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Published on June 15, 2021

13 Health Benefits Of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Backed By Science)

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13 Health Benefits Of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Backed By Science)

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that the body requires for survival but is unable to produce on its own. It is, therefore, extremely important to get enough of these vital nutrients in your diet. There are three different types of Omega-3s. The first two types, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found mainly in fish. The third type, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is found in plant sources.[1]

Foods that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids include fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and herring. Plant sources of Omega-3s include flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and canola oil.[2] Fish oil supplements, commonly found in the grocery store, are also great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids for those who don’t like to eat any of these foods.

While most of us have heard of Omega-3 fatty acids before, their specific health benefits are not commonly known. There are so many incredible reasons to include Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. In this article, I’ll review many of the major Omega-3 health benefits you can expect from adding them into your diet.

1. Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Eating Omega-3 fatty acids in foods such as fish or nuts can lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular or heart disease. They do this by lowering triglyceride levels in the bloodstream. Triglycerides are a type of fat that occurs in the body and is the main contributor to body fat.[3]

2. Reduced Risk of Blood Clots

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 900,000 people could be affected by blood clots each year in the United States.[4] Having a diet rich in Omega-3s helps to prevent platelets in the blood from clumping together, which reduces the risk of blood clots.[5]

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3. Reduced Blood Pressure

Another Omega-3 health benefit is blood pressure reduction. High blood pressure is common among individuals in the United States, in large part due to dietary patterns. In a study conducted in Europe, consuming fish rich in Omega-3 such as salmon three times per week was shown to decrease diastolic blood pressure.[6]

4. Reduced Cholesterol

Along with high blood pressure, many individuals across the globe struggle with high cholesterol. It’s important to keep your cholesterol levels down as cholesterol is the building block for plaque formation in your arteries. Studies show that increased intakes of Omega-3s can lead to overall reduced cholesterol.[7]

5. Reduced Plaque in Your Arteries

As mentioned above, plaque formation in the arteries is caused by cholesterol in the blood. This plaque can cause a clot, which may lead to a heart attack.[8] Therefore, it’s extremely important to prevent plaque buildup as much as possible. Studies show that consumption of Omega-3s can help reduce plaque formation in your arteries, reducing the risk of a heart attack.[9]

6. Reduced Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

Two main causes of sudden cardiac death are severe ventricular fibrillation or terminal cardiac arrhythmia. Ventricular fibrillation occurs when, instead of pumping blood to the rest of your body, some of the chambers in your heart just quiver. This causes blood pressure to become too low and prevents blood from being delivered to your other organs.[10]

Moreover, a cardiac arrhythmia occurs when the heart pumps irregularly. This could mean that the heart is pumping either too fast or too slow.[11] Studies show that the risk of sudden cardiac death due to either of these causes decrease with increased levels of Omega-3s.[12]

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7. Improved Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Another important Omega-3 health benefit is improved rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. According to the CDC, between 2013-2015, about 23% of the US population was diagnosed with some form of arthritis.[13] This disease is chronic and painful. However, there may be some relief found in changing your diet.

A study published in the American Family Physician Journal showed that increased intakes of Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation in the body, leading to less stiffness and reduced tenderness in joints.[14]

8. Reduced Risk of Glaucoma

Glaucoma, which the Mayo Clinic defines as a “group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve,” is one of the leading causes of blindness for older adults.[15] This damage is often caused by increased intraocular pressure (IOP).

Studies showed that increased intakes of Omega-3s reduced intraocular pressure.[16] This indicates that increased intakes of Omega-3 fatty acids may help to prevent glaucoma later in life.

9. Reduced Risk of Cancer

Researchers have recently been studying the benefits of Omega-3 intakes on cancer prevention. Promising data from some studies has shown a reduced risk of colon cancer with increased Omega-3 intakes. Other studies on breast and prostate cancer have more mixed results.[17]

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10. Reduced Risk of Mental Health Disorders

Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important in brain development. Given this information, researchers have been looking into the association between Omega-3 intakes and mental health disorders. In one study, Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation reduced the risk of progression to a psychiatric disorder in individuals who were already at risk of developing one.[18]

Additional studies found that, in those individuals who already had Bipolar Disorder or Tardive Dyskinesia, supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids reduced symptoms. This was also the case for individuals with Schizophrenia when supplemented with EPA specifically.[19]

In 2017, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 7.1% of all adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode.[20] One study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that individuals with depression had lower levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, multiple studies found that intakes of Omega-3 fatty acids may improve symptoms of depression in the short term.[21][22]

11. Improvement in Infant Brain Health

Another significant Omega-3 benefit is that it improves infant brain health. One of the three types of Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, is known to be important in the development of the nervous system. During pregnancy, the fetus relies on the mother’s supply of DHA for brain development.

