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The Benefits of Taking Fish Oil: Here’s What the Science Says About Omega 3’s Health Benefits
One of the most prominent supplements in the world of natural health is Omega 3 fish oil. The question of “are Omega 3’s good for you” is also one of the most heavily researched among all nutrients that we find in our diets and our supplement bottles. In this easy guide, we’ll distill the data down to what you need to know about the benefits of taking fish oil.
If you’ve ever looked into supplements that can help support heart health, brain health, eye health, or just about any other type of health, there’s a good chance you’ve seen Omega 3 fish oil supplements mentioned. At their most basic level, Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential nutrient that the body needs simply to survive. But, thanks to the wealth of research that’s been conducted on Omega 3’s, we also know about many of the specific ways it can support strong health.
In this guide, we’ll give you a breakdown of what the science says about Omega 3’s health benefits in a straightforward list format. But first, let’s learn a little bit more about what Omega 3 fatty acids really are, and why fish oil supplements are one of the most popular ways to get them.
What Are Omega 3’s and Why Are They Important?
Omega 3 fatty acids, more simply referred to as “Omega 3’s”, are a type of polyunsaturated fat that plays an important role in making up cell membranes throughout the body. Unlike other types of fat that the body needs, Omega 3 fatty acids cannot be made by the body itself, and must be obtained through food or supplementation.
There are a few main types of Omega 3’s that occur naturally in various foods that we eat: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)(docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). ALA is something of the “odd man out” as it’s actually the most abundant Omega 3 in most Western diets, since it’s found in things like vegetable oils, nuts, and flax seeds.
EPA and DHA, on the other hand, are a bit harder to come by and are found mainly in fish. These are the two types of Omega 3’s found in most fish oil supplements, and the ones we’ll be focusing on as we begin talking about specific fish oil Omega 3 benefits.
Omega 3 Fish Oil Benefits and Uses
The fish oil you get in Omega 3 supplements is typically derived from fatty fish like trout, mackerel, tuna, anchovies, sardines, and salmon to maximize the amount of DHA and EPA it contains. Thanks to a huge body of research on Omega 3’s, we can see what that actually means for a variety of different health needs:
Fish Oil For Heart Health
Out of all of Omega 3’s health benefits, using fish oil to support heart health is certainly the most well known. Scientists first noticed a correlation decades ago when they discovered that communities eating diets rich in fish experienced lower incidences of heart problems than their non-pescatarian counterparts.
A number of years and a myriad of studies later, researchers have more precise insights into how Omega 3’s benefit heart health:
- Supporting Healthy Triglyceride Levels: Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the bloodstream and, like cholesterol, overly high levels are a risk factor for heart problems. According to studies, Omega 3’s may help to reduce triglyceride levels in the blood.1,2
- Promoting Healthy Blood Pressure: A meta-analysis examined data from 70 randomized clinical trials concerned with EPA and DHA’s effect on blood pressure. It concluded that the combination of EPA and DHA did have a positive impact on systolic and diastolic BP.3
- May Help Restrict the Formation of Plaque: Studies have found that Omega 3’s exhibit a positive impact on the thin membrane lining blood vessels called the endothelium. This may help protect against the formation of plaque within the arteries.4,5
Fish Oil For Memory and Mental Health
Another popular Omega 3 supplement benefit is supporting a healthy memory as well as a better mood. One study titled “Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Memory Functions in Healthy Older Adults” investigated Omega 3’s impact on memory performance tasks, and concluded that Omega 3’s “exert positive effects on memory functions in healthy older adults.”6
When it comes to mental and emotional health, research has shown that individuals who regularly consume Omega 3’s are less likely to be depressed, and that those who experience anxiety and depression exhibit improvements after starting to take Omega 3 supplements.7,8
Omega 3 Supplement Benefits for Skin Health
We mentioned earlier that Omega 3’s are a component in cell membranes throughout the body. DHA plays in especially large role in making up the structure of skin cells, and EHA has been shown to benefit skin by:9,10
- Promoting healthy oil production and skin hydration
- Protecting against premature skin aging
- Preventing certain red bumps and other blemishes
- Protecting against sun damage by inhibiting the release of substances that eat away collagen after sun exposure
Other Fish Oil Omega 3 Benefits
As we wrap up the answers to how Omega 3’s can be good for you, we need to have a bit of lightning round to fit in all of the different areas of health Omega 3’s have been shown to support:
- Eye and Vision Health: DHA is an important structural component of the eye’s retina, and a lack thereof can lead to vision problems. A 2012 animal study found that subjects given Omega 3 appeared to have better retinal function and a lower risk of age-related vision loss.11
- Promoting A Healthy Inflammatory Response: Omega 3’s have been shown to help inhibit the production of molecules called eicosanoids and cytokines that contribute to an excessive inflammatory response.12,13
- Bone Health Support: Studies have found that Omega 3’s can help support bone strength by increasing calcium levels.14,15
- Joint Health Support: Individuals taking Omega 3 supplements have reported improvements in joint comfortability and increased grip strength.16,17
- Improving Sleep Quality: There appears to be a connection between low levels of DHA and low levels of the sleep hormone melatonin.18 Studies have found that supplementing with Omega 3 may help boost both the length and quality of sleep.19
If you began reading this article wondering, “are Omega 3’s good for you,” it should be safe to assume you have your answer. From support for heart health, to brain health, to all of the various other areas of health we just touched on, Omega 3 fish oils have an impressive track record in studies across the world when it comes to helping you promote stronger wellness.
