The amazing array of fish oil benefits are becoming more widely known today as people start examining their diet more and more as a natural way to optimize their health and thereby raise their overall quality of life.
Unfortunately there are also many people who suffer from various health problems because of their conscious or unconscious choice of food. Many common health issues, such as some types of heart diseases and heart attacks, are often the result of an unhealthy diet over the long term.
However, and here is the good thing: It is never too late to start improving on your health!
If you choose to act now you can easily make actions to prevent or improve on such conditions.
One of the easiest, effective and most natural ways to reduce, perhaps even solve many health problems is by introducing fish oil into your diet – either naturally from fish sources themselves or via fish oil supplements.
In this article on healthy fish oil benefits, you’ll get overall important information on:
- What kind of health problems can fish oil help with, and why is it so effective?
- What is actually contained in fish oil that has such positive effects for human health?
Thus you’ll get a long list of powerful fish oil benefits that have been linked to:
- 1) Reducing the Risks of Heart Disease.
- 2) Positively Related to Fighting Back the Risk of Cancer.
- 3) Boosting Mental Effects and Combating Mental Illnesses.
- 4) Omega-3 Combats the Inflammation Symptoms in Arthritis.
- 5) Fighting Negative Long Term Effects of Type 2 Diabetes by Reducing Triglycerides.
- 6) Benefits for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women.
- 7) Youthful and Clean Looking Skin.
- 8) Slowing-Down Age Related Vision Disease.
- 9) Quick Muscle Recovery After a Workout.
Some of these benefits have already been well-documented and solidly proven by research others are still in the process of being meticulously mapped out by science.
Read on, find out the details and discover how it relates to you!
The Western Diet Is Screaming for More Omega-3
The main health benefits of fish oil come from the omega-3 fatty acids it contains.
Omega-3 is a nutrient that is often missing in many modern diets. For some reason in the Western world, we have grown into the habit of building up our diets around rich protein sources like red meat, eggs, dairy, chicken and other meats.
Protein in itself is not bad – but like all other aspects of life, it’s all a question of finding a healthy balance. And if we end up neglecting the foods that contain this crucial building block of the human body: omega-3, we do risk doing health an unfortunate disfavor.
Your Body Needs Your Help Getting Hold of Those Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 is what’s known as an “essential fatty acid.”
Essential fatty acids that are necessary for the human body to function properly – but unfortunately the body can’t produce them on its own. You need to actively help your body gain hold of these!
There are over a dozen fatty acids, but the only two that the human body can’t produce on its own are omega-3 and omega-6. These fatty acids have to come from natural foods or other types of supplements.
So whenever you hear someone refer to “essential fatty acids” for humans, they’re talking about these two nutrients.
Omega-3 Is Formidable Inflammation and Bad Cholesterol Fighter
The main role omega-3 plays in the body is in its effects on inflammation.
Omega-3 influences and regulates inflammation in the body as well as affecting mood and behavior. This is one of the reasons why Omega-3 is often recommended to help problems as diverse as Alzheimer’s and depression.
Omega-3 also has positive effects on heart health because of its effect of raising HDL cholesterol (also known as “good cholesterol”) and lowering LDL cholesterol (popularly nicknamed “bad cholesterol”).
Salmon Is Considered the Healthiest Omega-3 Fish Source
The fish oil benefits you’ll experience are dependent on the source of the fish oil to a certain extent.
Generally speaking, the higher up a food chain a fish is the more likely it is to contain a high concentration of toxic substances like mercury.
You may have heard about concerns over high mercury levels in canned tuna – this is because tuna are large fish close to the top of the ocean food chain. The same applies to sharks, swordfish and other large fish.
Incidentally this is also why many activists are opposed to the selling of dolphin meat in countries like Japan (over and above inhumane fishing methods) – dolphin meat contains extremely high levels of mercury.
In terms of getting the most omega-3 per ounce of fish, salmon is the best readily available option in most parts of the world and is relatively low in toxicity compared to tuna.
The List of Powerful Fish Oil Benefits
You will now get a long list of rich fish oil benefits.
As you are about to find out, the benefits of fish oil and Omega-3 are very broad and positively affect many different important areas of the human body that are linked to heart function, mental achievement, mental illnesses, cancer, arthritis, vision, skin just to mention a few.
Let’s start with optimizing processes connected to the heart as number one on this list of fish oil benefits :-)
1) Fish Oil Benefits:
Good for Reducing Heart Disease but Is No Catch-All Solution
One of the most often celebrated fish oil benefits is its ability to reduce the risk of heart attacks and other heart disease complications.
To understand why this is the case we first need to look at what causes the risk of avoidable heart disease in the first place.
Be aware that any information resource which claims fish oil is a catch-all solution to all heart problems is blatantly false. Fish oil only has positive benefits for certain heart problems and may potentially introduce extra risks for some people.
