Six Health Benefits of Fish Oil Supplements That You Didn’t Know About
Perhaps you’ve heard about the benefits of taking fish oil supplements. Maybe your doctor mentioned it to you, or a friend, or maybe you’ve just seen the TV commercials advertising different brands. No matter how you heard about it, taking fish oil supplements is an important part of your nutritional regimen, and today we’ll tell you why.
What is fish oil and why should I care?
Fish oil is a term that refers to the fatty acids present in the flesh of some fish. These fatty acids, the omega-3 fatty acids, are particularly beneficial for humans, and they can only be obtained from food.
1. Boost your brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to support brain function, and this includes keeping the “thinking diseases” at bay, as well. Specific ailments that fish oil can help to reduce, delay, or prevent include depression, psychosis, and attention deficit disorder. But whether or not one of these is a concern for you, boosting your fish oil intake will likely improve your cognitive function.
2. Reduce inflammation. The fatty acids in fish and fish oil supplements are thought to reduce cellular inflammation. Some specific benefits to reduced inflammation include a rapid reduction in joint pain, improved breathing ability for patients with asthma, and a more efficiently functioning cardiovascular system.
3. Heart healthy. In addition to the cardiovascular benefits of reduced inflammation in cells of the heart and blood vessels, omega-3 fatty acids have consistently shown signs of reducing the chances of heart attacks and strokes. Omega-3s are known to help keep triglyceride counts in control as well as aid in maintaining a health blood pressure, and Fish oil supplements may also ease arrhythmia in some patients.
4. Save your memory. Researchers are beginning to see the ways that omega-3 fatty acids and fish oils are helping people dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Preliminary research indicates that dementia and Alzheimer’s can be prevented by omega-3s, and recent studies are beginning to test the hypothesis that the DHA in fish oil supports brain health in preventing dementia.
5. Keep cancer at bay. A few recent studies have shown that some of the fatty acids in fish oil to have anti-cancer properties. The preliminary findings indicate that fish oil specifically fights cancers of the colon, breast, and prostate. More research is needed before a strong conclusion can be made, but initial tests and studies already show that there may be a link between regularly getting your omega-3s and a reduced risk of breast cancer and a better chance of beating prostate cancer.
6. Improve your skin. Fish oil supplements have been known to be beneficial for several different skin problems. Taking cod liver oil, for example, will help patients dealing with psoriasis. A study in Northern Ireland showed that patients with lupus affecting the skin were in better condition after 12– and 24-week regimens of fish oil. And anecdotally, some doctors recommend that a nursing mother take two capsules of fish oil every day to clear up her baby’s cradle cap.
A note about pregnancy
Fish oil is known to be especially important for pregnant women. Specifically, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are essential for good brain development in the fetus and later, in the infant. Omega-3s protect the brain from injury, they support the development of the baby’s central nervous system, and they are also key for the early stages of the visual system. After giving birth, new mothers who are nursing are encouraged to keep taking fish oil supplements for at least four months to continue giving the good benefits of omega-3s. There is even preliminary research showing that receiving breast milk fortified by the mother taking fish oil supplements may help prevent the baby from developing food allergies and sensitivities as well as some skin diseases and asthma.
Fish oil supplements are a preferred method of getting omega-3s for pregnant women, because some of the common sources of omega-3s in food – tuna, mackerel – are also potentially dangerous for pregnant women because of their potentially high mercury content.
Are there alternatives?
It makes sense that the most natural way to get your fish oil is by eating fish – at least two servings a week of an oily fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, or trout. Fish oil supplements are the easiest way to get a steady dose of omega-3 fatty acids. The large, translucent capsules are the most well known type of fish oil supplements, but several different types of fish oil are available in bottles and can be taken “straight” by the spoonful. (Fermented cod liver oil, anyone?) The pills are widely available in just about every grocery store, drug store, and natural foods store as well as online. Some people don’t like the supplement pills, however, because they tend to be large, most have a “fishy” taste that doesn’t go away for hours, and they aren’t vegetarian/vegan.
There are some supplements that offer omega-3s in smaller capsules that don’t have the taste (such as krill oil). Other alternatives are some nuts and seeds rich in the essential fatty acids (including flaxseed oil and walnuts) though it’s important to do your research to be sure you’re getting the right mixes and amounts. Personally, I freeze my fish oil pills, and that has consistently worked to get rid of the fishy taste.
The body needs omega-3 fatty acids to support all sorts of systems and tissues, and getting enough of the nutrient is critical for optimum health. Making an effort to add more foods rich in omega-3s to your diet or starting a fish oil supplement regimen is an easy way to make a big impact on your health and wellness – and if you’ve got a baby on the way, you’ll be doing that little person a big favor as well. Pregnant or not, however, fish oil is an essential part of every diet.
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