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Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish and vegetable sources, such as canola. Our body contains various fatty acids, which is why we should consume them as nutritional supplements.

In fact, supportive but inconclusive research has shown that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Many people suffer from this terrible heart disease, and prevention is extremely important, particularly so if it possible by natural means.

More about fish oils

Fish oil supplements seem to be fulfilling their therapeutic promise. They are rich in polyunsaturated fats known as omega-3 fatty acids.  These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory and blood pressure-lowering actions, as well as other valuable health benefits. They interfere with platelet aggregation and therefore have an important anticoagulant effect.

Clinical studies with fish oil supplements have shown important clinical benefits for both health and disease. A study of men following myocardial infarction revealed a lower mortality rate for patients who were taking fish oil supplements. Fish oils are the only supplements known to possess anti-arrhythmic actions. Fish oil can also prevent sudden death in coronary patients.

Omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids are derived in abundance from consuming “fatty fish”. You could find it in fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, and herring.  However, because of mercury contamination concerns, children and pregnant women should restrict their consumption to no more than one portion per week.  
Fish oil supplements are a practical alternative for individuals unable to consume fish in adequate amounts. They typically contain 1 to 3 grams of fish oil and do not have mercury. Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids are also available for nutrition.

Fish oil and diseases

Hyperlipidemia is a condition characterized by excess levels of fat in the blood. It is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Many lipid-lowering agents exist for both primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease as a consequence of hyperlipidemia. A combined analysis showed that treatment with omega-3 fatty acids from fish and flaxseed oils reduced overall risk of death by 23 percent compared to placebo. Treatment with statin drugs only reduced overall mortality by 13 percent compared to placebo. What’s interesting is that deaths from cardiovascular causes were 32 percent lower in the omega-3 fatty acid groups than in control groups. Statin drugs reduced cardiovascular mortality by 22 percent.

When we consider death from non-cardiovascular causes, none of the interventions was significantly linked to reduced mortality. Regarding 3-fatty acids, they speculate that the reduction in mortality risk does not occur through a reduction in cholesterol, but by other means, possibly anti-arrhythmic, anti-thrombotic or anti-inflammatory effects. Consuming fish helps protect the organism from heart disease, possibly through reducing inflammation in blood vessels. However, study results on the effects of fish on inflammatory markers are ambiguous. Compared to those who did not eat fish, those who ate the most had a 33 percent lower level of C-reactive protein on average. This is a widely used marker for inflammation. They also had a 33 per cent lower level of interleukin-6, another inflammatory marker found in plasma. This group had 21 per cent lower tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which affects lipid metabolism, coagulation, and insulin resistance. They also had 28 percent lower serum amyloid A, a blood protein increased by inflammation. Significantly lower levels of these markers were present in people who ate about 5 to 10 ounces of fish per week. This clear and strong inverse association between fish consumption and inflammatory markers may help explain why people who eat fish tend to have lower rates of heart disease.

Fish oil vital for health

Research has clearly shown that omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA are essential elements of human nutrition. The primary source of DHA and EPA is fatty fish and oils from fish tissue, which is why we find fish oil such a valuable supplement. DHA is a vital component of the phospholipids in cell membranes throughout the body. However, it is particularly abundant in the brain, retina, and sperm. Fish oils either from whole fish or in the form of supplements can prevent or ameliorate coronary heart disease, stroke, lupus, and nephropathy. It is also valuable in the prevention of Crohn's disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, hypertension, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Fish oils are particularly effective in preventing arrhythmias and sudden death from cardiac arrest. Several studies have shown that people who eat fish once or more each week can reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death by 50-70%. Moreover, EPA and DHA contained in fish oils inhibit the development of atherosclerosis. Fish oil supplementation also significantly lowers overall triglyceride and cholesterol levels without affecting the level of HDL (“good cholesterol”).

Recent research has shown that the consumption of high fat meals can initiate the development of atherosclerotic deposits in some people. We could substantially reduce this effect by taking fish oil prior to eating such meals. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to fetal development. Deficiency of DHA during gestation can lead to visual impairment and potentially lower intelligence quotients.
In summary, omega-3 fatty acids, and in particular DHA and EPA from fish oils, are essential for a healthy human development and in the prevention and amelioration of many common disorders.

Health benefits of fish oil

It is also interesting that some studies have shown that Greenland Eskimos, who have a very high intake of fish oils, have a very low incidence of heart attacks, asthma, diabetes, psoriasis, and allergies. A Dutch study found that middle-aged men who ate as little as 30 grams of fish per day reduced heart disease mortality by 50 percent. A study at the Harvard Medical School concluded that men who eat fish have a 26 percent lower risk of death from coronary artery disease than men who do not eat fish at all. Other studies have shown that an adequate DHA supply is essential for normal eye and brain development in infants and children, as well as for health in general. We could find fish oils in high concentrations in herrings, sardines, and anchovies, in medium concentrations in salmon, and in somewhat lower concentrations in sole, halibut, cod, and shellfish. Fish oils have demonstrable benefits in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease as the most important effect. Beside this, fish oils reduce blood pressure and triglycerides, modify platelet aggregation, and minimize inflammatory responses. There is also anecdotal evidence that fish oils may be beneficial in migraine headaches, asthma, and psoriasis treatment. Cell membranes rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids such as EPA and DHA are more susceptible to peroxidation by free radical reactions. This may severely affect their structure and function unless we take precautions, to ensure that we neutralized the free radicals by lipid-soluble antioxidants. Research has shown that people taking fish oil supplements need to increase their intake of vitamin E as well.

Read More: Really? Fish Oil Doesn't Help Prevent Heart Attacks?

The role of fish oil in health and disease

Many doctors point out that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are essential for human health. However, their intake has gradually declined over the years. They believe that man evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids of about 1:1. Today, this ratio is more like 10:1, and in some societies, approaching 25:1. A relative over-abundance of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids implicates excessive blood clotting, allergic and inflammatory disorders, and certain cancers. An adequate intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, on the other hand, improves cardiovascular health.

A recent study concluded that a daily intake of 500 to 1000 mg of long chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces the risk of cardiovascular death in middle-aged American men. Other studies have shown that although fish oils help prevent undesirable blood clotting reactions, they do not increase bleeding time. That is why it is quite safe even for people scheduled for major surgery.

Animal studies have found that fish oil supplementation markedly reduces the risk of dangerous and fatal arrhythmias. Fish oils also has benefits in preventing or treating hypertension, arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, cancer, and certain diabetes-related complications. EPA and DHA are both essential for pregnant mothers and infants. Doctors estimate the optimal daily intake of EPA and DHA in total at about 300 to 400 mg/day. The current average intake in the United States is only 50 mg EPA and 80 mg DHA per day. These numbers obviously indicate a massive deficiency in the American diet.