What Are the Benefits of Fish Oil Pills?

what are the benefits of fish oil pills?

The basic question invariably arises when most people hear the praises of fish oil supplementation:  what is fish oil used for and why should I use it?  It’s a good question; the potential benefits of taking fish oil are numerous and are still emerging along with basic research. Sadly though, many of the benefits touted by websites are either speculative or simply provide no evidence of efficacy whatsoever.

Why Take Fish Oil at All? Omega 3 Fish Oil Benefits

For a reasonable, conservative discussion of what fish oil is most likely good for, we’ve consulted the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (“NMCD”), which has identified the following typical applications for which fish oil has been found (1) effective, (2) likely effective, or (3) potentially effective.

Most Established Benefits of Fish Oil Supplementation

Heart and Cardiovascular Health:  Probably the most often-cited and well documented benefits from taking fish oil concern the promotion of heart/cardiovascular health. For example, fish oil has been found effective for reducing blood pressure in hypertensive individuals and lowering blood triglyceride levels.  Similarly, fish oil is widely-known for being helpful towards preventing heart disease and even minimizing the risk of stroke when consumed at the appropriate dosage. But care must be exercised, and physician supervision is required to determine how much should be taken, since taking too much fish oil can have adverse effects, including increasing the risk of stroke. Likewise, taking fish oil in concert with blood pressure-lowering drugs can potentially cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure.

Mental Acuity & Mental/Developmental Health:  There are a number of reported “likely” benefits identified by the NMCD that center around enhanced brain function and improvement of mental health in individuals suffering from everything from simple depression and ADHD to Alzheimer’s and full-blown psychosis.  Consequently, fish oil has sometimes been characterized as a brain-enhancing supplement. Further, many of these benefits have been reported to accrue to children in utero due to maternal consumption of fish containing Omega 3.  For example, one UK study that found women who ate more than 12 ounces of fish per week during pregnancy gave birth to children who scored higher on tests for verbal I.Q., social behavior, and communication compared to children of  women who avoided fish during pregnancy.  Notably, none of the children of mothers who consumed were found to have suffered from the effects of Mercury or other chemical contaminants.  This is an important finding, since it calls into question the wisdom of the FDA’s blanket recommendation that pregnant women limit their consumption of fish to less than 12 ounces per week due to the threat of chemical (primarily Mercury) contamination.

Other “Potential” Omega 3 Fish Oil Benefits

Beyond the main uses noted above, there are many, many other reported possible benefits of taking fish oil supplements that show promise, but still don’t have the large body of evidence needed to broadly establish their efficacy pursuant to the conservative standards generally set by the medical community.  Here are some uses reported by the NMCD and National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) that fish oil might be useful for:

Treatment of Diabetes
Prevention of Miscarriage
Treatment of Glaucoma and Dry Eyes
Treatment of Menstrual & Breast Pain
Treatment of Kidney Disease
Treatment of Obesity
Treatment/Prevention of Asthma
Bipolar Disorder
Psoriasis

Weight Retention in Cancer Patients
Treatment of Dyslexia
Prevention of Transplant Rejection
Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treatment of Osteoporosis
Prevention of Childhood Allergies
Endometrial Cancer
Treatment of Raynaud’s Syndrome

Fish Oil’s Benefit as an Anti-Inflammatory Agent

While the myriad of uses for fish oil may seem random, it is believed that its benefits stem from Omega 3’s ability to reduce inflammation. Indeed, many of the common, chronic diseases for which it is often recommended, such as asthma, depression, cancer, arthritis, etc. generally flow from effects of inflammation brought on by the excessive consumption of Omega 6 in modern diets – the same Omega 6 that is so abundant in modern foods like corn-fed, red meat and processed carbohydrates, such as cookies, crackers and other snack foods. It is believed by some researchers that the much greater ratio of Omega 6 versus Omega 3 being consumed today due to the prevalence of such foods inflames tissues, and that consumption of sufficient amounts of fish oils rich in Omega 3 can mitigate this effect and thereby possibly help control or reverse a large number of inflammation-based maladies.

We strongly encourage you to speak with your doctor or health care professional for more information about how fish oil can benefit you.

Featured (Top) Photo Credit: 7 Ways Running Can Improve Your Health….” by UrbaneWomenMag underCC BY 2.0

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