It is not controversial to say that omega-3 fatty acids are an important facet of good health.
Many studies have been conducted on omega-3s over the years, revealing their value in buffering the effects of a host of illnesses and improving wellbeing generally. And many more of these wide-ranging studies come to light each year.
Proven Benefits of Omega-3 Fish Oil
Although the tangible health benefits of certain foods and nutrients can often divide opinion, the efficacy of omega-3s cannot be denied. Unlike, say, vitamin D, omega-3 is not synthesized by the human body and must be obtained from food or supplements. As to why omega-3 fish oil is good for you, one need only consult the EU Register on Nutrition and Health Claims. The primary omega-3s EPA (ethyl eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid ethyl ester) are said to contribute to:
- The maintenance of normal blood pressure
- The maintenance of normal blood triglyceride levels
- The normal function of the heart
Of course, fatty acids are not interchangeable and thus each has their own unique benefits. For example, DHA alone contributes to the maintenance of normal brain function and vision. DHA intake also plays a part in the normal visual development of infants up to 12 months and the normal brain/vision development of the fetus and breastfed infants.
Another usage of fish oil is for inflammation.
One widely-reported study from earlier this year determined that omega-3 fatty acids (such as those found in fish oils, flax and hemp) could prevent and treat inflammation and oxidative stress brought about by air pollution, delivering a 30-50% reduction in harm. Though the study was on mice, not humans, lead researcher Dr. Jing Kang of Harvard Medical School said: “I can anticipate the same things that happen in mice would happen in humans, because many other inflammatory diseases in humans can be treated with Omega Fatty Acids. We feel very confident OFAs can do something very good.”
Motivated by the findings, the US Environmental Protection Agency is now recruiting participants for a large-scale human trial.
Omega-3 Fish Oil for Weight Loss
It’s not one of the most commonly cited omega-3 benefits, but it’s true: many people successfully use fish oil for weight loss. In a 2015 clinical trial, females using fish oil supplements (2 grams of EPA and 1 gram of DHA per day) for 12 weeks demonstrated increased metabolic rate and fat oxidation both at rest and during exercise. They also enjoyed increased lean mass and physical function when compared to a placebo group.
Interestingly, researchers highlighted a reduction in so-called visceral belly fat among those taking fish oil. It’s thought that rather than turning into fat in the body, omega-3s improve the activity of insulin. The role of insulin in fat loss is now well-understood, with those who are especially sensitive to insulin more likely to struggle to shift excess poundage.
Can Fish Oil Protect the Heart?
Consuming omega-3 fatty acids is a core part of a heart-healthy diet. Not only do they reduce the risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats) and blood clotting, but they also lower triglyceride levels, blood pressure and inflammation throughout the body.
The most recent evidence came from the Journal of the American Medical Association, who earlier this year reviewed 20 clinical trials studying the health benefits of omega-3 fish oil supplements on sick patients. They found that the risk of heart attack was lowered by 11%, and the risk of sudden death reduced by 13%.
As we know, there are many things we can do to protect our heart – from eating less trans fats to exercising regularly: adding omega-3s into your diet is but one measure.
Stay tuned for the conclusion of this 2-part blog series next week!