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Last Updated on March 18, 2021

11 Benefits of Fish Oil That You Might Not Know About

11 Benefits of Fish Oil That You Might Not Know About
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The benefits of fish oil seem to be at the forefront of many conversations around our health and well-being. During your research about its health benefits, you might have already stumbled about its effects on digestion, but did your research tell you about the other benefits of fish oil, such as its contribution to the improvement of your memory, weight, and heart, as well?

Today, we’ll discuss some of the many benefits of fish oil, and you can decide if it should be part of your daily diet.

What Is Fish Oil?

Simply put, fish oil refers to the fatty acids present in the fish that we consume. Years ago, fish oil could only be obtained from ingesting the flesh of the fish directly, but because of advancements in technology, fish oil supplements are widely available in supermarkets and health food stores. Now, more and more people are taking it with their meals.

The most widely discussed component of fish oil is the omega-3 fatty acids. Many of the benefits come directly from these, making them an incredibly valuable factor in all fish oil supplements. As you will see, most of the benefits discussed below come directly from the presence of omega-3s in fish oil.

If you’re interested in a high-quality fish oil supplement, you can check out this Infuel Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplement.

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1. Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Problems

If you need to control high blood pressure and lower high triglyceride levels in your body, fish oil can help. Omega-3s make your vessels more elastic and relaxed—this means that your blood can pass through them more easily. Several studies have found this to be true[1], making this one of the best benefits of fish oil.

2. Protects Your Skin

Fish oil reduces acne, protects you from sunburn and even reduces skin flaking. One study found that both omega-6s and omega-3s “are showing promise as safe adjunctive treatments for many skin disorders”[2] These benefits likely come from the anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil.

3. Reduces Symptoms of Arthritis

The benefits of fish oil works in a two-pronged approach: it is known to reduce cellular inflammation, and to protect your joints from pain by inhibiting pain-causing chemicals in your body.

One study found that “Supplementation with omega-3 PUFAs [polyunsaturated fatty acids] for 3-4 months reduces patient reported joint pain intensity, minutes of morning stiffness, number of painful and/or tender joints, and NSAID consumption”[3].

4. Slows Signs of Aging

Telomeres are the extreme ends of chromosomal DNA. Basically, to look younger, you need longer telomeres. One study found that patients with lower levels of omega-3s in their blood experienced quicker shortening of their telomeres[4].

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This not only affects the physical aging process, but other signs of aging, such as heart disease and cell degradation.

5. Prevents Depression

You might be shocked to know that among the benefits of fish oil, this one is actually the least known. Omega-3s contain two fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These have presented the most promising evidence in support of fish oil as a treatment for depression and other mood disorders[5].

EPA seems to be the more effective of the two, but DHA has also been found to be potentially effective in lowering risk of suicide.

6. Helps Reduce Abdominal Fat

While no evidence has been found to support fish oil as a weight loss aid, one research review discovered that “waist circumference was significantly reduced in those with fish oil supplementation combined with life modification intervention”[6].

This means that it’s likely that fish oil helps eliminate abdominal fat when combined with healthy lifestyle changes. If you’re looking to lose some inches off your waist, eat healthier, exercise, and add in a fish oil supplement each day.

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7. Improves Memory

One notable 5-year study found that “Consumption of seafood was associated with slower decline in semantic memory and perceptual speed” in 915 participants[7].

While it’s impossible to stop memory loss altogether, fish oil can help slow it down over time.

8. Reduces Risk of Breast Cancer

Among the benefits of fish oil, this one is the most controversial. That said, many research studies have shown that intake of fish oil can reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by up to 14%[8].

Combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise, the risk of cancer can be reduced significantly.

9. Preserves Muscle Mass

In an interesting study done on cancer patients who underwent chemotherapy[9], fish oil helped preserve weight and muscle mass, suggesting that it can combat cancer-related malnutrition. It’s unclear whether fish oil can preserve muscle mass for the general population, but these findings are incredibly encouraging.

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10. Reduces Health Effects of Pollution

Omega-3 fatty acids can help shield you from the damaging cardiac effects that you will experience when exposed to air pollution, especially ultrafine particulate matter. This is one of the most useful benefits of fish oil, as we will all be exposed to air pollution at some point in our lives.

