Health Benefits of Fish Oil


The fact that fish oil is packed with Omega-3s, makes it very special indeed. Our bodies need Omega-3 fatty acids, but it can’t produce them, and so they have to be obtained from the foods we consume. Tuna, sardines, salmon and mackerel are good sources of two main types of fatty acids (docosahexaenoic acid or DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA) that our bodies need. Certain plant foods like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, canola oil, and flaxseeds can supply a third type of Omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, which the body easily transforms into DHA and EPA.

Due to modern diet trends, the healthy equilibrium between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids is critically out of control. The shortage of Omega-3 and surplus of Omega-6 in the body leads to a host of ailments and to keep them in check, doctors recommend fish oil supplements to counter the imbalance. A large number of studies show the way in which fish oil aides the reduction of inflammation. While inflammation is necessary to heal wounds and infections, acute inflammation is the precursor of where each member offers all modern diseases.

In one animal study related to acute inflammation, scientists found that small molecules are released in response to inflammation especially when high levels of Omega-3s are present. These specialized molecules, known as pro-resolution molecules, carry out two functions; first they give out a “stop signal” which ends skyrocketing inflammation and next they activate the resolution of inflammation.1   Lipoxins, resolvins and protectins make up the family of pro-resolution molecules, different but overlying functions in resolving acute inflammation.2  Aging reduces the quantity of these molecules and their deficiency is now commonly recognized as being one of the major reasons leading to chronic diseases.3

According to new studies, individuals suffering from atherosclerosis have low levels and function of pro-resolution molecules, which explains their susceptibility to a host of related diseases .4 Increasing the levels of pro-resolution molecules by supplementing the diet with fish oil lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, it prevents heart arrhythmias, protects the heart muscle after a heart attack and prevents vascular inflammation while improving its function.5

Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are now known to be the result of persistent inflammation. Studies indicate that asthmatics have low levels of pro-resolution molecules and furthermore it is now becoming known that uncharacteristic inflammation in asthma starts in utero, before the baby is born-perhaps due to insufficient amounts of pro-resolution molecules in the mother. This is why there is increased interest in supplementing the diet of pregnant women with fish oil so allergies and asthma in babies can be minimized. Studies show that animals treated with Omega-3s suffer less severe asthma attacks.6, 7

Inflammation is known to be a major factor in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Several studies show that supplementing the diet with Omega-3s, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), improves dementia due to some types of strokes.8 In patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease, supplementation with DHA slowed the rate of decline on mini-mental status exams. This study indicates the importance of habitual supplementation even before symptoms start.9 Patients suffering from mild cognitive decline showed improvement in learning abilities, memory and attention span after DHA supplements.10

References

  1. Serhan CN, Chiang N, Van Dyke TE. Resolving inflammation: dual anti-inflammatory and pro-resolution lipid mediators. Nat Rev Immunol. 2008 May;8(5):349-61.
  2. Fredman G, Serhan CN. Specialized proresolving mediator targets for RvE1 and RvD1 in peripheral blood and mechanisms of resolution. Biochem J. 2011 Jul 15;437(2):185-97.
  3. Gangemi S, Pescara L, D'Urbano E, et al. Aging is characterized by a profound reduction in anti-inflammatory lipoxin A4 levels. Exp Gerontol. 2005 Jul;40(7):612-4
  4. Merched AJ, Ko K, Gotlinger KH, Serhan CN, Chan L. Atherosclerosis: evidence for impairment of resolution of vascular inflammation governed by specific lipid mediators. FASEB J. 2008 Oct;22(10):3595-606.
  5. Das UN. Essential fatty acids and their metabolites could function as endogenous HMG-CoA reductase and ACE enzyme inhibitors, anti-arrhythmic, anti-hypertensive, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-inflammatory, cytoprotective, and cardioprotective molecules. Lipids Health Dis. 2008;7:37.
  6. Hisada T, Ishizuka T, Aoki H, Mori M. Resolvin E1 as a novel agent for the treatment of asthma. Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2009 May;13(5):513-22.
  7. Aoki H, Hisada T, Ishizuka T, et al. Protective effect of resolvin E1 on the development of asthmatic airway inflammation. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2010 Sep 10;400(1):128-33.
  8. Bazan NG. Neuroprotectin D1-mediated anti-inflammatory and survival signaling in stroke, retinal degenerations, and Alzheimer's disease. J Lipid Res. 2009 Apr;50 Suppl:S400-5. Epub 2008 Nov 18.
  9. Freund-Levi Y, Eriksdotter-Jonhagen M, Cederholm T, et al. Omega-3 fatty acid treatment in 174 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease: OmegAD study: a randomized double-blind trial. Arch Neurol. 2006 Oct;63(10):1402-8.
  10. Johnson EJ, McDonald K, Caldarella SM, Chung HY, Troen AM, Snodderly DM. Cognitive findings of an exploratory trial of docosahexaenoic acid and lutein supplementation in older women. Nutr Neurosci. 2008 Apr;11(2):75-83.

About Andy

Hi, my name is Dr. Andy Williams and I am a biologist with a keen interest in diet and nutrition. This site was set up to help me explore the research, facts and fiction about Krill Oil. Please feel free to contact me if you have any comments, questions or suggestions.

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