Studies show that DHA supplementation during pregnancy has been shown to promote higher intelligence in the early years of a baby’s life. A mother eating enough DHA is, therefore, extremely important for the brain development of the child.[23]

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12. Reduced Risk of Diabetes

According to a study published in 2020, 15 people out of every 1,000 across the world have type I diabetes.[24] As a disease that is both difficult to manage and costly, it’s important for those who are pregnant to evaluate their diet to prevent their newborn from developing this disease. One change expecting mothers may want to make is adding more canola oil or salmon. Studies showed that increased intakes of Omega-3s in the first year of life led to decreased risk of type 1 diabetes.[25]

13. Weight Reduction

According to the CDC, from 2017 to 2018, 42.4% of Americans were categorized as obese. Additionally, 9.2% of the population of the US were categorized as severely obese.[26] Having a body mass index or BMI that falls within the obese or severely obese categories can also lead to other chronic illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes. Therefore, it’s extremely important to maintain a healthy weight.

Some studies have found that consuming Omega-3 supplements, along with consuming a healthy diet, improved body composition and reduced cardiovascular risk factors of participants.[27] Another study conducted found that, in overweight men, including fish oils as part of a healthy, calorie-restricted diet led to more weight loss over a 4 week period than did the diet alone.[28]

The Bottom Line

Including Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet clearly has many incredible benefits. From weight loss to improved cardiovascular and brain health to reduced risk of type I diabetes and glaucoma, the Omega-3 health benefits are endless.

If you’re thinking about adding some Omega-3 containing foods into your diet, we’re right there with you! But how much of these healthy fats should you be eating? For an individual without any history of heart disease, The American Heart Association recommends having two servings (6-8 oz) of Omega-3 containing fish each week. If you do have heart disease or high triglyceride levels, check with your doctor regarding serving sizes.[29]

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More About Omega-3 Benefits

Featured photo credit: Didssph via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard School of Public Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution
[2] Cleveland Clinic: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[3] WebMD: The Facts on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Data and Statistics on Venous Thromboembolism
[5] Cleveland Clinic: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[6] PubMed.gov: Moderate consumption of fatty fish reduces diastolic blood pressure in overweight and obese European young adults during energy restriction
[7] ResearchGate: Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and growth and development
[8] Harvard Health Publishing: Can we reduce vascular plaque buildup?
[9] PubMed.gov: Effect of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on endothelial function: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
[10] Mayo Clinic: Ventricular fibrillation
[11] Mayo Clinic: Heart arrhythmia
[12] ResearchGate: Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and growth and development
[13] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Arthritis-Related Statistics
[14] American Family Physician: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[15] Mayo Clinic: Glaucoma
[16] TVST: Oral Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Intraocular Pressure in Normotensive Adults
[17] PubMed.gov: Dietary fatty acids and colorectal cancer: a case-control study
[18] PubMed.gov: Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for indicated prevention of psychotic disorders: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial
[19] PubMed.gov: Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for indicated prevention of psychotic disorders: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial
[20] National Institute of Mental Health: Major Depression
[21] ScienceDirect: Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder: A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
[22] ScienceDirect: Short-term supplementation of acute long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may alter depression status and decrease symptomology among young adults with depression: A preliminary randomized and placebo-controlled trial
[23] PubMed.gov: Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children’s IQ at 4 years of age
[24] NCBI: Prevalence and incidence of type 1 diabetes in the world: a systematic review and meta-analysis
[25] PubMed.gov: Use of cod liver oil during the first year of life is associated with lower risk of childhood-onset type 1 diabetes: a large, population-based, case-control study
[26] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Adult Obesity Facts
[27] PubMed.gov: Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors
[28] PubMed.gov: Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content
[29] Cleveland Clinic: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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Samantha Klig, RD

Registered Dietitian

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Published on August 27, 2021

Should Men Take Fish Oil? 4 Fish Oil Benefits for Men

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Should Men Take Fish Oil? 4 Fish Oil Benefits for Men

Fish oil is a well-known healthy food that fits in almost any diet. Most people who want to improve their diet usually try to include fish oil in their daily consumption. But some people may ask: what are the fish oil benefits for men? Is it really good for men’s health? Or is there something fishy about fish oil?

In this article, I will take a comprehensive look at why fish oil is recommended for everyone, especially men. Let’s start with the sources of fish oil and how it could be good for your health.