1a) Fish Oil Benefits: Fighting Back High Levels of Triglyceride
There are several positive effects that have been linked to omega-3 that explain its ability to reduce the risk of potentially serious heart problems. One of these is the fact that it is linked to effectively reducing triglyceride levels.
High triglyceride levels risk leading to atherosclerosis – the build-up of plaque in the arteries. The effect of plaque build-up in arteries is a restriction of blood flow with the long term risk of a complete blockage.
This is the risk associated with having a diet high in “bad cholesterol”, and the risk is accentuated further if you already have high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol).
In other words, if your bad cholesterol is already high, an excess of triglycerides can make your problems worse.
1b) Fish Oil Benefits: Reducing Blood Pressure
The benefits of fish oil supplements may also include helping to reduce blood pressure, as several studies have indicated. However, there are a few problems when it comes to using omega-3 supplements to treat hypertension (high blood pressure).
The doses needed in order to have a significant effect can be risky and thus require medical monitoring.
Studies have only shown a reduction in blood pressure levels of patients not already being treated with other medication – so if your doctor already has you on blood pressure medication he or she may see omega-3 supplements as being unnecessary or even risky in this respect.
On top of that there’s evidence that omega-3 reduces blood-clotting, for the same reason it slows the development of plaques in arteries.
2) Fish Oil Benefits: Positively Related to Fighting Back the Risk of Cancer
When it comes to effects on triglycerides and heart disease, many researchers are in agreement that fish oil can have great positive impacts.
There are many other health problems which fish oil fans claim Omega-3 can reduce, and while there’s some evidence for this, I do advise you to bear in mind that the cause and effect relationships between Omega-3 and many of the diseases we’ll be discussing here are still in need of further study.
In other words, a positive link between Omega-3 and better health has been spotted but exactly how still remains to be properly mapped out.
I say this because I don’t want you to be misled into thinking fish oil is a miracle cure for cancer, or that it will guarantee you never develop cancer.
When we talk about fish oil benefits for cancer, we’re still only talking about possible effects – further study is needed before these effects can be confirmed to be the result of fish oil.
2a) Fish Oil Benefits: Good News for Both Sexes – Potentially Slowing Growth of Prostate Cancer and Diminishing Risk of Breast Cancer
When it comes to prostate cancer, omega-3 may even have an influence on slowing the growth of tumors already developing.
Studies have also shown a strong correlation between a reduction in breast cancer risk and a high level of fish oil in women’s diets – but at this point no proof of causation has been put forward.
In other words, while women who eat plenty of omega-3 tend to have a lower risk of breast cancer, there’s no proof omega-3 is actually causing this difference, rather than some other dietary or environmental factor.
2b) Fish Oil Benefits: Low Occurrence of Colon Cancer among the Inuit People
Because a large portion of their diet comes from seafood, Inuit people tend to have very high intakes of omega-3. They also tend to have relatively low occurrences of colon cancer.
But again, researches haven’t yet proven that high omega-3 directly causes the lower risks.
2c) Fish Oil Benefits: A Behind-the-Scenes Role in Weight Loss
Another relationship that has been picked up on by researchers is that some cancer patients tend to lose less weight when their omega-3 levels are increased.
There’s still speculation as to why this may be.
Some researchers have suggested it’s not because omega-3 affects the rate of weight loss directly, but because the way omega-3 positively influences mood and behavior causes the patients to actually eat more healthily overall.
3) Fish Oil Benefits: Boosting Mental Effects and Combating Mental Illnesses
So far we’ve focused on fish oil benefits relating to optimizing purely physical processes helping prevent and sometimes perhaps even beat illnesses in the body.
Now let’s look at how fish oil may positively influence on brain processes and, as a result, beneficially affect behavior, mood, memory and personality.
Again, you need to take the effects discussed here with a grain of salt because some of these relationships between disease and omega-3 are based on studies carried out on mice, not humans.
While this often provides a good indicator of how a medicine or nutrient works in the human body, there are obviously some big differences between the biology of mice and humans so the results don’t always translate.
3a) Fish Oil Benefits: Helping Stave off Mental Decline in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
Parkinson’s disease is a problem which occurs when the brain’s natural dopamine system is upset. In studies carried out on mice, omega-3 was shown to have a protective effect against decreases in dopamine, which means it could provide protection against Parkinson’s to some extent.
Whether or not it can actually have any effect on someone already suffering from Parkinson’s is still a matter open to much debate and speculation.
In any event it seems likely from studies conducted so far that healthy levels of fish oil and omega-3 in your diet can help stave off mental decline in the form of diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
3b) Fish Oil Benefits: Potentially Improving Moods in Depression and Bipolar Disorder
While some studies have shown a strong relationship between increases in omega-3 and improved mood and mental stability, other studies have found contradicting results – so the jury is still out on this one.
