How taking fish oil may help fight inflammation and improve mental health
The benefits of fish oil come mainly from its ability to reduce inflammation in your body.
This makes it ideal for boosting heart health, especially for people with preexisting heart issues.
Fish oil may also help fight off depression because it can increase serotonin levels.
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Fish oil is a natural oil found in fatty fish like salmon, herring, and sardines. But you can also take it as a supplement.
The majority of health benefits in fish oil comes from the omega-3 fatty acids it contains, which help support the heart, brain, and general wellbeing.
Here's what researchers have found so far on the health benefits of consuming fish oil regularly.
1. Helps fight inflammation
Fish is one of the best providers of omega-3 fatty acids — a category of fats that you might be lacking in your diet.
"Americans typically have a much higher intake of omega-6 fats which are prevalent in refined vegetable oils from soybeans, corn and sunflower seeds," says Julie Stefanski, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
Omega-6 acids aren't necessarily bad for you, but the ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats is important for your health. Having enough omega-6 fats but too little omega-3 fats can put you at risk for chronic inflammation, Stefanski says.
Fighting chronic inflammation is vital, since inflammation can increase your risk of diseases like cancer, arthritis, and heart disease .
2. Supports heart health
Taking fish oil may help boost heart health, especially for people already suffering from heart problems.
A 2017 review found that taking fish oil supplements can help prevent heart attacks in people with coronary artery disease. The researchers also found that regularly consuming fish oil reduced the risk of hospitalization in people with heart failure— however, they say more research is needed to confirm these results.
This may be partly due to the anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil. "Reducing inflammation is a key factor in reducing risk of cardiovascular disease," Stefanski says.
To get heart health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fatty fish like salmon per week. One serving is ¾ cup or 3.5 ounces of cooked fish.
3. May improve brain function
Your brain uses the omega-3 fats in fish oil, among other nutrients, to build brain cells, which is especially important as you age.
For example, studies have shown that people with degenerative neurological disorders often have low levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) — a type of omega-3 fatty acid.
That might explain why a 2010 study found that older adults who took 900 mg of DHA supplements daily for six months performed better on memory and learning tests than those without any treatment.
4. May help improve mental health
Depression has been linked to higher levels of inflammation, therefore fish oil's anti-inflammatory properties may help fight off mental health issues like depression.
A 2016 review of 13 studies found that taking omega-3 supplements helps to improve depression symptoms like sadness and fatigue by reducing inflammation in your brain cells.
EPA fatty acids, one of the main acids in fish oil, are especially helpful for depression because they increase your levels of serotonin, an important mood-boosting chemical. So it may be best to look for fish oil supplements with a "high EPA" label.
The review also found that omega-3 supplements work especially well when combined with antidepressants.
5. Supports fetus development during pregnancy
Fish oil provides nutrients that are essential for the development of the baby and the health of the parent, Stefanski says.
Studies show that taking daily fish oil supplements with at least 300 mg of DHA during pregnancy can help a baby's healthy development by:
Supporting vision development
Improving the development of brain functions
Lowering the risk of allergies
But it's important to know that some fish contain relatively high levels of mercury, which can damage a fetus's developing brain and nervous system. This is why experts recommend avoiding large fish like swordfish, king mackerel, and shark. Smaller fish like salmon, light tuna, and sardines tend to have a lower risk.
"Some women who are concerned about mercury levels in fish may choose to avoid fish during pregnancy and turn to supplements," Stefanski says. If you decide to use supplements, look for products that conduct third-party testing for mercury content, Stefanski says, as this can provide a more accurate measure of mercury levels.
Fish oil can have a variety of health benefits thanks to its rich supply of omega-3 fatty acids. Adding fish to your diet or taking daily supplements may help improve your heart and brain health, as well as support a healthy pregnancy.
You can get fish oil in your diet by eating fish every week or by taking daily supplements.
