It’s no secret that Omega-3 fatty acids help with cardiovascular health, but did you know there are several other benefits of fish oil to other systems of the body?
The cardiovascular benefit of Omega-3 was discovered in the mid-20th century when researchers realized the native population in the Arctic Circle, Inuits, had low rates of heart disease when compared to the general western population. It was thought that their diet contributed to this, as it was high in fish, where omega-3 fatty acids originate.1
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Heart Health Benefits
Triglycerides are fats that are found in the blood and when they’re elevated, arteries may be narrowed which increases the risk for heart attack and stroke. Studies show that supplementing 4 grams of Omega-3 daily can help lower the triglyceride levels by up to 30%.2
Decrease risk of stroke and heart failure
When omega-3 fatty acids are added to the diet of those who have suffered a stroke or have coronary artery disease, the risk of a second event is lowered by 25%.1
Lower blood pressure
Hypertension (HTN), a blood pressure of 140/90 or higher, puts individuals are an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Clinical trials show that those with HTN who received Omega-3 DHA and EPA enjoyed a decrease in systolic pressure (the top number of the reading) of 4.51 mm Hg, and a diastolic pressure decrease of 3.05 mm Hg. Physician and author Dominik Alexander explained, “When measuring blood pressure, even small reductions can have significant clinical impact.” An international study called INTERSALT showed that each 2 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure reduced coronary mortality by 4%, stroke by 6% and total mortality by 3%!3
Reduce blood clotting
Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent blood platelets from clumping together. A 2013 study showed that supplementing fish oil over a four-week period decreased the occurrence of blood clotting.5
Reduce irregular heartbeats
Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids from fish has shown to have antiarrhythmic effects. The fish oil helps to increase the fluidity in the cellular membrane, inhibits L-type calcium channels, and results in a decreased chance of arrhythmic events (irregular heartbeat).6
Fish Oil Benefits Bone and Joint Health
Joint pain can significantly impact one’s daily activities and overall wellbeing. Fish oil may help to relieve this pain.
Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory benefits — they contain Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which help to reduce inflammation. This help reduces inflammation to benefit both the heart by way of the blood vessels, and your joints.7 Fish oil can reduce symptoms such as joint stiffness, tenderness and swelling. They also have the benefit of increasing blood flow which in turn helps to reduce joint pain and swelling.
The anti-inflammatory benefit also helps with bone health. Osteoclasts are cells that break down your bone and are activated by inflammation. Chronic inflammation causes these osteoclasts to overwork which may result in osteopenia (bone thinning), and even osteoporosis. The EPA and DHA found in omega-3 fatty acids help to stop the osteoclasts from overworking, therefore preventing bone loss. They also increase osteoblast production, which are cells responsible for building new bone.8
Omega-3 Benefits for Athletes
Omega-3 fatty acids help with muscle growth as they are a part of protein synthesis facilitation, where your body processes the protein you eat into fuel for muscle growth. One study found that the supplementation of omega-3 helped increase muscle-building response to insulin and amino acids, both of which are released during exercise. Omega-3 helps with muscle growth because it primes the cells for protein synthesis, increasing the chance to build muscle.9
In addition to helping build muscle, Omega-3 fatty acids also help to reduce muscle soreness and swelling — but the benefits don’t stop there. Fish oil helps your body to burn fat for energy, increasing lean mass, as well as reduces heart rate and oxygen consumption during exercise. In other words, the myocardial oxygen demand for your body is lessened without sacrificing performance!’
Fish Oil Benefits on Brain & Cognitive Health
The EPA and DHA fatty acids in fish oil are crucial for brain health and function. A study found that when animals have a diet without omega-3 fatty acids, the DHA in their brains decreases and may lead to learning and memory issues. In fact, there was a correlation found between women who supplemented with fish oil while pregnant and higher scores of their children’s brain function and intelligence.9
As we age, the benefits continue. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to improve brain function in those who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or age-related cognitive decline. A study of older adults found those with MCI who supplemented with DHA enjoyed better memory results when tested.10
Omega-3 Benefits for Migraines
A study evaluating the relationship between omega-3 and prevalence of headaches or migraines found that those who have higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet or supplement regime suffered less severe headaches. In addition, higher levels of EPA and DHA were linked to lower CRP levels, and increased CRP levels were linked to increased occurrences of severe headaches.
This study shows that there are Omega-3 benefits for migraines, primarily an inverse relationship between EPA and DHA and severe headaches or migraines.11
The bottom line is that Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to one’s diet with their preventative benefits for a variety of health conditions. Adding this supplement to your daily regime can help with cardiovascular health while also benefiting one’s bone and joints, brain and cognitive health and athletic performance!