Maintaining healthy levels of omega-3 fatty acids is vital for maintaining good overall health. According to the guidelines given by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association (ACC/AHA), a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help regulate heart, eye, and brain health, while also supporting fetal development in pregnant women. The human body, however, is unable to synthesize omega-3 fatty acids on its own. This is why it is important to ensure you are consuming sufficient amounts of omega-3 rich food sources such as fish. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating 1–2 servings of fish per week. Fish oil supplements can also help provide sufficient omega-3s to your body.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Fish oil is the oil or fat extracted from fish tissue of oily or fatty fish, such as mackerel, trout, tuna, sardines, herring, and salmon. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D. Sometimes, fish oils can also be procured from the liver of other fish. In such cases, it is called cod liver oil.
Types of omega-3 fats and fatty acids are commonly found in plants and marine life. Two of these types, namely docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are found abundantly in oily fish. Another type of omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), is mainly found in plant-based foods such as flaxseed. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in all parts of our body, especially in the retina, brain, and sperm cells. However, since our body cannot synthesize omega-3 on its own, the body’s reserves can deplete over time, making it essential for you to obtain it from food sources or supplements.
Heart diseases are the number one cause of death in the world. Research suggests that people who eat more fish are more likely to have a normally functioning heart. This is because fish oil can help manage levels of cholesterol and blood pressure etc., all of which can be linked to poor heart health.
Regular consumption of fish oil helps improve levels of HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol in our body without contributing to the levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. Moreover, fish oil consumption has been linked to lower levels of triglycerides in the body. Fish oil, even in small doses, can help regulate blood pressure, which is a common symptom of hypertension.
The formation of plaque in the blood vessels can cause them to become stiff and lead to poor blood flow. Research indicates that fish oil might help lower the likelihood of plaque forming in the blood vessels and can keep the rhythm of the heart within normal levels.
Promotes Eye Health
Just like the brain, omega-3s play an important in our eye health. Research indicates that people with lower levels of omega-3s might be more prone to health concerns related to eyes and vision.
The human brain is made up of 60% fat, most of which is in the form of omega-3 fatty acids, maintaining optimal levels of omega-3s is vital for the normal functioning of the brain. In fact, some studies have observed that individuals with certain abnormalities in brain function tend to have lower levels of omega-3 in their blood as compared to healthy individuals, although direct relevance between lower levels of omega-3 and any brain disorders has not been established yet. Statistics show that supplementing with fish oil can assist with mood regulation and optimal function of the brain.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for the early growth and development of both the fetus and a newborn, which is why women need to ensure they are consuming sufficient amounts of omega-3 while they are pregnant or are breastfeeding. Studies suggest a link between higher levels of omega-3s in the bodies of pregnant and lactating women and improved hand-eye coordination and visual development in infants.
Can Help Support a Healthy Inflammatory Response
Inflammation is a natural by-product of normal wear and tear in the body. However, severe inflammation or inflammation that persists for prolonged periods can harm our health. Omega-3 fatty acids can help support a healthy inflammatory response throughout the body to help target various health concerns including bone and joint health.
Can Assist with Weight Management
Obesity is generally defined as having a body mass index (BMI) above 30. According to the WHO, around 39% of adults in the world are overweight, out of which 13% are obese. These figures are even higher in developed countries such as the United States. Studies and statistics suggest a strong relationship between obesity and various health concerns.
Research suggests that fish oil supplements, along with a healthy diet and exercise, might help with managing your weight better, which in turn can help lower the risk of various health concerns that are linked with unhealthy weight and BMI.
As we age, our bones begin to lose their essential minerals, thus becoming more fragile and prone to problems. Some studies suggest omega-3 fatty acids can prove to be beneficial for improving bone health and maintaining optimal mineral proportions, thereby helping in managing the symptoms of various bones related health concerns.
Can Promote Skin Health
The skin contains a large number of omega-3 fatty acid compounds. The health and elasticity of our skin can decline over time due to factors such as age and exposure to sunlight or pollutants. Some studies, however, suggest that taking fish oil regularly might help with better management of a variety of skin disorders.
Can Help Support a Healthy Liver
Our liver metabolizes most of the fat in our body and can play a pivotal role in weight gain. Some studies suggest that supplementation with fish oil can support a healthy inflammatory response in the liver — encouraging optimal liver function optimally and helping to manage the amount of fat inside the liver.