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6 amazing benefits of fish oil

Basma Saleh

6 amazing benefits of fish oil





Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found that omega-3 deficiency is the sixth highest cause of death in the United States, accounting for 72,000 to 96,000 deaths per year (1). This is higher than the number of breast cancer deaths, which are estimated at around 40,000 deaths per year. Shocking news, isn't it? 

The perks of this shiny golden liquid, which was part of our ancestors' wisdom, have long been documented in scientific literature. In the 1930s, Dr. Weston Price successfully used cod liver oil along with other nutrients to cure tooth decay (here); and modern research has time after time emphasized the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on brain health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, cancer, as well as maternal and child health.


Types of omega-3 fatty acids

EPA and DHA are two types of Omega-3s that are mainly found in fish oil. On the other hand, ALA (alpha-linoleic acid) is a plant-based omega-3 that is primarily found in chia seeds, flaxseed and hemp. 

Our cellular health is much more dependent on EPA and DHA than on ALA. EPA is known to support the heart, immune system, and inflammatory response, while DHA is well documented for its role in supporting the brain, eyes, and central nervous system. Although our body has the ability to convert ALA into both, this is only done in very small amounts, rendering fish oil supplementation a must.


1. Fish oil and brain health

When it comes to brain and neurological health, fish oil runs the gamut. Researchers at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience found that fish oil supplements improve attention, hyperactivity, as well as other behavioral and cognitive symptoms in children with ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (2). They also found that children and adolescents with ADHD had lower blood levels of omega-3 compared to their healthy counterparts.

Fish oil is equally important to pregnant and lactating women. A report that combined results from several studies concluded that supplementing pregnant women and newborns with omega-3s were found to raise children's IQ by 3.5 points (3)

Omega-3s were also proven beneficial for Alzheimer's disease patients who witnessed an increased blood flow in specific areas of their brains after supplementing fish oil. 

The positive effect of omega-3 fatty acids on the brain is attributed to their highly anti-inflammatory nature and the fact that they are a component of the brain cell wall, which means that their presence helps the brain repair itself.


2. Fish oil and cancer prevention

In a study to compare the cancer-fighting effect of both marine-derived and plant-derived omega-3s on breast cancer, a research team from the University of Guelph, Canada, exposed a group of mice that were bred to develop HER2-Positive cancer, which is one of the most aggressive types of cancer, to one of the three types of omega-3s from before birth. The mice that were exposed to the fish oil-derived omega-3s EPA and DHA experienced a 60–70 percent reduction in tumor size, as well as a 30 percent decrease in the number of breast tumors (4).

The team found that EPA and DHA were eight times more effective at preventing the development of breast cancer tumors than ALA.


3. Fish oil and autoimmune disease

Autoimmune disease patients can reap the benefits of fish oil as well. A number of Clinical trials that were carried out to assess the benefits of fish oil supplementation in a number of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, lupus, and multiple sclerosis reported a decrease in disease activity, as well as a lowered use of anti-inflammatory drugs (5).


4. Fish oil and migraine

In a study, 23 adolescents who had an average of (31 +/- 4 episodes/2 months), witnessed significant reduction in headache frequency to (4 +/- 1 episodes/2 months) during fish oil treatment. 


5. Fish oil and hormonal balance

We all have a hormone called pregnenolone, which is the mother of all hormones. Pregnenolone is the precursor of all hormones and without it we can't produce enough estrogen, progesterone or testosterone. In order to have healthy levels of pregnenolone, we need cholesterol and vitamin A. Raw fish oil that has not been heat treated is very rich in the naturally occurring form of vitamin A. 

- Stress hormones. Multiple studies have shown that low omega-3 levels are associated with higher circulating levels of stress hormones, while higher intake of omega-3 is associated with lower circulating stress hormones. 

Tip: When buying fish oil never buy brands that have added vitamins as these oils have been heat and chemical treated and lost their naturally occurring vitamins.


6. Fish oil, DNA repair and anti-aging 

All anti-aging products contain some form of vitamin A for a good reason. Vitamin A is the most important for skin health. Not only is it a very strong antioxidant that scavenges the free radicals that damage the skin, vitamin A can help renew the skin at the cellular level through its ability to repair DNA. However, using topical products will only offer a temporary effect as they never get to work on the cellular level. Providing our body with adequate amounts of vitamin A is key to maintaining youthful skin for a longer time. 

We can get natural vitamin A from two sources, either plants or animals. However, the body treats both in a different way. Plants provide us with carotenoids, which the body needs to transform into retinol the bioavailable form that it can use to perform its tasks. And, while studies have shown that our body's ability to perform this conversion is weak, vitamin A that comes from an animal source can be used directly by our body as it comes in the form of retinol.


Things to remember from this post

- Omega-3 deficiency accounts for around 90,000 deaths in the United States every year

- EPA and DHA are marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids, while ALA is plant-derived

- Children and adolescents with ADHD had lower blood levels of omega-3s

- Fish oil supports development of fetuses and newborns' brain and nervous systems 

- Marine-derived omega 3s are eight times more effective that plant-derived omega-3s at preventing breast cancer

- Fish oil can help reduce disease activity, as well as dependency on anti-inflammatory drugs among autoimmune disease sufferers


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