Radiant Tree Productions, LLC
by Debbie Mirander, R. N., BSN
Fish oil, made from the tissue of oily fish-such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, lake trout and sardines-has many health benefits. Fish oil contains important Omega-3 fatty acids , most notably eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and decosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The intake of the recommended amount of DHA and EPA has been shown to have many heart healthy benefits. Consumption of dietary fish or fish oil supplements can lower triglycerides-a certain type of blood fat-and increase "good" cholesterol, while slightly thinning the blood. All of these factors help reduce the risk of heart attack. Fish oil also helps to prevent dangerous abnormal heart rhythms that can cause sudden cardiac death, and strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease. In addition to the numerous benefits already mentioned for the heart, fish oil can also slow the hardening of arteries and slightly lower blood pressure-two more important factors of heart health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are not only good for the heart; they also help to reduce inflammation. This is perhaps one of the most valuable benefits of the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, as inflammation is associated with many serious diseases. Heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, psoriasis, and Alzheimer's, for example, are characterized by increased levels of pro-inflammatory markers. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil reduce inflammation by preventing production of pro-inflammatory signaling molecules. This may help to prevent serious illness associated with inflammation.
Morning stiffness and joint tenderness was shown to decrease with regular intake of fish oil supplements. Fish oil does not act as a painkiller, and it takes regular use before a difference is noticed. However, fish oil is a viable, natural way to reduce the pain and symptoms associated with arthritis if one is dedicated to the long term outcome rather than focused on immediate cessation of symptoms.
Omega-3 fatty acids slow the rate at which protective caps on the end of chromosomes shorten, thus increasing the lifespan of cells. The caps, or telomeres, are made from copied strands of DNA and prevent the chromosomes from becoming damaged. When a cell divides, its telomere gets shorter until it can get no shorter and the DNA becomes damaged. When the DNA is damaged the cell no longer divides. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil slows the deterioration of the telomeres, resulting in longer life of cells.
Age-related macular degeneration
Fish oil has also been shown to significantly reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. A major component of the eye's retina is DHA, accounting for 60% of the fatty acids in the retina. Macular degeneration is a common cause of blindness in the elderly and has no effective treatment. Omega-3 fatty acids help support healthy circulation and blood vessel strength, as well as naturally lowering cholesterol levels-all of which are causes of macular degeneration.
Benefits of fish oil to mental health
Not only is fish oil beneficial to physical health, fish oil is also beneficial to mental health. Alzheimer's is a debilitating disease causing memory loss, dementia, personality change, and eventually death. People with Alzheimer's have a reduced amount of a protein called LR11, which prevents toxic "plaques-deposits" of a protein that are toxic to neurons in the brain. The Omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, increases the production of the protein LR11, thus decreasing the amount of toxic "plaques" and helping to prevent the occurrence of Alzheimer's.
Fish oil and depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia
Fish oil does not only help prevent Alzheimer's. It also helps to prevent mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Omega-3 fatty acids help maintain the proper functioning of dopamine and serotonin signaling systems in the brain. Both dopamine and serotonin levels, and the signaling system of those hormones, are believed to contribute to the occurrence of depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Therefore, Omega-3 fatty acids may help to regulate those hormones and lessen the symptoms of these severe mental illnesses. Combined with typical drug therapy, fish oil high in Omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to help regulate the moods of those suffering from these three illnesses.
Indication of quality is the ratio of EPA and DHA per capsule. Many manufacturers include the milligrams of fish oil on their labels. However, less than one third of that number is actually the essential Omega-3 fatty acids. In order to determine the quality of the fish oil and Omega-3s then, the amounts of EPA and DHA per serving must be added. For example, a fish oil capsule that is 1,000 mg fish oil may contain 200 mg of EPA and 150 mg of DHA, meaning the capsule provides 350 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids.
-The fish oil must contain Omega-3 fatty acids, not just "fish oil." Remember, it is from the Omega-3 fatty acids that we receive health benefits.
- The supplement should list the total amount of EPA and DHA on the label. You want to get a supplement where the total of the EPA and DHA adds up to the total amount of oils in the product. If there is only 350 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids but the capsule is 1,000 mg, what kind of oil makes up the missing 650 mg? The closer to the overall capsule size, the better.
- The oil should be pressed only from the flesh of the fish. Some supplements are pressed from heads, tails, or internal organs. You wouldn't eat these parts on a fish if you were obtaining your Omega-3 fatty acids via the food source. Thus, you shouldn't want a supplement made out of the inedible parts of the fish either.
Fish oil dosage
High dosages of fish oil supplements increase the risk of side effects, such as bleeding, easy bruising and nose bleeds, whereas low dosages generally have little to no associated side effects. The amount of fish oil one should take depends heavily on the reasoning behind their consumption of fish oil. Dosage should always be discussed with your medical doctor, and should be discusses especially if taking fish oil for a specific medical condition. However, here are some general guidelines for specific fish oil dosages:
- Aging 1,000 mg twice a day
- Angina 2,000 mg fish oils 3 times a day
- Arrhythmia 1,000 mg 3 times a day
- Asthma 1,000 mg 3 times a day
- Cancer 3 capsules twice a day
- Crohn's Disease 2,000 mg twice a day
- Diabetes 2,000 mg 3 times a day
- Eczema 1,000 mg 3 times a day
- Gout 1,000 mg 3 times a day
- Heart Disease Prevention 1,000 mg 3 times a day
- High Blood Pressure 1,000 mg 3 times a day
- Lupus 2,000 mg 3 times a day
- Psoriasis 2,000 mg 3 times a day
- Raynaud's disease 1,000 mg 4 times a day
- Rheumatoid Arthritis 1000 mg (2 capsules) containing 600 mg EPA/DHA,
twice a day
- Skin Health 1,000 mg a day with food
- Stroke 1,000 mg 3 times a day
The FDA does not have a specific recommended dosage for fish oil. However, the FDA does recommend that an average healthy person (above the age of 5) should not take more than 3,000 mg of fish oil per day. The list above exceeds that recommendation in some cases, and is why the advice of a medical doctor should be followed before determining the proper dosage of fish oil when used for specific medical conditions.
The World Health Organization recommends starting dosages of fish oil at 300 - 500 mg per day, as it is a good idea to start slowly in order to see how your body feels and to ensure there are no adverse side effects or allergies. The American Heart Association recommends a daily dosage of 2,000 - 4,000 mg for high triglycerides, and a daily dosage of 1,000 mg for coronary artery disease. If fish oil is being taken for a specific medical condition that suggests a higher dosage than the recommended 3,000 mg per day, it is important to start out slow and work up to the higher dosage. When discussing fish oil dosage with your doctor be sure to bring up starting up slow and seek medical advice on the best way to slowly increase dosage until the desired amount is reached.
Additionally, due to the blood thinning effect of fish oil supplements, anyone with a chronic blood disorder should consult a medical doctor before taking ANY dosage of fish oil.
Disclaimer: Ask your doctor before starting any new supplement. Fish oil is a blood thinner and may effect sertain other medications you are taking.
Benefits of Fish Oil May 14, 2010