Research has shown that taking fish oil can prevent several illnesses, such as stroke and heart diseases, which are among the highest contributors to deaths in the US.
Fish oil has also been associated with many benefits to the body. These benefits are largely due to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
What is fish oil?
Fish oil is derived from tissues of oily fish like salmon, herring, and tuna. You can consume fish oil by taking supplements or directly eating fish.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fats, which have many benefits to the body, thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects. Omega-3 fats are also known as long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (or PUFAs).
There are two main omega-3 acids found in fish oil, namely docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Fish oil contains two main omega-3 fatty acids, namely DHA and EPA. The nutritional value of fish oil will depend on the source of the fish oil and the product itself.
Here are some important benefits of fish oil;
There is a popular belief that fish oil is good for your brain. But how exactly does fish oil impact your mental health?
Well, research suggests that consuming omega-3, DHA to be specific, boosts literacy levels and behavior improvement in children with ADHD. With the brain consisting of 60% fats, and the majority of it being omega-3 fatty acids, supplementing it is, therefore, crucial for optimal brain function.
Another study conducted in 2012, shows that children between the age of 6 and 12 with ADHD registered an improvement in academic performance, aggressiveness, and restlessness after consuming omega-3 supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids can help to alleviate pain and inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. A study conducted on Omega-3 fish oil supplements indicated that these supplements work similarly to NSAIDs in relieving arthritic pain. However, fish oils are preferred because they are safer for long-term use and only produce mild side effects.
3. Cardiovascular Disease
For more than 20 years, the American Heart Association has been recommending Omega-3 fish oil for treating and managing cardiovascular diseases, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. The association advises patients with heart diseases to combine DHA, which is an important bioactive compound for the proper functioning of the heart and cardiovascular, with EPA.
Studies have also indicated that victims of heart attacks who took omega-3 fatty acids improved the overall functioning of their hearts. Further research also shows that people who consumed fish oil are highly unlikely to die of heart disease
4. Skin and Hair
Fish oil has many benefits for the skin. It regulates the production of fats and fat-soluble vitamins to keep your skin smooth and elastic. Besides, it boosts proper hydration and reduces sun-induced inflammation, leaving your skin looking healthier.
Scientific studies also reveal that fish oil minimizes signs of photoaging, dermatitis, skin cancer, cutaneous wounds, allergic reactions, psoriasis, and provides relief from sunburn.
Further research indicates that taking fish oil can help in reducing the effects of eczema, thanks to its ability to decrease leukotriene B4’s response, which is a hallmark of eczema.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also essential for healthy hair. Deficiency of EPA and DHA can lead to common hair conditions like dandruff, and thinning of the hair.
5. Alzheimer’s Disease
There has been lots of research to determine the potential of fish oil in treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Most results, including a study by the FASB Journal, indicate that the essential fatty acids present in the fish oil help to curtail age-related cognitive decline and atrophy.
Similar research carried out at Rhode Island Hospital studied the connection between fish oil supplements and cognitive decline indicators. The researchers discovered that adults who use fish oil supplements recorded less cognitive decline and cerebral atrophy compared to those who don’t.
Fish oil has been used as an ingredient in making some cancer drugs for colon, breast, and prostate cancer in order to boost their effectiveness. According to scientific studies, fish oil contains Docosahexaenoic acid, which can decrease the growth of tumors and enhance the efficacy of cisplatin, a drug used during chemotherapy.
Also, a 2013 scientific review that examined the effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on prostate cancer prevention, found out that these fatty acids had antiproliferative effects on malignant cancer cells.
7. Depression and Anxiety
Studies conducted on Omega-3 fatty acids indicate that these fatty acids are instrumental for the growth and functioning of the central nervous system. According to the research, people who lacked omega-3 PUFAs in their diet, end up experiencing mood disorders, while those who supplemented it could easily manage and treat depression and other related mood disorders.
Another research carried out in 2017 and published in the Journal of Integrative Neuroscience, found out that omega-3 PUFAs could provide antidepressant effects in two ways. They could directly affect the properties of the membranes in the brain or act as an anti-inflammatory.