In any case, a moderate amount of fish oil in your diet can’t hurt your mood and may improve it, so if you’re suffering from depression or are simply experiencing a period of increased stress, increasing your omega-3 intake might be worthwhile.
If you’re already taking medication for bipolar or depression you should discuss this with your doctor first.
3c) Fish Oil Benefits: A Powerful Mood and Brain Booster
Again, fish oil may have general benefits in terms of mood and brain function even if you’re not currently suffering from a mental or physical illness. You see, some studies have indicated it may actually make you less susceptible to depression.
Studies done on omega-3 levels in prison populations have even indicated a link between low omega-3 levels and a tendency towards violent behavior.
But aside from its positive effects on behavior and mood, there’s some evidence which suggests omega-3 might help you make the most of your overall “brain power”. Some studies have found a relationship between omega-3 intake and memory, whereas others have shown there may be a relationship between omega-3 and your ability to learn new things.
So as you can read, getting enough omega-3 is not only important in order to improve your overall mental quality of life, apparently if you don’t get enough of it, you may risk losing out on the benefits of your brain’s full potential.
You see, a deficiency in omega-3 may lead to difficulty acquiring and making links between new information.
And if that isn’t enough, some researchers now also believe that a lack of omega-3 can be linked to the development of disorders like ADHD and dyslexia.
3d) Fish Oil Benefits: Preventing Schizophrenia in Those Genetically Inclined
One particularly interesting research study has indicated there may be a link between omega-3 deficiency and the development of schizophrenia.
The study found that test subjects given fish oil supplements were less likely to develop schizophrenia than the control group. Of course, this is a fish oil benefit that won’t relate to most people in any significant way. There are a wide variety of factors that lead to schizophrenia and the disease is still far from being understood. The subjects in this study had already shown a possible genetic inclination to develop schizophrenia.
In other words, while omega-3 may help prevent the development of schizophrenia in people who may be genetically inclined to develop the disease, that doesn’t necessarily mean someone who doesn’t carry those genes is at a greater risk of schizophrenia just because he or she is not taking fish oil.
But still, as you can see, the potential variety of powerful brain benefits to gain from fish oil and omega-3 are so great that adding it to your diet is definitely worth considering :-)
4) Fish Oil Benefits: Omega-3 Combats the Inflammation Symptoms in Arthritis
However, there’s a flipside to this – the other essential fatty acid, omega-6, actually contributes to inflammation.
So if you take a supplement which contains omega-3 and omega-6 in balance, you’ll achieve little in terms of reducing inflammation. The balance of these two essential fatty acids is an important factor.
Some studies on rheumatoid arthritis patients have indeed shown a relationship between increasing omega-3 intake and a reduction in joint pain and stiffness. Note, though, that these studies only claim omega-3 has the ability to reduce symptoms of arthritis, not cure it altogether.
Other studies have also shown that omega-3 can lead to a reduction in painful symptoms for a handful of other inflammatory diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease.
5) Fish Oil Benefits: Fights Negative Long Term Effects of Type 2 Diabetes by Reducing Triglycerides
So what’s the link between omega-3 and Type 2 diabetes?
Well, finally here we find ourselves with an issue where scientists are reasonably sure about how the physical processes relate to and affect each other.
For starters, patients with Type 2 diabetes essentially suffer from an insulin problem.
The exact details are very technical – but briefly put, in people suffering from Type 2 diabetes their cells become resistant to insulin, which, among other things, leads to elevated blood sugar levels.
Also it leads to increases in the density of fats in the bloodstream because the insulin is less efficient at delivering fat to cells.
This takes us back to the discussion of triglycerides: In short, insulin resistance means a higher level of triglycerides in the blood.
The good news is (as I already mentioned when talking about heart disease) omega-3 effectively reduces the levels of triglycerides in the blood.
Essentially it can help reduce the risk of heart attack and heart disease in someone with Type 2 diabetes, although these risks will still be somewhat higher than those for an average person without diabetes.
6) Fish Oil Benefits for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women
Benefits include optimizing the conditions of the development of the nervous system in the foetus as well as more rapid development in the baby’s brain after birth.
For instance, there are also studies indicating that high omega-3 levels contribute to healthy eye development in a foetus.
Also an inspiring study of 5 year old children showed a connection between mothers who took omega-3 supplements while breastfeeding and better concentration skills in the child.
In the US and other Western countries women tend to not get omega-3 in their diets. And when a woman is pregnant, the needs of the developing baby put an extra strain on her omega-3 intake. This is why it’s wise to supplement your omega-3 intake with fish oil while you’re pregnant, and many doctors will recommend you do exactly that.
