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Is Fish Oil Worth It? {Fish Oil Health Benefits}

Fish Oil

Is Fish Oil Worth It? {Fish Oil Health Benefits}

Fish oil is EVERYWHERE on the market – our supplement line included! You might’ve already asked the question – “do I need this in my supplement routine?” I wanted to bring the science to you on the health benefits of fish oil + if it’s something you should be taking! Fish oil is rich in omega-3, which is a polyunsaturated fat and it’s a DIFFERENT omega-3 than what you would find in plant sources. Fish oil holds EPA/DHA, while plants hold ALA and the conversion from ALA to EPA/DHA is super low, so we can’t rely on plant sources to give us this type of omega. It’s a supplement that is super helpful if you find yourself 1) not liking seafood and/or 2) not eating enough seafood. (I’m secretly raising my hand as I write this! I don’t naturally turn to seafood, like I do beef and chicken. I always told myself I’m more of a “land food” person. HA!)

Fish oil is usually sourced from fishes, like herring, tuna, mackerel, and anchovies. I say this because this is where our Thrival Nutrition Fish Oil is sourced from! With fish oils, I highly recommend to get a supplement that has been tested for heavy metals (and to reassure you of ours, ours have passed the heavy metal test! Whoo hoo!). Another thing I want to mention if you take fish oils, but you get the fish oil burps, make sure you take a digestive enzyme with it and/or take it with meals, so your natural digestive enzymes are churning away + helping you break it down!

Antiinflammatory

I think this is my favorite perk on fish oil – being an anti-inflammatory. Now what does that mean? Let’s take a look at what the science says….

Starting with a research questionnaire by neurosurgeons, they took 250 people (really only 150 submitted and complied with the research) and had them take fish oil for pain. Their results were as stated,

“Our results mirror other controlled studies that compared ibuprofen and omega-3 EFAs demonstrating equivalent effect in reducing arthritic pain. Omega-3 EFA fish oil supplements appear to be a safer alternative to NSAIDs.

Surgical Neurology

Fish oil also promoted autophagy (which you can think of the body’s cleaning process),

“By studying macrophages isolated from mice and humans, we found that the omega-3 fatty acids activated the autophagy and specifically affected some proteins that transform the signals from the environment. Furthermore, we found that omega-3 fatty acids dampened many inflammatory mechanisms within the macrophages, but especially reduced what is known as the type 1 interferon response.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology

While there are different inflammatory mediators, prostaglandins is one of them! Dr. William Smith explains the different mechanisms that fish oil (omega-3) can inhibit chronic inflammation related to increase of prostaglandins…

First, the much fewer prostaglandins are made from omega 3 fatty acids as compared to the other class of fatty acids in the body, the omega 6 family of fatty acids that originate in the diet from leafy vegetables and other plant sources.

Second, the omega 3 fatty acids compete with omega 6 fatty acids for the same binding site on the COX 1 enzyme that converts the omega 6 fatty acids to prostaglandin (which is why the COX 1 enzyme and its COX 2 cousin are the targets of anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen). The more omega 3 fatty acids present to block the binding sites, the fewer omega 6 fatty acids are able to be converted to prostaglandin.

Third, although omega 3 fatty acids also are converted to prostaglandins, the prostaglandins formed from omega 3 are generally 2 to 50 times less active than those formed from the omega 6 fatty acids from dietary plants.

Dr. William L. Smith, Biochemist

The root cause of many diseases is inflammation + doing everything we can to minimize CHRONIC inflammation is SO important. Remember, acute inflammation that can happen when we’re sick or exercising and that’s okay. Chronic inflammation is what we have to be worried about. Fish oil having anti-inflammatory benefits is a great perk!

Brain Development + Eye Function

The brain is one of the most DHA/EPA dense part of the body – eyes are the next DHA/EPA dense part! The grey matter of the brain has SO much DHA and the outer segments of the eye are loaded with DHA too. This is why a fish oil is ideal starting your third trimester + beyond postpartum…

“The human brain growth spurt occurs from approximately the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy to 18 months after birth. The amount of DHA in the brain increases dramatically during the brain growth spurt. In humans, brain weight increases from about 100 g at 30 weeks of gestation to about 1,100 g at 18 months of age. Over this period, the DHA content of the brain increases from 900 μg/g (90 mg in total) to 3,000 μg/g (3,300 mg total). This represents a 35-fold increase in total brain DHA. The estimated rate of accretion of DHA into the human brain in the last trimester of pregnancy is 15–22 mg/week. This is also the most active period of brain cell division. Thus, it is believed that an adequate supply of DHA during this period is essential for normal growth, neurological and visual development and function, and learning behavior.

Annals of Nutrition + Metabolism

While fish oil is really great for brain development, the research is iffy about if it helps with cognitive function. One smaller scale study did show an improvement with cognitive function! There was also a study that showed that people with lower DHA levels in cells had a smaller brain!

Overall if you look at the data, it’s something that doesn’t cause much harm + could be beneficial even as adults with cognitive function. Very beneficial for pregnancy + babies, as our DHA/EPA levels in breastmilk are DEPENDENT on mama’s intake.

Cellular Health

The oils/fats that we intake from our diet are ultimately the BUILDING BLOCKS to cells. If we’re taking in the wrong kind of fatty acids, the cells won’t function as optimally.

“Phospholipids are quantitatively the major lipid component of cell membranes. Fatty acids in the phospholipids play important roles assuring the correct environment for membrane protein function, maintaining membrane order (‘fluidity’), and influencing the formation of signaling platforms termed lipid rafts. Hence, the DHA content of a cell membrane can have a significant influence on cellular behavior and responsiveness to signals, which may be electrical, chemical, hormonal or antigenic in nature.

Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism

Heart Health

You know me, I don’t think cholesterol should be the “end all be all” with determining your heart health status, but fish oil was studied to increase HDL (this type of cholesterol helps keep the balance with cholesterol and takes the excess to the liver to get out of the body) and also helps lower triglycerides (these are fats in our blood that can increase our risk of heart disease, strokes, and more). A systematic review, pulling many studies together, also showed that fish oil helped lower triglycerides.

Another study in 2012 showed a positive effect on endothelial function (which is the inside of your arteries – these are more susceptible to get damage with stress, bad diet, environmental toxins, and more). Having a healthy lining of our arteries is important for protecting us against chronic blood flow issues. Another heart health benefit was shown in 2014 in the American Journal of Hypertension that fish oil helped lower blood pressure. I’m not trying to say that fish oil is a “magical pill that solves everything”, but it definitely has shown it’s worthy-ness if you’re struggling with any issues above and don’t naturally turn to seafood for meals. Fish oil supplementation can help fill in that gap.

Lahana Vigliano
lahana@thrivalnutrition.com

Lahana Vigliano is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and CEO of Thrival Nutrition. She has her Bachelor's Degree in Nutrition Science and currently pursing her Masters Degree in Nutrition Science and Functional Medicine. Lahana and her team help support women who struggle with weight loss, hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, chronic fatigue, and many other lingering issues that leaves women not feeling their best. She uses food as medicine, as well as herbs and supplements when needed, to support her clients. She looks at the whole body holistically making sure women are understanding how nutrition, sleep, stress, and their environment impact their health. Connect with her on Facebook + Instagram (@thrivalnutrition).