One study on 29 healthy adults concluded that “omega-3 fatty acid supplements offer protection against the adverse cardiac and lipid effects associated with air pollution exposure”[10].

11. Helps Maintain Bone Density

NASA scientists have discovered that NFκB, a specific type of omega-3 fatty acid, can “inhibit the activation of factors that lead to bone breakdown” in patients with osteoporosis[11]. The same was true for those experiencing weightlessness in space, though you’re unlikely to find yourself in the same position anytime soon.

Final Thoughts

Which of these benefits of fish oil is most relevant to you? Whether you’re aiming to reduce symptoms of depression, lower your risk of cancer, or protect your skin, eating fish or taking fish oil and omega-3 dietary supplements can help as part of a healthy lifestyle.

More on the Benefits of Fish Oil

Featured photo credit: Caroline Attwood via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Lianne Martha Maiquez Laroya

Lianne is a licensed financial advisor, Registered Financial Planner, entrepreneur and book author.

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Published on June 17, 2021

Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better?

Flaxseed Oil vs Fish Oil: Which Is Better?
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Both flaxseed oil and fish oil supplements are sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have so many known benefits, such as having a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, glaucoma, and stroke. This nutrient is essential for the body’s function, but our bodies are unable to produce them on their own. That’s why you should get enough Omega-3 fatty acids from outside sources as well.

In this article, I’ll discuss flaxseed oil vs fish oil and their various benefits and drawbacks to help you quickly make a more informed decision about which one of these is right for you.

Are These Supplements Safe?

According to the National Institutes of Health, side effects experienced by users of fish oil supplements, if any, are usually mild. These side effects may include unpleasant taste, bad breath, headache, and gastrointestinal symptoms. This could include symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, or heartburn.[1]

In terms of possible medication interactions, it’s noted that fish oil supplements may interfere with medicines that many Americans take to prevent blood clotting. If you’re on one of these medications or if you have a seafood allergy, it’s important to speak with your doctor before deciding to start taking Omega-3 supplements.

Regarding the safety of flaxseed oil supplements, according to Mayo Clinic, these supplements are also generally considered to be safe. However, they report that if taken in excess and without sufficient intakes of water, users may experience various gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms include bloating, gas, and diarrhea.[2]

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) also advise that these supplements should not be taken during pregnancy. This is because some studies suggest that taking flaxseed oil later in pregnancy may increase the risk of premature birth.[3]

Mayo Clinic notes that, like fish oil supplements, flaxseed oil may also have negative interactions with some medications. Specifically, it’s important to consult your doctor before starting these medications if you’re on medications to reduce blood clotting, lower blood pressure, or manage your diabetes as these may interact negatively with a flaxseed oil supplement.[4]

How Much Should You Take?

The tricky thing about these supplements is that there is no standard recommended dosage for any of them. To be safe, it is recommended that you read the label on the supplement you choose to buy and make sure to only take the recommended dosage.

Regardless of whether you’re taking a fish oil or flaxseed oil supplement, you may benefit from speaking with your primary care doctor to determine what dosage is right for you. They may be able to work with you to come up with an appropriate dosage, which may help prevent unwanted side effects.

If you are interested in researching a particular brand of Omega-3 supplement, you can use the Dietary Supplement Label Database from the National Institutes of Health.[5]

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Flaxseed Oil vs. Fish Oil

Before we get into the various benefits of Fish Oil and Flaxseed Oil supplements, it’s important to have some basic knowledge about Omega-3 fatty acids.

There are three types of Omega-3 fatty acids: Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA come mainly from fish while ALA comes mainly from plant sources such as flaxseed and walnuts.[6] This means that if you choose to take a fish oil supplement, you’ll be getting DHA and EPA, and if you choose a flaxseed oil supplement, you’ll be taking ALA.

