Written by Atiqah Jasin, Marketing Executive
WHAT IS FISH OIL?
Fish oil is the fat or oil that’s extracted from fish tissue. It usually comes from oily fish, such as herring, tuna, anchovies, and mackerel. Yet it’s sometimes produced from the livers of other fish, as is the case with cod liver oil.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating 1–2 portions of fish per week. This is because the omega-3 fatty acids in fish provide many health benefits, including protection against a number of diseases.
WHAT DOES THE FISH OIL CONTAIN?
The main omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), while the omega-3 in plant sources is mainly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
If you do not eat 1–2 portions of oily fish per week, you may want to consider taking a fish oil supplement. EPA and DHA dosage recommendations vary depending on your age and health. WHO recommends a daily intake of 0.2–0.5 grams (200–500 mg) of combined EPA and DHA. However, it may be necessary to increase the dosage if you are pregnant, nursing, or at risk of heart disease. Fish oil supplements come in a number of forms, including ethyl esters (EE), triglycerides (TG), reformed triglycerides (rTG), free fatty acids (FFA) and phospholipids (PL). Read the label and choose a supplement that contains at least 500 mg of EPA and DHA per 1,000 mg of fish oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids are prone to oxidation, which makes them go rancid. To avoid this, you can choose a supplement that contains an antioxidant, such as vitamin E. Also, keep your supplements away from light, ideally in the refrigerator.
13 BENEFITS OF FISH OIL
1. May Support Heart Health
- Cholesterol levels:It can increase levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. However, it does not appear to reduce levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol
- Triglycerides:It can lower triglycerides by about 15–30%
- Blood pressure:Even in small doses, it helps reduce blood pressure in people with elevated levels
- Plaque:It may prevent the plaques that cause your arteries to harden, as well as make arterial plaques more stable and safer in those who already have them
- Fatal arrhythmias:In people who are at risk, it may reduce fatal arrhythmia events. Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms that can cause heart attacks in certain cases
2. May Help Treat Certain Mental Disorders
Your brain is made up of nearly 60% fat, and much of this fat is omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, omega-3s are essential for normal brain function. In fact, some studies suggest that people with certain mental disorders have lower omega-3 blood levels.
3. May Aid Weight Loss
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. Globally, about 39% of adults are overweight, while 13% are obese. The numbers are even higher in high-income countries like the US. Obesity can significantly increase your risk of other diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Fish oil supplements may improve body composition and risk factors for heart disease in obese people. Fish oil supplements may help reduce waist circumference, as well as aid weight loss when combined with diet or exercise.
4. May Support Eye Health
Like your brain, your eyes rely on omega-3 fats. Evidence shows that people who don’t get enough omega-3s have a greater risk of eye diseases. Furthermore, eye health begins to decline in old age, which can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Eating fish is linked to a reduced risk of AMD, but the results on fish oil supplements are less convincing.
5. May Reduce Inflammation
Inflammation is your immune system’s way of fighting infection and treating injuries. However, chronic inflammation is associated with serious illnesses, such as obesity, diabetes, depression, and heart disease. Reducing inflammation can help treat symptoms of these diseases. Because fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties, it may help treat conditions involving chronic inflammation. Moreover, fish oil supplements can significantly reduce joint pain, stiffness, and medication needs in people with rheumatoid arthritis, which causes painful joints.
6. May Support Healthy Skin
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. Skin health can decline throughout your life, especially during old age or after too much sun exposure. That said, there are a number of skin disorders that may benefit from fish oil supplements, including psoriasis and dermatitis.
7. May Support Pregnancy and Early Life
Omega-3s are essential for early growth and development. Fish oil supplements in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers may improve hand-eye coordination in infants. Taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding may also improve infant visual development and help reduce the risk of allergies.
8. May Reduce Liver Fat
Your liver processes most of the fat in your body and can play a role in weight gain. Liver disease is increasingly common — particularly non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), in which fat accumulates in your liver. Fish oil supplements can improve liver function and inflammation, which may help reduce symptoms of NAFLD and the amount of fat in your liver.
9. May Improve Symptoms of Depression
People with major depression appear to have lower blood levels of omega-3s. Studies show that fish oil and omega-3 supplements may improve symptoms of depression. Moreover, some studies have shown that oils rich in EPA help reduce depressive symptoms more than DHA.
10. May Improve Attention and Hyperactivity in Children
A number of behavioral disorders in children, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder(ADHD), involve hyperactivity and inattention. Given that omega-3s make up a significant proportion of the brain, getting enough of them may be important for preventing behavioral disorders in early life. Fish oil supplements may improve perceived hyperactivity, inattention, impulsiveness, and aggression in children. This may benefit early life learning.
11. May Help Prevent Symptoms of Mental Decline
As you age, your brain function slows down, and your risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases. People who eat more fish tend to experience a slower decline in brain function in old age. However, studies on fish oil supplements in older adults haven’t provided clear evidence that they can slow the decline of brain function. Nevertheless, some very small studies have shown that fish oil may improve memory in healthy, older adults.
12. May Improve Asthma Symptoms and Allergy Risk
Asthma, which can cause swelling in the lungs and shortness of breath, is becoming much more common in infants. In one review in nearly 100,000 people, a mother’s fish or omega-3 intake was found to reduce the risk of asthma in children by 24–29%. Furthermore, fish oil supplements in pregnant mothers may reduce the risk of allergies in infants.
13. May Improve Bone Health
During old age, bones can begin to lose their essential minerals, making them more likely to break. This can lead to conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Calcium and vitamin D are very important for bone health, but some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can also be beneficial. People with higher omega-3 intakes and blood levels may have better bone mineral density (BMD).