Fish Oil Sources and Why It Could Be a Good Catch

Fish oil is primarily found and extracted from oily fish varieties, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardine, herring, and trout.[1] It contains two highly beneficial types of omega-3 fatty acids for many health conditions:[2]

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

But here’s the catch: your human body cannot make omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. You are dependent on food sources to supplement these vital nutrients.[3] But this is not a big deal since you could consume foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish, or consume fish oil in the form of supplements.

As a side note, you can also find another type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in some plant sources, such as walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds. You cannot find alpha-linolenic acid in fish oil, and interestingly, your body converts ALA into DHA and EPA, but in very small amounts.[4] So, if you want your Omega-3 in balance, you will have to consume DHA, EPA, and ALA via food sources or supplements or a combination of both.

Can Fish Oil Improve Your Health?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming oily or fatty cold-water fish twice a week.[5] Fish is one of the best ways to get your omega-3 fatty acids intake and reap its numerous health benefits. It is an excellent source of protein and, in comparison to other fatty meat products, it has low saturated fat.

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However, if you’re a vegetarian or do not consume fish, you can consult your doctor for dietary alternatives to fish and fish oil.

Let’s look at some of the fish oil benefits for men, though some of these benefits also apply to everyone.[6]

1. Fish Oil Can Boost Male Fertility

Various research studies have suggested that Omega-3 improves semen quality, volume, erectile function and even prevents prostate cancer.[7]

Recently, the first observational study on the association between fish oil supplementation intake and improved testicular function conducted also showed these supplements to be beneficial to men’s health.[8] The study was conducted on 1,700 young, healthy Danish men who averaged around nineteen years of age. Those who took fish oil supplements reported higher semen volume and improved sperm quality. Those who took other supplements, such as multivitamins did not show the same effects, pointing to possible links between fish oil supplements and better sperm counts.

The study’s lead researcher Tina Kold Jensen, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark who has been active in this research field for over 25 years, said that these male reproductive factors should lead to improved male fertility in men taking fish oil. Jansen was also optimistic that her research findings would have the same effect on older men who take fish oil supplements.

She concluded that she recommends fish oil supplements for those who want to improve their male fertility. However, she adds that your best options are to increase your fish intake like codfish and follow your doctor’s dietary advice.

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Other studies have also found positive associations between fish oil supplements and sperm quality.[9]

While these results have certainly been encouraging, the findings from these observational studies need to be corroborated by more rigorous randomized clinical experiments. Therefore, I encourage patients to discuss their individual cases with their doctors to ensure safety and maximize benefits from fish oil supplements.

2. Fish Oil Helps Maintain a Healthy Heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[10] Overall, it accounts for one in four deaths in America every year.

Fish oil is a heart-friendly nutrient as it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. It protects your heart by reducing many of the risk factors for heart disease. Some benefits of fish oil include:[11][12][13]

  • Reduction of triglyceride levels
  • Lowering your blood pressure
  • Reducing your bad cholesterol
  • Preventing blood from clotting
  • Slowing or hindering plaque formation in your arteries
  • Reducing the risk of an abnormal heart rhythm
  • Decreasing your risk of a heart attack and stroke

There is also research that suggests that fish oil supplements reduce adverse situations, such as hospital admissions and death in people with heart failure.[14]

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people without heart disease have at least two servings of fish every week to reduce cardiovascular events. It suggests eating a variety of cold-water, wild fish like tuna, mackerel, salmon, and sardines for their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The AHA does not recommend omega-3 supplements for people who don’t have a high risk for cardiovascular disease.[15]

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However, if you have heart disease, it’s best to consult your doctor before you decide to take fish oil supplements. Depending on your condition, they might recommend eating more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and/or taking an FDA-approved fish oil supplement.

Sometimes, higher doses of omega-3 are given to lower triglycerides. But it should be strictly under the care of a doctor because it can cause complications such as bleeding and affect the immune system.

3. Fish Oil Gives You Clear and Focused Vision

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends fish oil to optimize your eye health. While there are some conflicting reports, some findings show how fish oil helps treat eye diseases like dry eye and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).[16]

A recent 2019 study supported findings that people who consumed fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish were less likely to develop eye diseases than those who did not.[17] Another study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science suggests omega-3 fatty acid DHA for vision protection.[18]

Various studies have found similar findings of fewer dry eye symptoms in those who consumed fish oil. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil improved the eye’s oil film produced by meibomian glands situated on the edge of the eyelid.[19] Other studies also found that fish oil reduces pain and swelling, making it an effective treatment for dry eyes.[20]

4. Fish Oil Helps You Become Healthy From the Inside-Out

Fish oil is a versatile nutrient that seems to contribute to several other health benefits. These include:

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  • Lowering your depression[21]
  • Boosting your memory[22]
  • Preventing disease-causing inflammation with enhanced B cell activity or white blood cells[23]
  • Aiding in weight loss
  • Giving you healthier skin by clearing your acne and psoriasis[24][25][26]

Why You Need to Stay Cautious About Fish Oil

Fish oil has some possible risks associated with its consumption. Fish oil supplements have common temporary side effects, such as foul taste, smell, belching, heartburn, nosebleeds, rash, nausea, flatulence, and diarrhea.

