It’s Not Just Fish Oil – It’s Omega 3

It's Not Just Fish Oil - It's Omega 3

History tells us that humans evolved by consuming a diet lower in saturated fat (fats from animal sources) and higher in omega-3 fatty acids than is consumed today (Crawford, 1992). These omega-3 fatty acids are found in fishes such as sardines, mackerel, herring, and salmon, which also contain Vitamin A and D.

Our human body does not produce omega-3 on its own, so it must be absorbed through diet or supplements. The World Health Organization recommends consuming 1 – 2 portions of fish weekly, however, if you’re unable to meet this requirement, there are fish oil supplements that can help you get enough omega-3 fatty acids. 

Today, fish oils are one of the most consumed dietary supplements, as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are vital for optimal health. Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce pain and swelling and can also improve heart and cardiovascular health. They have also been linked to improving mood and decreasing depression.

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Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the two significant omega-3 fatty acids that are commonly found in fish. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is known to reduce triglycerides in the blood, while docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is known for its positive effects on the development of eye and nerve tissues. It might also help reduce the risk of heart and circulatory diseases by decreasing the thickness of blood and reducing inflammation. 

The list of health benefits linked to fish oils is undeniably long and many are already supported by specific studies. Below we have shared some of the most common health benefits.

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1. Heart Friendly

Although fish oil does improve heart health, there is not enough evidence currently available to prove that it prevents heart attacks or strokes. Fish oil has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (composed of EPA and DHA) which benefit the body by:

  • Lowering the levels of triglycerides in the blood
  • Helping increase the “good” HDL cholesterol (however, it does not appear to reduce the level of “bad” LHL Cholesterol)
  • Helping reduce blood pressure
  • Helping prevent the formation of plaques that cause the arteries to harden
  • Making arterial plaques more stable and safer for those who already have them
  • Keeping blood platelets from clumping together, thus preventing the formation of harmful blood clots

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2. Mental Health

Our brain is composed of almost 60% fat, and this fat is mainly Omega 3 fatty acids. Therefore, Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for normal brain function. Some studies suggest that EPA and DHA could help treat neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and memory loss. Epidemiological studies submit that either a deficit or imbalance of omega 3 fatty acids may be linked to increased risks of these conditions. However, these claims still need further well-designed studies to support the benefits of fish oils.

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3. Eye Booster

DHA is a major structural component of the eye, which is one of the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Studies show that insufficient levels of DHA may create greater risks of vision problems. Many Optometrists recommend taking Omega-3 supplements to support eye health, even though scientific evidence is still needed to support its use. Our eyes naturally decline as we age, leading to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and getting enough Omega-3 is interestingly linked to a reduced risk of AMD. Still, present studies are not enough to support all claims and more well-designed studies are needed to prove its benefits.

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4. Weight Loss

Obesity is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today. Approximately 39% of the global population is considered overweight, while another 13% is defined as obese. Obesity has been linked to many lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Although to date, studies have not shown unanimous findings and opinions are still diverse, fish oil can aid in weight loss in the following ways:

  • Reduce hunger and appetite: Consuming fish oils was observed to stimulate the ‘feeling of fullness’ hormone in obese individuals in one study
  • Can increase metabolism: Metabolism is our body’s ability to burn calories and is measured by metabolic rate. The higher the metabolic rate, the more calories we burn, and the easier it is to lose weight. Several studies have linked fish oil intake to an increase of metabolic rate by around 3-6%.
  • Improves the impact of exercise: Consuming fish oils increases the number of calories and fat being burned during exercise. It is believed that this happens because fish oil helps to burn fats instead of carbohydrates as your fuel during exercise. 
  • Converting fat to muscle: In some individuals, their weight might not drop dramatically, but body analysis reveals an increase in muscle mass and fat loss. 

It’s important to note that taking fish oil is not enough to lose weight. The best approach is to combine proper nutrition with physical activity.

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5. Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is our body’s natural response to infections and damages and is essential for the healing process. That being said, Chronic Inflammation is incredibly detrimental to your health. Omega 3 fatty acids have remarkable anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation. Researchers found that increasing your fish oil intake can increase your immune cells’ ability to attack bacteria and decrease the cell activity that promotes blood clotting. Studies have consistently observed a connection between higher omega 3 intakes and reduced inflammation.

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6. Glowing Skin

Your skin is the largest organ in your body. DHA is the structural component of skin and responsible for keeping it healthy. Omega 3 can protect your skin from sun damage while EPA helps block the release of substances that eat away the collagen in your skin after sun exposure. This helps prevent premature aging. 

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These health benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids are just a few of a long list. Many well-designed and properly conducted studies are still needed to dig out what is behind the Omega 3 fatty acids’ known health benefits. 

Animal-Based Sources of Omega 3

  • Oily fishes such as herring, tuna, salmon, sardines
  • Some shellfish, like oysters and shrimp
  • Fish liver oils such as cod liver oil
  • Eggs that are fortified with omega 3

Vegetable-based Alternatives for Omega 3

  • Flaxseeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Soybeans
  • Canola
  • Kidney beans
  • Avocado

Aside from diet, Omega 3 can also be consumed via supplements. Fish oil is extracted from fish tissue and is highly susceptible to oxidation, easily developing rancid-off flavors and degradation of essential nutrients due to its high level of unsaturation. This makes it very challenging for manufacturers to preserve and formulate fish oil supplements. Ideally, consume most of your Omega 3 fatty acids naturally through your diet and supplement only as needed. it is best to consult with your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you are taking any medications or have a pre-existing medical condition. 

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