The Health Benefits of Fish Oil

by on January 25th, 2010 at 7:00 am

Every time I read the statistics about fish oil or see headlines such as “Fish Oil Helps ADHD”, “Survive Depression with Fish Oil”, and “Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease with Fish Oil”, I begin to think, is fish oil really that great? To get the answer to this question, first we have to understand what fish oil contains that can purportedly help all these ailments.

Fish oil comes from the tissues of an oily fish and is recommended for a healthy diet because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid, all of which reduce inflammation in the body. The funny part is fish do not actually produce omega-3- they eat it! Predatory fish like albacore tuna, salmon and mackerel eat microalgae, which contain the fatty acids, and we in turn eat those fish.

So why does the body need omega-3 fatty acids? According to studies, the omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish oil, can combat a plethora of ailments from cardiovascular disease to schizophrenia. Below are the effects that it can have on the body!

Fish Oil and the Brain

Studies have shown the omega-3 found in fish oil aids mental health issues. A study conducted at the Orygen Research Centre in Melbourne suggested that omega-3 fatty acids could also help delay or prevent the onset of schizophrenia.

The study concluded after one year of administering fish oil to 50 high-risk patients suffering from hallucinations; only 3% actually developed schizophrenia, compared to the other 50 who were administered placebos, whereby 28% developed the mental condition. Other studies have shown that DHA in fish oil has been known to help individuals with ADHD by supporting the nervous system and reducing symptoms.

Brain Tonicis a homeopathic remedy that relieves forgetfulness and mental fatigue, and increases alertness.

Fish Oil and the Heart

Omega-3s are blood thinners and help to keep arteries elastic and flexible. Omega-3 can decrease the risk of heart disease by reducing high blood pressure and keeping triglycerides down.

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health showed that women who consumed more fish and fish oil significantly reduced their risk of heart disease; those who ate fish 2-4 times per week reduced their risk by 30%, compared to women who rarely ate fish. Along with lessening the risk of heart disease, fish oil can also reduce cholesterol, and for the many individuals suffering from high cholesterol, they can take this news to “heart”.

So what can you do if you don’t like fish, are allergic to fish, or a vegan? There are plenty of other sources you can get omega-3 fatty acids from. One of the best sources is from flaxseed; milled flaxseed can be sprinkled on any other foods of your choice like green beans or a salad. Flaxseed also contains valuable cancer-fighting lignans (but be aware that flaxseed oil does not).

Other omega-containing foods include:

Brazil nuts, butternuts, chia seeds, hickory nuts, macadamia nuts, roasted or cooked soybeans, soybean sprouts, beans of various types, peanuts, olives, spirulina, spinach, purslane, oat germ, and wheat germ.

Since fish is the main source of omega-3, DHA and EPA, if you don’t eat it, you may want to consider taking a supplement. Make sure that you store your fish oil in the refrigerator, because it is vulnerable to becoming rancid.

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