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This is part one of a two-part series on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil. Stay tuned for part two about how to incorporate fish oil into a regular diet.
From supporting cardiovascular health to promoting ideal body composition to optimizing inflammatory pathways, omega-3’s substantive impact on a wide variety of health issues has been well-documented. Here, we take a closer look at this versatile nutrient and its many applications.
Many research articles support the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Primarily for their ability to act as the body’s natural protection. For those patients recovering from a heart attack, omega-3 fatty acids aid in the healing process by helping with cardiac remodeling and enabling the heart to contract better. Omega-3 fatty acids also manage the fibrosis in the region and impact the reduction of biomarkers for inflammation. Further, according to the Journal of the American Medicine Association, omega-3 fatty acids also reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids promote healthy body composition, improving lean mass and decreasing fat mass in healthy adults. Fish oil concentrates not only cause weight reduction in mice but also appeared to stop the animals from gaining weight when given free access to food. Additionally, omega-3 concentrates reduced the number of fat cells, especially in the abdominal region. Research shows that concentrated fish oil increased the oxidation of fat by activating genes that break down fat in the mitochondria and peroxisomes. These breakthroughs have allowed for the development of new therapies for obesity and other metabolic diseases.
Those suffering from chronic pain have also sought relief in fish oil supplements. Studies suggest that daily consumption of omega-3s may help support healthy inflammatory pathways, thereby alleviating symptoms associated with inflammation. Another study showed that fish oil also reduced the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in 59 percent of patients with neck and low-back pain.
There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA).
Therefore, the best way to incorporate these essential nutrients into your diet is to eat fish rich in omega-3s. However, not all fatty fish are created equally. SMASH fish—that is, salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring—are not only packed with omega-3s, they’re also safer to eat thanks to low amounts of mercury. Comparatively, high-mercury fish, such as tuna, swordfish, orange roughy, and shark, are typically larger and tend to live longer—two factors that increase their mercury exposure. While good sources of omega-3s, these fish should be eaten in low moderation (or not at all) due to their mercury levels.
Throughout history, humans consumed diets heavy in fish. Today, fish consumption is low. Thanks to western diets, these physiologically-essential nutrients have become a nutritional deficit for many. Thus, a dietary solution was needed.
In part two of this series, I’ll explore how fish oil supplements have contributed to meeting our modern omega-3 needs—and what consumers need to know about distinguishing quality in a vast fish oil market.
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