Essential Nutrition: Facts About Fish Oil’s Benefits

Recent studies on fish oil make the supplement sound almost miraculous. It’s no myth that the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids contained by fish oil have been shown to improve heart health, support healthy mood and reduce inflammation throughout the body. The specific benefits of these supplements are nothing short of amazing, so here is a deeper look at some of the ways fish oil can keep our bodies and minds in great shape.

Reduction of Joint Pain

Many patients who suffer from chronic joint pain rely on over-the-counter painkillers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, which can damage the stomach, kidneys and liver with long-term use. With fish oil, pain sufferers have a healthy alternative that works well for arthritis and general joint pain. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that fish oil inhibits the body’s production of prostaglandins, which worsen and extend inflammation. At several hospitals and universities in Australia and Tasmania, low doses of fish oil were shown to reduce the pain and immobility associated with osteoarthritis. Fish oil has also been shown to benefit patients with rheumatoid arthritis; one study found that patients suffering from this autoimmune disease were able to reduce their prescription pain medications after just a few months of regular fish oil use.

Improved Heart Health

Fish oil has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden death from heart attack and stabilize heart rhythm in patients who have already had heart attacks. When the arteries surrounding the heart become clogged, the reduced blood flow can cause the electrical signals regulating heart rhythm to falter, resulting in heart attack when the disruption is severe enough. The omega-3 fatty acids that are abundant in fish oil can desensitize the nerves that trigger the rhythm disruption, thereby dramatically reducing patients’ risks of experiencing sudden cardiac death from poor blood flow. One study, at the University of Rome La Sapienza, found that heart patients who had undergone heart surgery and took fish oil supplements had only half the risk of dying over a period of 2 1/2 years compared to patients who did not take the supplements. Experiments with animals have shown that omega-3 fatty acids are actually stored in heart cells over time, so patients remain protected from the dangers of abnormal heart rhythms even during temporary lapses in fish oil supplementation.

Support for Healthy Mood

For years, researchers have known that certain psychiatric problems, such as depression and anxiety, are less common among populations that eat fish more frequently. Now, studies have confirmed that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil appear to play an important role in healthy mood. At the Indiana University School of Medicine, scientists found that bipolar-model mice given fish oil over multiple years experienced normalization of their behavior and reduction of alcohol cravings. Fish oil also appears to improve the moods of mentally-healthy humans. At Ohio State University, researchers found that medical students who took 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily experienced 20 percent less anxiety before taking tests.

People who take fish oil for its health benefits should be sure to take enough to balance the omega-6 fatty acids in their diet. With too little fish oil, excessive intake of vegetable oils rich in omega-6 can override possible health improvements by increasing inflammation too much for fish oil to have an effect. Finally, the greatest effects can be experienced by avoiding rancid supplements and instead taking only high-quality fish oil.

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