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- Cazzola, Roberta et al. “Age- and dose-dependent effects of an eicosapentaenoic acid-rich oil on cardiovascular risk factors in healthy male subjects.” Atherosclerosis vol. 193,1 (2007): 159-67. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2006.06.008
- Shidfar, F et al. “Effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplements on serum lipids, apolipoproteins and malondialdehyde in type 2 diabetes patients.” Eastern Mediterranean health journal = La revue de sante de la Mediterranee orientale = al-Majallah al-sihhiyah li-sharq al-mutawassit vol. 14,2 (2008): 305-13.
- Paige E. Miller, Mary Van Elswyk, Dominik D. Alexander, Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid and Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials, American Journal of Hypertension, Volume 27, Issue 7, July 2014, Pages 885–896, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajh/hpu024
- Miyoshi, Toru et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids improve postprandial lipemia and associated endothelial dysfunction in healthy individuals - a randomized cross-over trial.” Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie vol. 68,8 (2014): 1071-7. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2014.10.008
- Wang, Qianqian et al. “Effect of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on endothelial function: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Atherosclerosis vol. 221,2 (2012): 536-43. doi:10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2012.01.006
- Külzow, Nadine et al. “Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Memory Functions in Healthy Older Adults.” Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD vol. 51,3 (2016): 713-25. doi:10.3233/JAD-150886
- Lin, Pao-Yen, and Kuan-Pin Su. “A meta-analytic review of double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of antidepressant efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids.” The Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 68,7 (2007): 1056-61. doi:10.4088/jcp.v68n0712
- Su, Kuan-Pin et al. “Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder. A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.” European neuropsychopharmacology : the journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology vol. 13,4 (2003): 267-71. doi:10.1016/s0924-977x(03)00032-4
- Spencer, Elsa H et al. “Diet and acne: a review of the evidence.” International journal of dermatology vol. 48,4 (2009): 339-47. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2009.04002.x
- McCusker, Meagen M, and Jane M Grant-Kels. “Healing fats of the skin: the structural and immunologic roles of the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.” Clinics in dermatology vol. 28,4 (2010): 440-51. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.03.020
- Dornstauder, Blake et al. “Dietary docosahexaenoic acid supplementation prevents age-related functional losses and A2E accumulation in the retina.” Investigative ophthalmology & visual science vol. 53,4 2256-65. 24 Apr. 2012, doi:10.1167/iovs.11-8569
- Calder, Philip C. “n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 83,6 Suppl (2006): 1505S-1519S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/83.6.1505S
- Li, Hang et al. “EPA and DHA reduce LPS-induced inflammation responses in HK-2 cells: evidence for a PPAR-gamma-dependent mechanism.” Kidney international vol. 67,3 (2005): 867-74. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1755.2005.00151.x
- Kruger, M C, and D F Horrobin. “Calcium metabolism, osteoporosis and essential fatty acids: a review.” Progress in lipid research vol. 36,2-3 (1997): 131-51. doi:10.1016/s0163-7827(97)00007-6
- Kruger, M C et al. “Calcium, gamma-linolenic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid supplementation in senile osteoporosis.” Aging (Milan, Italy) vol. 10,5 (1998): 385-94. doi:10.1007/BF03339885
- BRUSCH, C A, and E T JOHNSON. “A new dietary regimen for arthritis: value of cod liver oil on a fasting stomach.” Journal of the National Medical Association vol. 51,4 (1959): 266-70 passim.
- Danao-Camara, T C, and T T Shintani. “The dietary treatment of inflammatory arthritis: case reports and review of the literature.” Hawaii medical journal vol. 58,5 (1999): 126-31.
- Peuhkuri, Katri et al. “Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin.” Food & nutrition research vol. 56 (2012): 10.3402/fnr.v56i0.17252. doi:10.3402/fnr.v56i0.17252
- Hansen, Anita L et al. “Fish consumption, sleep, daily functioning, and heart rate variability.” Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine vol. 10,5 (2014): 567-75. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3714