Fish has always been considered as one of the more nutritious food sources that can be included in one’s diet. Although it already provides a ton of nutritional value on its own, many still choose to take supplements instead. In the Philippines where there is an abundance of seafood, one can consume different types of fish easily. Fish oils specifically refer to omega-3 fatty acids, and even more specifically to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are abundant in cold water oily fish such as mackerel, tuna, salmon, sturgeon, anchovy, sardines, halibut, and cod fish. When taking fish oil supplements, it often comes with additional vitamins and minerals to help increase its absorption and also to help preserve its freshness. These include vitamin E, calcium, iron, vitamins A, C or D. Incidentally, the body cannot produce its own fatty acids that can be derived from fish, which is why it is best to get them either from our diet or from supplements.
When it comes to our health, fish oil can have a lot of good effects on most of the vital organs in our body. Here are some of its beneficial effects:
In a study released by the American Heart Association, omega-3 fatty acids were found to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering bad cholesterol levels and increasing good cholesterol levels in the blood. Because of this effect, cholesterol deposit formation is prevented, which leads to less chances of atherosclerosis (thickening and narrowing of arterial walls) decreasing the incidence of heart attack and stroke.
In a similar study published by the American Journal of Physiology, it was noted that people who took fish oil supplements experienced less mental stress in measurements of cardiovascular health than those who did not. The National Institute of Health mentions 3 conditions for which fish oils are highly recommended: hypertriglyceridemia (high triglyceride levels), hypertension, and preventing secondary cardiovascular disease.
Healthy Immune System
Because fish oils increase the activity of chemical mediators like cytokines and eicosanoids which help in boosting one’s immune system, having an adequate level of these fatty acids from fish helps prevent common diseases like colds, cough, and flu.
In a Cochrane study released in 2008 and 2009, evidence showed that individuals with high EPA and DHA levels in the blood from omega-3 supplements were found to experience less depressive symptoms and may be considered as an adjunct therapy for depressed symptoms found in those affected with bipolar disorder. Aside from this, studies showed that the presence of fish oil has been promoted for relieving sadness, anxiety, restlessness, mental fatigue, stress, decreased sexual desire, suicidal tendencies, and other nervous disorders.
Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that progresses as one ages. Various studies published in the Public Library of Science suggests that omega-3 fatty acids help improve memory and delay onset of Alzheimer’s especially in those who are at risk. In a separate study at the Harvard Medical School, they noticed that eating tuna (which is high in omega-3) was associated with a 25% lower risk of cognitive abnormalities and linked to lower risk for strokes and higher rate cognitive decline.
Fish oils have always been known to help with any type of inflammatory disease. Studies show that regular consumption of fish oil is helpful for those who suffer from chronic inflammatory diseases, even treating gastrointestinal disorders such as Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis. Aside from disorders in the digestive system, fish oil also seems to help with other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism. It seems to reduce impact of enzymes that destroy cartilage in osteoarthritis specifically, which leads to less symptoms associated with osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis.
Although increased intake of omega-3 (particularly DHA) has shown improvement in bone mineral content and structure for rats, there has been a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientists that it (referring to EPA) might also protect against bone loss during a space flight.
In pregnancy, the benefits of fish oil for the baby far outweigh the effects on the mother. It helps in the development of both the eyes and the brain of the child and has been known to decrease incidence of premature births and miscarriages. Not only that, regular intake of fish oil has also been associated with less severe symptoms of post-partum depression and mood swings.
Fish oil has been known to improve one’s vision and helps in avoiding age-related macular degeneration and also seems to improve those who experience dry eyes.
Hair Care and Skin Care
Fish oil has been shown to improve the condition of dry skin particularly those associated with eczema, psoriasis, rashes, and other chronic conditions of the skin. It has also been associated with shiny, healthy hair because of the stimulating properties of omega-3 fatty acids, plus it also leads to proper hair development and hair loss prevention.
In a study conducted at the University of California, the length of telomeres (part of our DNAs) were found to be associated with cellular regeneration. They noticed that in the presence of long telomeres, greater cellular growth was noted. With greater cell regeneration, aging can actually be delayed or even prevented especially with the protective effects of the omega-3 fatty acids. They also associated longer telomeres with lower incidence of coronary heart disease.
In a study conducted by the University of South Australia, they found out that fish oil supplements when taken while doing aerobic exercise made for a very fast fat-loss combination. Adults who were exercising while taking the fish oil supplements with an underlying metabolic disorder had a significant reduction in body fat stores, particularly abdominal fat, compared to those who were just taking the fish oil supplements or doing exercises alone.
Like any other medication or supplement, fish oil must be taken only in moderate and prescribed amounts. Dietary sources of fish oils are more ideal than supplements, but should be baked, roasted, broiled or grilled to derive maximum benefits from the fish. Consult your doctor first prior to taking fish oil supplements to make sure that no other medication or condition you may have will decrease its efficacy or counter its effects. Remember anything should be taken in moderation. Any excess can lead to toxic levels and have adverse effects on the body.