8. Weight Management
A study conducted in 2007 and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that fish oil supplements when combined with regular exercises can get rid of body fat and improves your overall heart health. According to the study, fish oils add HDL cholesterol to the body, increases blood circulation, and lower triglyceride.
9. Diabetes Complications
According to research conducted by Brain Research, fish oil can help alleviate cognitive impairment brought about by diabetes. The research discovered that fish oil works by preventing the damage of hippocampus cells in the brain that act as spatial memory.
The study further indicated that fish oil plays an important role in reducing the effects of diabetes complications caused by oxidative stress.
10. Eye/Vision Related Disorders
Combining omega-e fatty acids with lutein and zeaxanthin has proved to be effective in slowing age-related macular degeneration. This combination creates a strong antioxidant that absorbs excess light and prevents damage to the eye by harmful free radicals.
DHA is a dominant component of the retinal phospholipids in the outer segments of photoreceptors. As such, it helps protect the eyes against AMD, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenesis properties.
11. Fertility and Pregnancy
Consumption of mega-3 can impact your sex life positively. Research shows that fish oils can support fertility in men and women. It contains DHA whose major function is to promote mobility and improve the health of sperms in men.
In women, fish oils aid in balancing hormones and cycles, which are critical in supporting fertility. In addition, it can be used to treat the main causes of infertility, such as endometriosis.
Research carried out by the American Pregnancy Association reveals that EPA and DHA levels reduce in women going into and during pregnancy. This is because the fetus derives DHA from the mother through the placenta. The DHA is then used for the development of the fetal brain, nervous system, and eyes.
And it’s not only that, the Omega-3 fatty acids play a major role in supporting pregnancy, during labor, and when delivering.
Fish Oil Deficiency
Both omega-6 and omega-3 fats are essential for the normal functioning of the body. However, if they are not balanced, they can lead to illnesses. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3s for a healthy person should be 2:1. If you consume excess omega-6 fatty acids without omega-3 fats, you might experience inflammation and eventually chronic diseases.
Omega-6 fats come from fried foods and fast foods. Research shows that taking too many omega-6 and less omega-3 fats can cause diseases like;
· Heart Disease
· Fertility issues
· Autoimmune diseases, among others
In extreme cases, a lack of omega-3 fatty acids may even result in death.
Supplement Dosage Recommendations
Wild-caught fish like salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. You can also supplement with omega-3 fish oil or go for cod liver oil.
How much fish oil should you take per day for best results?
There is no set standard amount of fish oil that you can take per day. However, it is suggested that a dosage of anywhere between 500 to 1000 milligrams of fish oil per day should give you great results.
To put this into context, one can of tuna fish or one serving of salmon contains at least 500 milligrams of omega-3s. The American Heart Association recommends eating no less than two servings of fish oil per week.
Besides taking fish oil through your diet, you can also opt for fish oil pills to provide your body with enough omega-3 fatty acids. It is essential to note that just like with anything else, taking excess fish oil doesn’t always translate to more benefits. You should instead take enough fish oil to have a balanced omega-3 to omega-6 fats ratio. Fish oil supplements can be consumed at any time, but it's best to take them during mealtime.
Risks and Side Effects
Some users of fish oil supplements have reported mild side effects. Some of these side effects include;
To prevent such side effects, ensure you only use high-quality supplements at the recommended dosage. Taking supplements with meals also reduces the possibilities of side effects.
If you are under medication or have conditions like bleeding disorders, diabetes, or fish allergy, ensure you speak to your doctor before using any fish oil supplements.
Omega-3 fats are essential fatty acids that we need to keep our bodies healthy. Our body does not make these fatty acids, so we need to get them from our diet or fish oil supplements.
While there are many fish oil supplements, you need to select quality supplements to get maximum benefits of fish oil. Some of the science-backed benefits of fish oil supplements include; cancer, heart diseases, fertility, and many more.
It’s also advisable to take enough omega-3 fatty acids per day. While there is no specific recommended daily dosage, you should aim at taking about 500 to 1000 milligrams of omega-3 per day.