Fish Oil Health Facts
Omega 3 fatty acid, also known as fish oil, has various useful health benefits that help such things as the heart and the skin. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), however, recommends that certain precautions be taken when consuming fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids or fish oil supplements. There are several different derivatives of fish oil, so contact your doctor before taking fish oil in any form.
Cod liver oil, a type of fish oil, has been used for hundreds of years. Poor people in Northern England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Europe, Iceland and Newfoundland gave it to their animals. Because this oil made their animals so healthy, people began consuming cod liver oil themselves. Fishermen rubbed it on aching joints and on their skin. They also consumed it to fight colds and flu viruses when they were at sea.
Fish oil comes from the tissues of oily fish. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are precursors to eicosanoids that reduce inflammation throughout the body. Certain small fish get fish oil from eating microalgae that produce these fatty acids. Larger fatty predatory fish eat small fish whose bodies are rich in fatty acids.
Several studies have suggested that amounts of DHA and EPA in the form of fish or fish oil supplements lower triglycerides, slow the build-up of plaques, lower blood pressure, decrease the risk of heart attack and strokes in people with known heart disease, keep skin younger looking and increase brain function. Some experts believe that fish oil may delay or prevent the onset of dementia.
Besides fatty fish, other food sources of omega 3 fatty acids include flax seed, eggs, meat, certain types of nuts, spinach, sesame seed paste and chick peas. Plant sources of fatty acids are called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). They can be converted in our bodies into EPA and DHA. Oils that contain fatty acids are soya bean oil, canola oil and linseed/flaxseed oil.
The FDA recommends limiting consumption of certain types of fatty fish species such as albacore tuna, shark and swordfish due to high levels of toxic contaminants. If you consume large amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, you may have an increased risk of bleeding or bruising. You may also experience stomach gas, nausea or diarrhea. If these side effects persist, contact your doctor.
Fish oil causes platelet aggregation and dilation of the arteries and veins. It also has anti-inflammatory effects. Thus, it can reduce the risk of stroke and help calm allergic inflammation. Symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiencies include flaky and itchy skin.
A dose of 900 milligrams per day has been shown to have a beneficial effect in decreasing the development of heart disease. Consumption of at least two servings of fish per week is recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) due to its benefits to the heart and blood vessels. The AHA recommends at least 1 gram of EPA plus DHA for people with heart disease. The AHA also recommends 2 to 4 grams per day of EPA plus DHA as capsules under a physician's care for people needing to lower triglyceride levels in their blood.