So, should I be still taking fish oil? With recent news stories questioning the health benefit you may be asking yourself is it worth taking fish oil. Let’s consider some facts.
Recent media attention has been focused fish oils and it effectiveness in treating heart disease but the benefits of fish oils are not limited to heart health. A search for recent studies reported in PubMed relating to the possible health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids have returned in excess of 70 thousand items, the recent study questioning the effectiveness of fish oils and omega 3 fatty acids selected only 20 studies conducted after 1998 and some researchers believe that the research items selected may have not taken into consideration the adoption of statin drugs as the primary treatment for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and that these drugs may minimise the positive effects of Omega 3’s.
So, why do I need to eat fish or take fish oils anyway? Our bodies need certain fats to manufacture some hormone like substances and chemicals to maintain our health and wellbeing, and Fish oils contain the building blocks of these chemicals, long chain fatty acids that are considered essential, that means that our bodies do not produce them and it is essential that we consume them in our diet.
Two components of fish oils conferring health benefits are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two components are converted into chemicals that effect blood chemistry, muscle contraction, immune function and inflammation. EPA asserts influence as an anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant and DHA is considered a major component of fats in the cell membranes of the retina, brain, male reproductive tissue and heart muscle.
Omega 3 fish oils have few side effects and are a low risk option of disease prevention as opposed to many drugs currently used and primary treatment and prevent of disease. Updated studies on Omega 3 fish oils and heart health have concluded that they have a positive effect on the prevention and treatment of heart disease have been found to benefit heart health, and other studies have confirmed its positive effect but found that it is also dose related and having a mix of dietary fish and fish oils is important because there is a difference in the ratios of EPA and DHA in fish and fish oils, in population groups with higher fish intake there is increased amounts of DHA incorporated into the heart muscle and increased heart health benefits are associated, so getting the right amount and type is important.
The health benefits go beyond heart health and include complementing treatments for Rheumatoid arthritis and reducing the need for medications that are harsh on the stomach.
Dietary omega 3 fatty acids and particular DHA plays an active role in the cell membranes of our neurons effecting fluidity and growth of neurons and influencing the production and use of neurotransmitters in the brain and so, has a positive effect on both the cognitive development of infants and children and also a positive effect in the treatment and prevention of depression in adults. Current studies are examining the effects and possible uses as part of treatments for Alziemers, Brain trauma and Autism spectrum disorders. Examination is also being made on the influences of levels on Omega 3 intake for anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, some cancers including breast, prostate and colorectal cancer and many disorders effecting mood and outlook
There have been positive associations with Fish oils and other dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids and reduced incidences of the development of Type 2 Diabetes in people at risk and the anti-inflammatory effect of has been effective in alleviating atopic dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis and the consumption fish and fish oils shows promise in assisting balancing fat ratio of omega 6 fatty acids and Omega 3 fatty acids and resulting in a reduction of pro-inflammatory conditions.
So now we know that fish oils are beneficial to my health what should I consider before I start taking supplements? Well, fish oils are considered generally safe but you should consider that the main effect is as an anti-inflammatory and as an anticoagulant. So, if you are currently taking anti-inflammatory medications you may need to consult your doctor and review the dosage or type of medication you are taking. You will also need to consult your doctor if you are taking anticoagulant medication or have a bleeding disorder and please cease fish oils supplementation 2 weeks prior to any surgery and consult with your surgeon.
Also consider the best source, the most concentrated dietary source of EPA and DHA is deep sea oily Fish and there have been some concerns about the possible contamination with Methyl mercury, so choose reputable supplement companies who have pure sources of cold water fish. When consuming fish avoid eating fish associated with higher levels of mercury such as marlin, swordfish, southern bluefish tuna, barramundi, ling, orange roughy, shark and rays and consider fish associated with lower levels of mercury including mackerel, herring, sardines, Atlantic salmon and canned salmon and tuna in oil.