When it comes to dietary supplements, fish oil is one of the most popular. This is because fish oil is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids – specifically, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than seven percent of adults regularly take a supplement that includes fish oil, omega-3s, or EPA, and DHA.
Because most people do not consume enough fatty fish to obtain significant amounts of EPA and DHA from their diet, adding fish oil supplements may help. Health officials recommend healthy adults get between 250 and 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA each day.
According to WebMD, fish oil supplements come in two forms: over-the-counter dietary supplements and prescription medications, which contain much higher levels of EPA and DHA. While individuals taking prescription-strength fish oil may be instructed to take up to 15 grams a day for certain medical conditions, people taking OTC fish oil usually take much lower doses.
Although fish oil is commonly seen as safe, it can have negative interactions with certain medications, such as birth control pills and drugs used to control high blood pressure. It’s always best to speak with your doctor before beginning any dietary supplement.
11 Amazing Health Benefits of Fish oil
- Fish oil has powerful anti-inflammatory effects
- Fish oil could improve the health of your heart
- Your bones could benefit from fish oil
- Fish oil may help manage blood sugar levels in those with diabetes
- Fish oil may protect your aging eyes
- If you have psoriasis, fish oil could help
- Fish oil could help prevent or manage asthma
- Fish oil may prevent flare-ups of autoimmune diseases
- Fish oil could help with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
- Fish oil may improve your chances of conceiving, especially later in life
- Fish oil may reduce symptoms of depression
Fish oil could improve the health of your heart
A lot of the hype surrounding fish oil centers on its potential for improving heart health. As a 2018 paper published in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology explained, EPA and DHA are able to combat inflammation, dilate blood vessels, control irregular heartbeats, lower blood pressure, and lower triglycerides — all of which can help manage heart disease. The paper’s authors noted that the American Heart Association recommends individuals with diagnosed heart disease consume one gram of EPA and DHA daily. It’s unclear, however, if fish oil can help prevent heart disease in healthy individuals. One 2017 meta-analysis of past research published in Circulation noted: “There are no reports from RCTs [randomized controlled trials] that have targeted exclusively the primary prevention of CHD [coronary heart disease], that is, the effects of omega-3 PUFA supplements in the general population of patients without prior CHD.”
Heart disease is a big problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s the “leading cause of death,” killing approximately 655,000 people each year. More than 18 million Americans have coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease.
Your bones could benefit from fish oil
When it comes to building strong bones, calcium and vitamin D tend to get all the attention. But the omega-3s found in fish oil also appears to play an important role. As a 2014 paper published in Current Osteoporosis Reports explained, omega-3s and other polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) assist with bone remodeling on a cellular level. Although we think of bones as hard and unchanging, they’re constantly being broken down and rebuilt, and omega-3s help with the latter. Omega-3s reduce bone and muscle loss as we age, and a higher intake of omega-3s has been linked to stronger bones and muscles in older adults.
Another study, published in 2011, examined the role of fish oil specifically. Subjects were divided into two groups: One group received 4 grams of safflower oil each day, while the other received 4 grams of fish oil, supplying 1,600 mg of EPA and 800 mg of DHA. After six weeks, researchers measured the level of N-terminal cross-linked telopeptide (NTx) in subjects’ urine. NTS are a marker of bone breakdown. Those taking the fish oil had significantly reduced levels of NTs in their urine, suggesting that their bones weren’t being broken down as quickly.
Fish oil may protect your aging eyes
vitamin A: fish oil may be the nutrient your eyes need most. A 2014 study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science found that individuals with the lowest dietary intake of EPA and DHA were most at risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Even if you already have AMD, fish oil supplements may help.
In another study, published in PharmaNutrition the same year, researchers gave patients with AMD high-dose omega-3s containing 3.4 grams of EPA and 1.6 grams of DHA every day for 6 months. The researchers noted that “significant improvement in visual acuity occurred in 100 percent of patients … within four and half months after omega-3 supplementation.” But not all research has come to the same conclusion. A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that EPA and DHA had no ability to slow the progression of advanced AMD.
So it may be that fish oil can help prevent AMD or reverse mild forms of it, but once the condition is more advanced, fish oil may not be effective.