Fish oil & Omega-3 benefits
Of all the dietary support available today, fish oil is one of the most widely used and enjoyed supplements. It’s especially common among people who don’t consume much seafood in general, as well as pregnant women. However, given the fact that the body doesn’t naturally make the Omega-3 essential fatty acids, everyone can benefit from taking these nutritional supplements.
Fish oil is essential
As the name suggests, this oil is the fat extracted from fish tissue, rich in Omega-3s, which include EPA, DHA, and DPA. The modern western diet contains more Omega-6 than Omega-3, which may distort the all-important ratio of fatty acids. The benefits of Omega-3 can’t be emphasized enough as our bodies need essential Omega-3 to function normally.
Fish oil is good for cholesterol and lower blood pressure
Omega-3’s EPA and DHA contribute to the normal function of the heart, the maintenance of blood triglyceride levels, and blood pressure.
Beyond cardiovascular health, Omega-3 supports the maintenance of normal brain function and vision. Heart, brain, and eyesight protection, alone, is a reason enough to take fish oil. Zinzino’s BalanceOil+, however, makes it non-negotiable.
BalanceOil+ is based on a scientifically certified measure of pure fish oil, pre-harvest extra virgin olive oil and naturally sourced Vitamin D3. Designed to gently restore the body’s Omega balance, adjust, and maintain EPA and DHA levels, and protect cells from oxidative stress, this is so much more than fish oil.
Omega-3 helps more than the heart, brain & cell health
It helps maintain blood calcium levels, normal bones, muscle function, teeth, cell division, and immunity. Better still, oleic acid gives additional support to the heart, with the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.
Enjoy all 15 EFSA-approved health benefits, with a simple daily dose of BalanceOil+ (that’s based on an individual’s BalanceTest results).
To maximize fish oil health benefits, quality matters
The Zinzino BalanceOil+ range contains sustainably sourced fish oil derived from small pelagic fish such as anchovies, sardines, and mackerel, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. The product is certified by Friend of the Sea, the global certification standard for products and services that respect and protect the marine environment. It means that the fish oil is natural, molecularly tested for toxins to guarantee safety, freshness, and unparalleled purity. However, all high-quality, pure Omega-3 supplements go through a refining process that does not only rid the fish oil from contaminants, the polyphenols are lost, too. These powerful micronutrients packed with antioxidant capacities are naturally found in oily fish to stabilize oxidation, optimize absorption in the body and make sure the Omega 3’s get to work in the cell membranes of your body.
Extra virgin olive oil optimize absorption
Polyphenols from pre-harvest antioxidant-rich olives are the closest you’ll get to the ones found naturally in fish, and Zinzino was one of the first brands to add this antioxidant-packed ingredient to their scientifically proven formulation. The unique formulation of the Zinzino BalanceOil+ range is a synergistic blend based on 60% pure fish oil from wild-caught small fish and 40% cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil with polyphenols from pre-harvest olives and Omega-9.
Every body is different and the level that your body will absorb the Omega-3 supplement also depends on individual factors, such as your weight, your stomach acid levels, gene type and even certain allergies. The Zinzino BalanceTest will reveal your unique fatty acid profile and guide you in choosing Omega-3 supplements that work with your body. Make sure to pick one such as BalanceOil+ that is safe, natural, and where serving sizes can be customized to your individual fatty acid profile.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Top 5 Benefits of Fish Oil
Omega-3s, fish oil, fatty acids. First, a quick primer:
Polyunsaturated fatty acids, aka, PUFAs, are one of two of the more desirable “good” fats. (The other is monounsaturated fats). Two of the most important omega-3 PUFAs are arguably EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The richest source of EPA and DHA is found in fatty (or oily) fish, like salmon, tuna, halibut, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies. The source of omega-3 EPA and DHA is in the oil (or sometimes the fish tissue) of fatty fish. When the oil is extracted and used in supplements, those products are often called fish oil supplements or omega-3 supplements.
