Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fish Oil Benefits

Jenny brought up a really good post topic: the possible benefits of fish oil supplements.

I have been taking one gram of a fish oil supplement for about a year now on the advice of my doctor. She suggested that I do so based on a few studies suggesting that the supplementation of omega 3 fatty acids such as found in fish oil may reduce dryness of my eyes. So what's actually in fish oil that might be beneficial?

Fish oil contains, among other things, a specific fatty acid - omega 3. Omega 3 fatty acids contain DHA and EPA, which, according to the Mayo Clinic's website, have some pretty significant health benefits: 
There is evidence from multiple studies supporting intake of recommended amounts of DHA and EPA in the form of dietary fish or fish oil supplements lowers triglycerides, reduces the risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease, slows the buildup of atherosclerotic plaques ("hardening of the arteries"), and lowers blood pressure slightly.
The Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation also discusses the benefits of omega 3 supplementation:
There is accumulating evidence to suggest that taking essential fatty acid supplements (Omega 3) by mouth may improve dry eye symptoms and signs. Further clinical trials are underway to confirm this potential benefit. Essential fatty acids are also available in flaxseed oil and fish oil supplements and in some over-the-counter products.
But wait! There's more! A recent study completed at the University of Melbourne concluded that the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids extend even into the realm of our brains:

Omega-3 fatty acids may prevent the transition from a subthreshold psychotic state to full-blown psychosis, new research suggests.
The study showed a 22.6% difference in risk of progression to psychosis in vulnerable young people taking a 12-week course of fish oil supplements compared with those taking a placebo. The benefits of the supplements were sustained up to 1 year.
But, as with all medications and supplements, omega 3 supplements should be used with caution. The USDA classifies omega 3 from fish as generally regarded as safe for intake up to three grams per day. In larger doses, the risk of increasing bleeding time may be an issue, as well as contamination by toxins ingested by the fish. This from the Mayo Clinic website: 
Omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding, although there is little evidence of significant bleeding risk at lower doses. Very large intakes of fish oil/omega-3 fatty acids ("Eskimo" amounts) may increase the risk of hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke. High doses have also been associated with nosebleed and blood in the urine. Fish oils appear to decrease platelet aggregation and prolong bleeding time, increase fibrinolysis (breaking down of blood clots), and may reduce von Willebrand factor.
Potentially harmful contaminants such as dioxins, methylmercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are found in some species of fish. Methylmercury accumulates in fish meat more than in fish oil, and fish oil supplements appear to contain almost no mercury. Therefore, safety concerns apply to eating fish but likely not to ingesting fish oil supplements. Heavy metals are most harmful in young children and pregnant/nursing women.

You can read more about fish oils and omega 3 fatty acids here. Confetti fish by ba1969

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