Again, the risk of toxins needs to be repeated here. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should aim to use a fish oil product which has had toxins removed and steer clear of those high-food-chain fish which are high in toxins like mercury. High doses of mercury have been related to detrimental effects on the development of a baby’s brain.
7) Fish Oil Benefits: Youthful and Clean Looking Skin
Most fish oil supplements contain EPA and can help reduce the symptoms of a wide variety of skin conditions such as acne problems and wrinkles.
EPA regulates the oil production in your skin playing a role in e.g. preventing excessive oil production which can be a big contributor to acne problems.
8) Fish Oil Benefits: Slowing-Down Age Related Vision Disease
A study found that an increase in fish consumption in people suffering from the eye condition called age-related macular degeneration lead to an experienced slow-down in the development of the disease.
Macular degeneration is a conditional where your ability to focus your vision on a point in front of your starts to deteriorate. This is something that tends to happen naturally with age, hence “age-related.”
While the study that showed fish oil can slow or halt the progression of the disease, at this stage there’s nothing to indicate it can prevent the disease from developing altogether.
9) Fish Oil Benefits: Muscle Recovery After a Workout
Well, if you’re into lifting weights you may find that increasing your fish oil intake has another wonderful hidden benefit in terms of quick muscle recovery.
The soreness you experience after a heavy gym session is from inflammation which can actually be eased by a higher omega-3 intake.
This allows you to work out harder and longer without the same long recovery period of stiff, sore muscles – just one more thing to add to the long list of fish oil benefits :-)
The Practical Fish Oil Shortcut: Fish Oil Capsules
Most doctors recommend that you should try to get your omega-3 through whole foods – in other words, through fish oil from eating actual fish – but fish oil supplements can be a convenient way to get this important nutrient into your diet.
It’s also possible to get supplements which contain more than just omega-3 so you can bring multiple nutrients to your diet via a single capsule or pill.
Go for as Pure a Fish Source as Possible
When you’re looking at buying the best fish oil supplements you need to take dosage and purity into consideration.
Ask yourself if the oil capsules you’re buying contain oil that has been cleansed of toxins. What type of fish has the oil been sourced from?
The General Ideal Dosage, 0.5 – 1.8 Grams Per Day
In terms of dosage, the ideal levels can vary based on a lot of factors. One is any medical conditions you have. Another is any medication you might be taking already.
The American Heart Association has recommended an intake of 0.5 – 1.8 grams per day of both DHA and EPA. EPA and DHA are simply different types of omega-3 fatty acids. They perform slightly different functions but both are essential for good health.
Once again, you need to be careful with self-prescribing a dosage. How much you need will depend on your own current health conditions and may depend on variable factors like your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Your dosage level for fish oil supplements is always something you discuss with your doctor before you change your diet.
Potential Risks and Side Effects of Fish Oil?
So far fish oil has been presented as a kind of wonder supplement with positive effects on all sorts of diseases as well as overall health.
While fish oil health benefits are many and varied, there are some risks involved with increasing your fish oil intake which you need to be aware of:
1) Bad Medical Combo: For starters, fish oil has been shown to clash with certain medications, leading to adverse reactions. If you’re already taking any medication – regardless of whether it’s related to the problem you’re trying to treat with fish oil – you need to discuss your diet with your doctor before you make any changes.
2) Internal Bleeding: Excessively high doses of fish oil have also been linked to internal bleeding in some patients.
3) Tipping Off the Balance of Other Nutrients: You also need to be careful about the actual source of the fish oil you take. For example, cod liver oil supplements, while high in omega-3, are also high in vitamin A. Too much vitamin A can bring with it a variety of new health problems.
If you’re taking a supplement, it’s important to consider what else is in the supplement besides omega-3 and what safe levels of those nutrients may be considering your condition. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t eat McDonald’s cheeseburgers every day to get your daily intake of protein, because you’d well exceed safe levels of saturated fat intake at the same time ;-)
4) Beware of Toxins: Toxins in fish, as already mentioned, are another important factor whether you’re eating whole fish or taking a supplement. Some fish oil is processed to remove toxins, whereas other capsule products may have high levels or toxins such as PCB, which can cause skin conditions and may potentially elevate the risk of developing of cancer as well as accelerate the growth of some types of cancerous tumors.
Fish Oil Benefits: In Summary
By now you’re probably thinking: Wow, despite certain risk factors to be aware of – what a list!
And yes, when you first learn about all the potential fish oil benefits, it’s hard to believe this food source is not more widely known about.
Fortunately the knowledge of fish oil and its benefits is starting to trickle into more mainstream information sources and education allowing more and more people to reap the powerful health benefits of fish oil and omega-3.
I wish you the very best with your own fruitful harvest of fish oil benefits.
If you desire more information, feel free to dive into one of fish oil articles below.
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