What’s the skinny on fish oil benefits, you ask? Because omega-3 EPA and DHA are among the world’s most researched nutrients, with over 40,000 published studies, the hypotheses for fish oil benefits are almost as plentiful as there are fish in the sea. (The latter statement is a bit of hyperbole from us, but you get the picture.)
BLOG: How to Choose the Best Omega-3 Supplement
Don’t be reeled in, though, hook, line and sinker. At OmegaQuant, we’re among the biggest supporters of fish oil benefits, but we also want you to know that: 1) not all of the research is conclusive; 2) some research may demonstrate positive results, while other research may contradict those results and vice versa; 3) some of the research is emerging, requiring more research; and 4) despite the positive effects, fish oil is just one component of living a healthy life, promoting good health, and helping to prevent disease.
And now on to the some of the benefits.
Top 5 Fish Oil Benefits
This is the benefit that put fish oil on the scientific map. Two Danish scientists are credited with laying the scientific foundation for the heart benefits of omega-3 EPA with their groundbreaking research in a Greenland Eskimo population.
When it comes to heart health, some experts say that omega-3 fatty acids may contribute by helping decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease the risk of strokes and heart failure risk, and reduce irregular heartbeats.
BLOG: Can a High Omega-3 Level Add Years to Your Life?
This post advises some studies suggest fish oil may actually lower triglycerides. It also points to other heart healthy benefits like reducing blood pressure in people with elevated levels, raising levels of HDL (that’s the “good” cholesterol); and helping prevent the plaque in your arteries from hardening, an issue that restricts blood flow and may result in strokes, heart attacks and blood clots.
On the other hand, there has been research that shows that fish oil may also increase total LDL cholesterol, which may raise your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Your mom wasn’t the only one who said that fish was brain food. It turns out she had science backing her up. While the brain doesn’t produce DHA, nearly 60 percent of the organ is made up of fat, including DHA, which is vital to a healthy, functioning brain.
When we talk about brain health, this broad category covers cognitive performance, memory, dementia, depression, anxiety, mood shifts and mental disorders. There is some science that suggests fish oil may help with all of it.
BLOG: Can Omega-3 Improve Mental & Cognitive Health in Teens and Young Adults?
For example, this doctor blogged about mood disorders. He noted that in countries where people eat a lot of fish, there appears to be a lot less depression. That in itself is simply an observation, but it’s an observation that led to studies on fish oil and depression and other mood disorders. He advised that meta-analyses were generally favorable for fish oil helping with depression, noting some limitations in study design.
Another example is this post from a registered dietitian who referred to a study that demonstrated cognitive performance improvements from fish oil compared to placebo in healthy adults, aged 51-72. And, she pointed to other research that showed those with low EPA and DHA levels were associated with higher anxiety.
Other articles too talk about the correlations between fish oil and brain health, including this one which says, among other things, that science shows that people who eat more fish have slower age-related mental decline.
VIDEO: How Does Your Omega-3 Index Relate to Cognitive Function?
Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression
Oh, there are so many reasons why pregnant women need fish oil. Let’s start with this one from the American Pregnancy Association (APA): getting enough omega-3 EPA and DHA is vital to ensure balanced production of prostaglandins which are hormone-like substances. You need prostaglandins, says the APA, and you need the type produced to be balanced, to help regulate bodily functions including blood pressure, blood clotting, inflammatory and allergic responses, nerve transmission and more. Omega-3s play an important role in balancing production of prostaglandins.
Then there’s the impact on the actual pregnancy. This review and analysis of 70 randomized controlled trials noted the strong evidence suggesting the need for omega-3s for a healthy pregnancy. Specifically, this nutrient helped reduce the risk of preterm (before 37 weeks) and early preterm (before 34 weeks) births by 11% and 42% respectively. Further, it found that omega-3s reduced the risk of low birthweight by 10%, as well as perinatal death by 25%.
BLOG: Studies Show Kids, Adults & Pregnant Women Don’t Get Enough Omega-3
Other research has shown that omega-3 deficiency may increase the risk of depression, while adequate omega-3 intake may decrease postpartum mood disorders.