While fish oil can prevent prostate cancer, excess consumption can increase your risk for high-grade prostate cancer.[27] Fish oil in high doses can cause bleeding, affect your immune system, and reduce your body’s ability to fight off infection.[28]

Certain combinations of medications can cause serious health risks when you take them regularly alongside fish oil. Hence, it would be best if you first discussed with your doctor about taking fish oil along with your prescribed medications.

While fish oil from the source is preferable, some fish meats are prone to mercury contamination and other toxic industrial and environmental chemicals.[29] Mercury contaminated fish meats can cause blindness, brain damage, and mental retardation in children.[30]

What’s the Verdict on Fish Oil?

The fish oil benefits for men and women far outweigh the risks, especially for middle-aged and older people who follow the recommendations by the FDA, AHA, and EPA.

Make fish oil your friend by:

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  • Choosing more from food sources than supplements.
  • Following AHA’s recommendation of eating one to two servings of non-fried fish every week.
  • Eating a variety of fish higher in EPA and DHA and lower in methylmercury to minimize potentially adverse effects due to environmental pollutants.
  • Consuming fish along with other vital aspects of a healthy diet, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and whole grains that ensure balanced omega.
  • Getting your doctor’s approval and prescribed fish oil supplement and following their instructions.
  • Following the AHA’s recommendations of consuming no more than 3 grams of fish oil supplement daily, as taking more can cause bleeding.
  • Taking your fish oil supplements into two doses in the morning and night to decrease side effects.
  • Taking fish oil supplements with food to increase absorption and decrease side effects.
  • Freezing and consuming them to decrease side effects.
  • Following the US federal government’s 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations of seafood for pregnant and nursing women. Safe fish options for pregnant and nursing women include sardines, trout, salmon, herring, and anchovies because of higher EPA and DHA and lower mercury.

On a final note, your health is in your hands. Choose wisely, and use fish oil for your health benefit today. But first, consult your doctor for medical advice before making an informed decision on fish oil and taking action.

More About the Benefits of Fish Oil

Featured photo credit: Sam Moqadam via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] National Institutes of Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[2] WebMD: The Facts on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[3] Harvard School of Public Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution
[4] National Institutes of Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[5] American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[6] WebMD: What to Know About Omega-3s and Fish
[7] NCBI: Prostate Cancer Risk And Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake From Fish Oil
[8] JAMA Network: Associations of Fish Oil Supplement Use With Testicular Function in Young Men
[9] PubMed.gov: Dietary supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) improves seminal antioxidant status and decreases sperm DNA fragmentation
[10] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Men and Heart Disease
[11] MayoClinic: Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart
[12] Cleveland Clinic: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[13] Harvard Health Medical School: The complicated relationship between fish oil and heart health
[14] WebMD: Fish Oil
[15] National Institutes of Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[16] American Academy of Ophthalmology: The Benefits of Fish Oil for Dry Eye
[17] NCBI: Nutrients for Prevention of Macular Degeneration and Eye-Related Diseases
[18] Harvard Health Publishing: Omega-3 for your eyes
[19] Mayo Clinic: Mayo Clinic Q and A: Fish oil supplements and dry eyes
[20] WebMD: Fish Oil
[21] Translational Psychiatry: Efficacy of omega-3 PUFAs in depression: A meta-analysis
[22] WebMD: Fish Oil Supplements Boost Memory
[23] Science Daily: Nothing fishy about it: Fish oil can boost the immune system
[24] NCBI: Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil’s Fatty Acids on the Skin
[25] PubMed.gov: Effect of dietary supplementation with omega-3 fatty acid and gamma-linolenic acid on acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial
[26] Oxford Academic: Efficacy of fish oil and its components in the management of psoriasis: a systematic review of 18 randomized controlled trials
[27] NCBI: Prostate Cancer Risk And Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake From Fish Oil
[28] Mayo Clinic: Fish Oil
[29] American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[30] World Health Organization: Mercury and health

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