Fish Oil’s Effect on Mental Stress


We've known for some time now of the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil supplements. The omega-2 fats found in this oil have all kinds of health advantages for humans, aside from heart health. The American Heart Association suggests everyone consumes two portions of fatty fish each week as part of their staple diet. The problem with fish is that it has now become quite a polluted source of food. Certain types of fish can even contain high levels of mercury among other things. This is why fish oil (FO) supplements are becoming so popular. As long as it's a quality product and is stored well, this is a cleaner, safer way of getting omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.

FO Counteracts Damaging Effects of Mental Stress on Heart

The findings of this study looked at volunteers who agreed to take FO supplements for an agreed duration (several weeks). Another group took the equivalent in olive oil. The blunted response to mental stress was measured in several areas of cardiovascular health, i.e. heart rate and Muscle Sympathetic Nerve Activity, or MSNA. This is a part of something we call the fight or flight” response. The results for fish oil were encouraging (see below). They could explain the reason why taking FO supplements may be beneficial to heart health. There needs to be more research, but there's a potential for doctors to prevent more heart disease in certain demographics.

The Findings

When the two groups (FO and Olive Oil) were relaxed, there was no difference in the results. However, during mental stress activities the results varied significantly. The volunteers in the fish oil group showed blunted heart rate reactivity at the time of stress compared to those who took olive oil. Likewise, the Muscle Sympathetic Nerve Reactivity to mental stress was blunted also in the FO group.

The Conclusion

What the results show is that FO may well have a defensive effect on cardiovascular function at times of mental stress.  This could explain why taking FO supplements are so beneficial to the heart, thus helping it to stay healthy.

Further Reading

Fish oil and neurovascular reactivity to mental stress in humans.

Carter JR, Schwartz CE, Yang H, Joyner MJ.

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