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.
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.
Americans spend more than $1 billion a year on fish oil supplements to support heart health, fight inflammation, prevent diseases, and boost mental functioning. But how significant are cardiovascular benefits?
Both supplements and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, herring, lake trout and sardines) are rich in two essential omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Some plants–such as flaxseeds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds–are good sources of another type of omega-3 fatty acid: alpha-linolenic acid, which the body can convert into DHA and EPA.
Omega-3 fatty acids have a variety of heart-protective effects. The American Heart Association advises eating at least two serving of fish (particularly fatty fish) per week, adding that people with coronary artery disease may not get enough omega-3 through diet alone. Such patients may want to talk to their doctor about supplements. A simple blood test called OmegaCheck™ can help measure the balance of healthy and unhealthy fats in a patient’s diet.
Here are new and recent findings about the health benefits of fish and fish oil.
Hopefully everyone has heard by now that healthy fats are an essential part of your diet. They have amazing benefits for the body and the brain, but for pregnant women and new mamas, these benefits are tenfold. Omega-3 is a kind of healthy fat and one of the most important nutrients needed by the body before, during and after pregnancy, due to the role it plays in the development of baby’s brain, eyes and nervous system. However, since it must be obtained either through diet or supplements, most women (and people in general) find they aren’t getting the recommended daily amount. Not to mention, once you are pregnant your body is going to supply the baby what he needs first, which could leave you depleted.
There are 3 different kinds of Omega-3’s – ALA, EPA and DHA – and while all of them are important, EPA, and even more so DHA, are the ones to focus on during your pregnancy journey. They can be found primarily in cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, and anchovies, but if you don’t eat fish or are concerned about mercury and other toxins, it leaves many wondering how to get these critical nutrients to their baby.
Purified fish oil supplements are a great alternative to the real thing (bonus – they don’t taste fishy!) and they can be easily added to your diet to ensure you and your baby are getting enough DHA. Here are 7 reasons why they might be right for you to take before, during and after pregnancy.
1.Fish oil supplements deliver all the health benefits of fish but without the toxins, which are eliminated during the manufacturing process.
2. Taking fish oil before you conceive allows nutrients to build up in your system, helping baby to get off to a great nutritional start.
3. Since baby will draw from mom’s stores of DHA, making sure to maintain a daily dose throughout pregnancy will ensure mom and baby get exactly what they need, and that mom doesn’t end up suffering from a deficit.
4. Increased intake of EPA and DHA has been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery, lower the risk of preeclampsia, increase birth weight and reduce the risk of allergies in infants.
5. Continuing to take supplement DHA after baby is born has been shown to aid in the production of breast milk for breastfeeding mothers, boosting the quality and the amount of milk produced.
6. A mother’s deficiency in Omega-3 has been linked to an increased risk for postpartum depression, so taking supplements after baby is born will help you increase the Omega-3’s in your diet, reducing your chances of getting the baby blues.
7. The benefits of Omega-3 in our diets are still being researched. Recent studies are connecting Omega-3 to decreased risk of a wide range of conditions including cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
As always, be sure to speak to your doctor first before starting any supplement.
Photo by Gizmodo.