It seems every time a new study comes out attempting to discredit fish oil, two more come out singing its praises, so what’s a consumer to believe? In general, the supplements that really work seem to get attacked the most as big drug companies know these supplements could create problems for their bottom line. Fish oil is one of these supplements, and there are just too many studies concluding the big benefits of fish oil for it to be ignored. While its association with heart health might be the most well-known benefit, we’re finding that fish oil isn’t just for the heart anymore—your joints really love it too.
What You Need to Know About Fish Oil
In the Inuit population, who are native to the Arctic regions, chronic diseases that are so common in everyone else are practically nonexistent. Fish makes up a large portion of their diet, so much so that they often sprinkle more fish oil over their fish before they consume it. Understandably, their unique fish-hardy diet and disease resistance has made them a topic of analysis. While fish is an abundant food source and primary way of sustenance for the Inuit people, what is it about fish that makes it such a healthy dietary choice for the rest of us?
Fish supplies a heavy dose of omega-3 fatty acids (which convert to long-chain DHA and EPA fatty acids in the body), something our bodies need but don’t produce. Fish, such as shellfish and oily fish, are the perfect omega-3 food source. In the typical American diet, the challenge is that we just don’t eat enough fish to fully benefit from these essential fatty acids.
So supplementing with fish oil fills the gap and allows our bodies to obtain the benefits of those essential DHA (supports, for example, brain health) and EPA (supports, for example, joint function) fatty acids. While some have claimed we need more fish oil than we could possibly keep up with to reap its benefits, more recent studies are finding that we really don’t need nearly that much.
Even Low Doses of Fish Oil May Make Your Heart and Joints Happy
In one study that was investigating the role that health and diet play in arthritis progression, researchers found that inflammation due to arthritis was actually decreased with fish oil supplementation (attributed to the long-chain fatty acids converted from the fish oil). The bigger finding, which contradicts the you-can-never-get-enough-fish-oil crowd, was that this benefit to arthritis was accomplished with low doses (just 1,000 mgs per day, the equivalent of one to two capsules) of fish oil supplementation.
More Benefits of Fish Oil
Fish oil seems to have an endless list of benefits, and just when you think science has discovered them all, a new study proves you wrong. So what else do we know about the benefits of fish oil? Let’s review the short list:
- Exercise outcomes may be improved with fish oil supplementation.
- Arterial stiffness can lead to high blood pressure or stroke; fish oil has been associated with reduced stiffness in the arteries.
- Fish oil may regenerate stroke-damaged brain cells.
- Fish oil may aid in healing processes and lowering inflammation.
- Fish oil may increase the “good” HDL cholesterol and decrease triglycerides thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Fish oil may protect cartilage in those with arthritis.
- Lowered cancer risk have also been associated with omega-3 consumption (found in fish oil).
The upshot? Studies are showing way too many benefits of fish oil for us to turn a blind eye to their results, and now we’re finding that even low doses of fish oil may keep our heart and joints healthy as well as provide arthritis relief. It’s important to note that you get what you pay for, so make sure you choose a high-quality fish oil to get the most out of the supplement.