Fish oil is mother nature’s anti-freeze. In the arctic waters, microorganisms would freeze unless they generated omega 3 fats. From that magical chemistry comes a fat that is of major importance in human health. Fats are basically solid at room temperature (saturated fats), or liquid at room temperature (polyunsaturated fats). Fish oil is a uniquely polyunsaturated fat that fills many roles in human health. Depression, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and pain can be reduced with an optimal intake of fish oil vs the omega 6 fats of corn, soy, and safflower oils.
For hundreds of years, fish oil has been used to treat a myriad of conditions including colds, aches and skin diseases. In the 1970s, scientists noted that the Eskimos, whose diet consists mainly of fatty fish, do not have a high incidence of heart disease or other cardio-vascular conditions. In fact such conditions are very rare in Eskimos. Similar observations have been made in Japan where oily fish is a staple food. Researchers have concluded that compounds in fish oil are responsible for these therapeutic benefits of fish oil.
In this discussion, we will explore what these compounds are, how they work and the therapeutic benefits of fish oil.
Sources of fish oil
Fish oil is produced through extraction from tissues of the fatty deep-sea fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, herring and mackerel. Fish oil is different from cod liver oil which is extracted from the liver of the cod fish. On average, oily fish tissues contain as much as 30 percent fat.
Nutritional composition of fish oil
Fish oil is a rich source of the omega-3 polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) known as EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Fish oil also contains other ingredients. Following are the typical contents of one teaspoon (five grams) of sardine fish oil:
• 40.6 calories
• 4.5 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated fat, 3.0 unsaturated fat)
• 1,084 mg omega – 3 fatty acids
• 90.6 mg omega – 6 fatty acids
• 14.9 international units vitamin D
How essential is fish oil?
1. Improves heart and cardiovascular health
Several studies including one published by the American Journal of Physiology, found that regular use of fish oil leads to improvement of heart and cardiovascular functions even during mentally stressful periods.
Studies have also found that consumption of fish oil by people who have stents inserted in the heart besides taking blood thinning medication, have reduced risk of stroke, heart attack or early death compared to those who do not consume fish oil.
This study concluded that taking fish oil reduces triglyceride levels, thereby improving blood flow.
2. Relieves rheumatoid arthritis
A study conducted over a period of 18 months testing the effects of fish oil among others found that regular consumption of omega -3 fatty acids helps in the treatment of arthritis.
Another study found that omega-3 oil is as effective and a safer pain relief than NSAIDs for reducing pain in arthritic patients.
3. Protects against cognitive and eye complications in diabetics
Fish oil helps reduce the risk of development of diabetes complications that affect the eyes and cognitive functions by reducing oxidative stress.
One study found that daily consumption of 500 mg of omega-3 (two servings of oily fish in a week) leads to a 48 percent reduction in development of diabetic retinopathy.
4. Improves fertility
Studies have found that deficiency of omega -3 fatty acids leads to decreased fertility in males and females. The DHA in omega-3 plays an important role in the health and motility of sperms. Omega-3 deficiency is also linked to endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome in women, which can lead to infertility. These problems can be mitigated through regular consumption of fish oil. Additionally, omega-3 fish oil is important for the healthy development of the fetus.
5. Reduces the risk of mental illness
According to a study published by Nature Communications, consumption of fish oil containing omega 3 fatty acids causes a substantial reduction in the risk of developing mental illness such as psychosis. Regular consumption of fish oil may also help reverse depression and anxiety symptoms.
6. Improves lives of kids with ADHD
Consumption of fish oil can also help improve lives of kids with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). These findings, which were confirmed by parents and psychiatrists of the young people showed that the children with ADHD put on fish oil has noticeable improvement in the areas of aggressiveness, restlessness, academic performance and completion of work better than standard ADHD medication.
7. Cancer prevention and treatment
Various studies have indicated that omega -3 fatty acids help prevent cancer. They can also cause death of cancerous cells in breast, colon and prostate cancers among others. Studies have also found that omega-3-rich fish oil prevents growth of cancerous tumors. It is worth noting that omega 3 has powerful anti-inflammatory properties which help boost the immune system functions.
8. Protects against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
A study carried out in 2007 found that consumption of a high omega -3 fatty acids diet together with vegetables and fruit leads to reduction of the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Are you at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease?
9. Protects against vision loss
Consuming adequate amounts of fish oil provides DHA which has a protective effect against age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
11. Reduces epilepsy seizures
Research suggests that daily consumption of small amounts of fish oil can help reduce epileptic seizures. This can be very useful for people with epileptic that is non-responsive to medication.
12. Reduces the risk of post-partum depression
Studies have shown that when pregnant women consume fish oil regularly their risk of post partum depression is reduced drastically. The study found that eating food containing DHA reduces post partum depression symptoms.
13. Helps in weight management
Some studies have indicated that consumption of fish oil as part of a healthy diet, and in addition to exercise can help maintain a healthy body weight.
14. Improves skin health
Some studies indicate that consumption of fish oil can help improve skin health by reducing the incidence of dandruff, improving symptoms of eczema and psoriasis.
How much fish oil for health benefits
It is recommended that you eat oily fish at least two times in a week to get the protective benefits of fish oil. However, it seems that eating more fish is even more beneficial. In Japan, adult males consume an average of 100 grams (3.75 ounces) of fish daily.
While fish oil consumption and use for therapeutic benefits has been going on for hundreds of years, it’s only in the last few decades that this has been backed by science. The studies have found that there are many preventive and therapeutic benefits of fish oil. This makes a lot of sense to make consumption of omega-3-rich fish oil part of your diet.