And here’s a bonus for women taking fish oil in utero and after birth (of course, why stop there?!)—your baby also reaps the rewards. Research shows that omega-3s EPA and DHA (some say especially the latter, but both are important) taken during pregnancy and beyond promote healthy brain, vision and nervous system development, support heart health and an improved metabolic profile, and may even help reduce the risk of allergies and have a positive impact on immune development, all long-term positive benefits for your baby.
If you’re getting your fish oil through fish, be sure to select those with lower mercury content, especially during your pregnancy.
Omega-3s EPA and DHA have been shown in some research to reduce the risk of certain eye diseases, such as dry eye and macular degeneration, although that research is inconsistent. In this blog, we detailed some of the research that strongly supports omega-3 as key for eye health.
When it comes to dry eye disease, this post explains that condition may result from an insufficient quantity or quality of the mixture of water and oils that create a layer of tears covering your eyes’ surface. It’s a chronic condition and treatments traditionally include artificial tear eye drops. Some research found that people who took fish oil supplements EPA and DHA experienced fewer dry eye symptoms, says the article. Apparently, the fish oil improved the eye’s oil film, thereby improving the symptoms.
BLOG: Can Omega-3 Help Eyes?
However, not all the research supports the benefits. For example, a systematic review of 34 different studies concluded while supplementation may help to manage dry eye disease, the evidence was inconsistent. Specifically, the results showed that supplementing with omega-3 as a monotherapy did not find clear benefits on dry eye symptoms, compared to placebo; however, when used in combination with other treatments, (e.g., artificial tears, eyelid warm compresses, etc.), dry eye symptoms improved.
Researchers are still intrigued by the potential benefit, and further studies are expected.
There’s stronger consensus for the fatty acids EPA and DHA as being vital to eye development in to-be-born babies, thus the recommendation for pregnant moms to get enough fish oil during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. DHA is a main component of our eyes, with the highest concentration residing in the retina.
Acute inflammation occurs when your body senses sudden damage and sends out the troops—inflammatory cells that help heal the problem.
But it’s chronic inflammation—when the body continues to activate “the soldiers” even when there is no reason to do so—that can result in unhealthy conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
BLOG: What Are Omega-7 Fatty Acids?
The good news here is that fish oil—with its strong anti-inflammatory properties—helps reduce inflammation. And perhaps that’s one reason why fish oil may help prevent the inflammation-related specific conditions just mentioned.
Research shows a consistent connection between higher omega-3 intake and inflammation reduction, says this article. The reason? Omega-3 fatty acids are good at reducing our bodies’ production of materials associated with inflammatory effects. Here are a few relevant studies: here, here and here.
This post says studies suggest that fish oil supplements can provide (mainly) modest relief for people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. By helping reduce pain, improve morning stiffness, and relieve tenderness, the fish oil “might be enough” to also reduce the need for anti-inflammatory medications.
And this recent study from Tufts University found that both EPA and DHA work against chronic inflammation—but they do so differently.
So, How Much Fish Oil Do You Need to Get Optimal Benefits?
Well, it depends on how much omega-3 EPA and DHA you already have in your blood. And there’s one way to find that answer—through testing.
Here at OmegaQuant, we’re uniquely qualified to offer that testing for you—with simple at-home tests. This three part-blog—part 1, part 2, and part 3—tells you more.
Here’s the bottom line: you need to know your numbers in order to get optimal benefits from fish oil. We offer three EPA/DHA at-home tests: 1) for all adults who want to test their omega-3 EPA and DHA levels; 2) a Prenatal DHA test for pregnant women that determines how much additional DHA, if any, you need to protect your own health and that of your baby-to-be; and 3) a Mother’s Milk DHA test for breastfeeding moms that measures the level of DHA in breast milk, so you know if it’s the right amount to help your growing baby.
VIDEO: A Full Review of the Omega-3 Index Complete Report