Fish Oil Benefits

Fish Oil supplements typically contain oil that has been extracted from fatty fish, such as herring, tuna, or anchovies.[7] The Omega-3 found in fish oil is very important for our heart health. It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and blood clots.[8] It can also help to reduce high blood pressure, which is common among adults in the United States.[9]

They can also help to reduce high cholesterol and plaque formation in your arteries.[10][11] They can also help reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, which occurs when the heart is either pumping irregularly or ineffectively, making it unable to pump blood as intended to the rest of your vital organs.[12]

These supplements may have non-cardiac benefits as well. Studies show that they can reduce your risk of glaucoma, certain cancers, and certain mental health disorders.[13][14][15]

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Some studies have also shown that including Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil in your lifestyle may lead to improved weight loss when combined with a healthful diet.[16]

Flaxseed Oil Benefits

As we’ve noted, flaxseed oil contains the third type of Omega-3 fatty acid, Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). What the body does with ALA is incredibly interesting. It actually converts it into DHA and EPA, which are the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.

Something important to note, however, is that the body is not all that efficient at converting ALA to DHA and EPA. This means that the benefits of ALA may not necessarily be the same as those that you would get from just taking DHA and EPA. Studies seem to be overall mixed on whether taking flaxseed oil provides the same cardiac benefits as fish oil does. Specifically, it’s unclear whether or not flaxseed oil supplementation can lower cholesterol or reduce your risk of heart disease.[17]

According to the National Institutes of Health, studies have shown that taking flaxseed may help individuals with type 2 diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels. However, it’s important to note that these findings are for flaxseed, no flaxseed oil. NIH does note that it is unclear whether flaxseed oil would provide such a benefit.[18]

One big health benefit of flaxseed oil is its possible cancer-fighting ability. Studies have shown that taking flaxseed oil can stop the growth of cancer cells as well as cause apoptosis or death of cancer cells in certain types of cancer. One study found that the types of cancer which saw benefits from flaxseed oil intakes included breast cancer, cervical cancer, leukemia, and melanoma.[19]

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Flaxseed Oil Vs Fish Oil: Which Should You Take?

When deciding whether to take flaxseed oil vs fish oil supplements, there are some important things to consider. As I’ve discussed, fish oil supplements are a great source of DHA and EPA. In contrast, flaxseed oil supplements provide ALA, which the body ends up converting back to DHA and EPA, although inefficiently.

Additionally, the benefits of fish oil seem to be more deeply studied and more overall conclusive than the benefits of flaxseed oil. Fish oil supplements have been shown to provide so many benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, glaucoma, certain cancers, and various mental health disorders.

In contrast, the research regarding the benefits of flaxseed oil supplementation is lacking. While these supplements may have anti-cancer properties, the findings on further benefits are overall mixed.

In terms of safety, these two supplements come out relatively even. They’re both regarded as generally safe. However, both have interactions with various medications that need to be taken into consideration before starting supplementation.

If you’re trying to settle on an Omega-3 supplement, I recommend trying a fish oil supplement over a flaxseed oil supplement. Fish oil has so many proven benefits while the research on flaxseed oil is significantly less convincing. Fish oil also has the benefit of providing EPA and DHA directly, so your body does not need to do any extra work to convert it.

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If you choose to take a fish oil supplement, know that you’ll be quickly reducing your risk of various chronic diseases with overall very minimal effort on your part. As always, make sure to check with your doctor before starting any supplementation to prevent negative side effects or drug interactions.

Featured photo credit: New Food Magazine via newfoodmagazine.com

Reference

[1] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Omega-3 Supplements: In-Depth
[2] Mayo Clinic: Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
[3] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
[4] Mayo Clinic: Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
[5] National Institutes of Health: Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD)
[6] Harvard School of Public Health: Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution
[7] Healthline: What’s the Difference Between Cod Liver Oil and Fish Oil?
[8] Cleveland Clinic: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
[9] PubMed.gov: Moderate consumption of fatty fish reduces diastolic blood pressure in overweight and obese European young adults during energy restriction
[10] ResearchGate: Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and growth and development
[11] PubMed.gov: Effect of omega-3 fatty acids supplementation on endothelial function: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
[12] Mayo Clinic: Ventricular fibrillation
[13] TVST: Oral Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Intraocular Pressure in Normotensive Adults
[14] PubMed.gov: Dietary fatty acids and colorectal cancer: a case-control study
[15] PubMed.gov: Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for indicated prevention of psychotic disorders: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial
[16] PubMed.gov: Randomized trial of weight-loss-diets for young adults varying in fish and fish oil content
[17] Mount Sinai: Flaxseed oil
[18] NIH: Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oil
[19] NCBI: Treatment with flaxseed oil induces apoptosis in cultured malignant cells

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