You've probably heard that certain types of fish are particularly good for your diet. Salmon, for example, usually tops the list when people want to add healthy proteins to their diets. Why? Well, the secret is in the oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. That's one reason fish oil supplements are so popular; they take these healthy elements of fish and combine them into a softgel or liquid form that can easily be added to nearly any diet.
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is the fat or oil that comes from the tissue of fish. It can come from a variety of different fish, but usually, the oiliest fish such as herring, tuna, anchovies, and mackerel, are used in the oil extraction process. Some fish, such as cod, have fatty livers (this is where cod liver fish oil supplements come from).
If you eat one to two servings of fish per week, as recommended by the World Health Organization, you might be getting enough fish. However, many people don't consume enough fish in their regular diets to reap the benefits to be obtained from fish oil (more on those in a minute), which is why fish oil supplements are so important.
Around 30% of fish oil is made up of omega-3s. The rest is made of up fats and vitamins, such as Vitamins A and D. You might also see things like EPA, DHA, or ALA on dietary supplements. These letters refer to the omega-3s that are present in that particular supplement.
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is often used to prevent adverse events after heart attacks, reduce the risk of heart disease, and minimize the effects of depression and menopause. Its job is to prevent the blood from clotting easily while also reducing pain and swelling.
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) plays a key role in the development of eye and nerve tissues. It's thought that DHA reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol by decreasing the thickness of the blood and lowering humans' levels of triglycerides.
- ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) is another essential fatty acid, but it doesn't have the same benefits as EPA and DHA, nor is it found in fish oil. Rather, ALA is found in nuts, flaxseed, soybean oil, and red meat and dairy products.
What Are the Benefits of Fish Oil?
Now that you know a little more about what fish oil is, let's talk about all the great things it does!
Fish Oil May Help Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease
Studies show that people who consume a lot of fish tend to have fewer cardiovascular issues. In terms of a healthy heart, fish oil helps:
- Control cholesterol levels by upping the amount of "good" HDL cholesterol in the body.
- Lower triglycerides, which are fat cells that can otherwise build up in the artery walls and increase the risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Regulate blood pressure, which is good for a healthy heart, even if done in small doses.
Did you know that your brain is made up of nearly 60% fat? In fact, much of this powerful part of your body is a big collection of omega-3 fatty acids. As such, it only makes sense that fish oil supplements, which are also rich in omega-3s, would contribute to overall brain health. Some research suggests that omega-3s can even prevent psychotic disorders in people who are at risk. Additionally, fish oil might help reduce the symptoms of both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Other Benefits of Fish Oil
Various studies have indicated fish oil might contribute to a wealth of health improvements of various types, including:
- Aiding in weight loss
- Supporting eye health
- Reducing inflammation
- Supporting healthy skin
- Supporting pregnancy and early life development
- Reducing liver fat
- Improving symptoms of depression
- Improving attention and hyperactivity in children
- Preventing the symptoms of mental decline