Do You Know the Benefits of Omega-3 Fish Oil?
Have you heard of fish oil?
Do you have a squeaky fish?
No, a different kind of fish oil.
I’m certainly not a medical expert, and if you have been following my writing, you know this isn’t a subject I broach often. I’ve written a few well-received articles on diet and fitness, but this is definitely a departure for me. But I have been researching the possible benefits of fish oil and decided since I had the research, I may as well write up an article on it.
Maybe I can make enough money to buy more fish oil.
Fish oil is simply one of the dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Sounds complicated? Well, try this one on for size.
Omega-3 fish oil contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Didn’t know you needed that stuff, did you?
Well, neither did I.
First, let’s break it down a bit. What is fish oil? As the name implies, fish oil is the fat or oil extracted from oily fish, such as herring, tuna, anchovies, or mackerel. Or it could come from the livers of other fish, as is the case with cod liver oil. You’ve probably heard of cod liver oil. Maybe you were forced to eat a spoonful when you were a kid. If so, your mom was ahead of her time.
And the essential nutrient in fish oil is omega-3 fatty acids. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating fish once or twice a week. Not only is it a healthier source of protein than red meat, but the omega-3 fatty acids in fish can protect against several diseases.
But if you don’t eat enough fish, you can supplement your intake of omega-3s with fish oil in liquid or capsule form. About 30% of fish oil is omega-3s, and it contains some vitamin A and D.
But what are the benefits of these omega-3s? The most critical benefit cited by science is that omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that can prevent and manage heart disease. What does that mean, and how does it work?
Fish oil provides the following benefits: it can lower the risk of heart disease, although it is critical to understand that it will not prevent heart attacks and strokes.
- It can increase good HDL cholesterol but doesn’t appear to lower bad cholesterol
- It can lower triglycerides, which are a type of fat found in your blood.
- It can help lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
- It may prevent dangerous plaque from causing arteries to harden.
- It can reduce fatal arrhythmia events in those at risk.
- It may help with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
Fish has long been known as brain food, and there is now science to back this up. Some studies have shown that people with certain mental disorders have lower omega-3 blood levels, so an increase in fish oil may offset those conditions. Call me crazy, but to me, that’s a low risk for a possible huge benefit.
One problem with over-the-counter health supplements like fish oil is that people think that if a little is good, then a lot is better. But this is rarely the case. Too much vitamin A and D, for instance, is known to have adverse side effects. So, how much omega-3 fish oil is safe? The American Health Association says don’t take more than 3 grams of fish oil daily. The supplement I use has about 500mg of omega-3 and suggests three times daily, so about half the maximum.
What about side effects?
Well, it’s fish oil, so you may experience a fishy taste or have fishy breath, especially if you take the supplement in liquid form. It is also known to cause an upset stomach, loose stools, and nausea in some people. Again, this is more likely in those taking a spoonful of cod liver oil than swallowing a gel-cap, especially if taken with food as recommended.
Having said that, there are prescription levels of omega-3 medicines available for those with very high triglyceride levels. These should be taken only with the advice and management of your physician. On the flip side, those at risk of bleeding should avoid or take lower doses of fish oil due to the possible risk of bleeding caused by the blood-thinning attributes of fish oil.
There are lesser-known and researched possible benefits, such as weight loss and improved vision. While these aren’t reason enough alone to include fish oil in your diet, the known benefits far outweigh any risk. It’s an inexpensive and easy to take supplement with the good far outweighing the bad. If you are an older adult who regularly takes vitamins and other supplements, I suggest adding fish oil to your regimen.
This is not medical advice, just common sense.
Hey, maybe that fish oil as brain food is working.