 2 grams or 2,000 milligrams or more per day to be a megadose.
Although they are typically well tolerated, side effects of fish oil can include:
- bad breath
- loose stools/diarrhea
- Taking a high-quality supplement may reduce the likelihood of any unwanted side effects. It’s also a good idea to take fish oil pills with meals to reduce side effects.
If you are currently taking any medication or have any ongoing health issues, you should consult your doctor before using this product. If you are known to be allergic to fish or shellfish, you should also talk to your doctor.
Use these supplements with extra caution if you have a bleeding disorder, bruise easily, or take blood-thinning medications because high doses of omega-3 fatty acids can increase your risk of bleeding. People without a history of bleeding disorders or who are not currently taking any medications are also at risk for bleeding. You should only take supplements with your doctor’s approval if you have type 2 diabetes. When taking fish oil supplements, people with type 2 diabetes may experience increases in fasting blood sugar levels.
- Since our bodies are unable to produce omega-3 fatty acids, we must obtain them through diet. The next best thing is a high-quality fish oil supplement if the diet is insufficient to meet our needs.
- Fish oil supplements can be used both as a treatment and a preventative measure for health issues. All of the remarkable advantages of fish oil, from eczema and fertility to heart disease and many types of cancer, have been and are still being supported by scientific studies.
- The best fish oil supplements are those made in accordance with strict guidelines and that have undergone extensive testing for contaminants like mercury that pose a health risk.
- Although there isn’t a currently established standard recommendation for fish oil dosage, most recommendations advise us to aim for a daily dose that provides between 500 to 1,000 milligrams of omega-3s.