(HealthyResearch.com) – In the United States alone, about 19 million people take fish oil supplements. The benefits appear to be many, although they could come in a mixed bag. People who take supplements do so in good faith that they’re improving their health in some meaningful way. But as it turns out, they might not always get what they’re paying for. Here’s what anyone taking or considering adding fish oil to their diets needs to know.
Heart Health Benefits
Penn Medicine explains that fish oil contains two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). We need these and one other omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is in plant oils like flax and canola, to stay healthy and function at our best.
Omega-3s can benefit the heart in numerous ways:
- They lower triglycerides, which are fats that the body stores or moves through the bloodstream. Higher triglyceride levels increase the risks of deposits building up in artery walls.
- They reduce plaque buildup in artery walls, as well, further reducing heart attack risks.
- They may reduce arrhythmia risks, although an increase in Omega-3s alone usually isn’t enough to treat heart rhythm irregularities.
- They can reduce blood pressure, which might also improve cardiovascular health.
According to the American Heart Association, these effects could be especially helpful in people with diabetes and other conditions that can negatively impact heart health.
Other Potential Benefits
Omega-3 fatty acids also have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, with benefits that may extend far beyond the heart. For example, they can improve bone health, as well as the effects of strength training in senior women. People with rheumatoid arthritis have fewer inflammatory markers in their blood and report fewer subjective symptoms when they supplement their omega-3 intake. Supplementation during pregnancy might also improve young children’s development.
Fish Oil Supplement Warnings
Fish oil might be incredibly good for us, but packaged supplements may not always be the way to go. Reports are conflicting. Some studies have determined that the benefits of using fish oil supplements outweigh the risks — which may include contamination with mercury and other toxins fish regularly come into contact with.
Other research has found the fish oil in supplements must go through several processes to get from the ocean to a finished product. Some steps require exposure to high heat and transit to other facilities, during which time the oil often goes rancid. Some manufacturers further process their fish oil to remove some of the rancid qualities, but most do not. Rancid oil can contain harmful byproducts that may outweigh any remaining benefits.
Fish oil supplements might be a gamble, but many types of actual fish are excellent natural sources of omega-3s. Aim to eat 2-3 weekly servings of low-mercury fish like wild-caught salmon, sardines, anchovies, black sea bass, herring, mackerel and trout to boost health benefits without the added risks. It’s an easy, worry-free way to reap the most benefits while also promoting a healthy diet.
~Here’s to Your Health & Safety!
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