Fish oil is one of the most popular supplements in the U.S., with 7.8% of American adults, 18.8 million using it on a regular basis. That still leaves a large chunk of the population that doesn’t take fish oil supplements – and, according to research from Harvard University, a deficiency of omega-3 fatty acid is officially one of the top 10 causes of death in America, claiming the lives of approximately 84,000 people each year. Those deaths are considered preventable as getting enough omega 3-fatty acids in one’s diet can help ward off this common cause of death.
The term omega-3s most often refers to a group of fatty acids, with the most well-known being EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which are found in fish sources like fish oil supplements.
Fish oil is derived from the tissues of oily fish, with the best sources being cold-water fatty fish like wild-caught salmon. The oil is a concentrated source of omega-3s, and while the body can make most of the fats we need, that’s not the case when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids – we need to get them from supplements or food sources.
Here’s more about why you should really join the many Americans who are taking fish oil every day.
10 Reasons To Take Fish Oil Daily
1. Depression and Other Mental Disorders
Fish oil has been shown in studies to decrease the symptoms of depression, including one published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience which focused on the effects of supplementing with fish oil in adolescents who were diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. The experts discovered that there was a 40 percent decrease in symptoms and marked improvements in the nutrition and amino acid content in the brain.
There has been a significant amount of scientific data linking low tissue levels of EPA and DHA to all sort of mental disorders, not just depression, but violent behavior, learning disabilities, and suicide. It’s even proven to be an effective, natural and non-toxic treatment for bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder.
2. Boosting Memory
Not only can fish oil help improve mental health, but it can strengthen your brain in other ways, including boosting your memory. Research published in the journal PloS One found that when a group of 18- to 25-year-olds consumed fish oil pills daily for six months, they experienced a 23 percent increase in working memory.
3. Clearer, Younger-Looking Skin
Fish oil also benefits the skin in a number of ways, including nourishing it with fats and fat-soluble vitamins that help give it a more smooth, soft and elastic texture. There is even some scientific evidence that it can help prevent premature aging and signs of aging like wrinkles and fine lines.
4. Healing Skin Conditions
In addition to helping skin look younger, fish oil may also help heal a number of different conditions, including improving moderate to severe acne. A 2012 study from California State Polytechnic University Pomona demonstrating that participants who supplemented their normal acne-fighting regimen and diets with three grams of fish oil per day enjoyed significant improvements. After 12 weeks, 60 percent of volunteers found acne symptoms greatly diminished.
If you suffer from eczema or acne, it can help too. One study found that eczema sufferers who took fish oil experienced a significant reduction in symptoms after 12 weeks. Experts believe it may help because the oil has the ability to decrease an inflammatory substance known as leukotriene B4, a compound that has a role in the development of eczema. Its ability to lower inflammation is one of the primary reasons it improves overall skin health. Fish oil may also help to alleviate psoriasis symptoms, however, more studies need to be conducted to confirm this.
5. Improving Eye Health
The National Eye Institute conducted a study in 2009 that showed volunteers who reported consuming the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet were 30 percent less likely than their peers to develop macular degeneration.
Experts also believe that essential fatty acids in fish oil can help proper drainage of intraocular fluid from the eye which helps decrease the risk of high eye pressure and glaucoma. Consuming a higher intake of polyunsaturated fats, such as those found in fish oil, has also been associated with a reduced level of cortical cataracts.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to reduce the risk of dry eyes too. Research involving over 32,000 women between the age of 45 and 84, showed that those who had a high ratio of potentially harmful omega-6 fatty acids compared to beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in their diet had a much greater risk of dry eye syndrome.
6. Supporting Weight Loss
Research from Australia published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that taking fish oil, when combined with regular exercise and proper diet reduced body fat while also improving metabolic and heart health. The experts found that those who supplemented with fish oil experienced improved blood flow, increased HDL, or “good,” cholesterol, and lower triglycerides. They concluded that adding fish oil to an overall healthy lifestyle can reduce body fat and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In another study out of France in which participants traded out other oils and fats for fish oil, consuming six grams a day for three weeks, had a lower body fat mass index, leading the researchers to conclude that the intake of fish oil not only reduces body fat but stimulates the use of fatty acids to produce energy.
Taking fish oil regularly helps to improve fat metabolism too. Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan recently found that it transforms fat-storage cells into fat-burning cells in mice. In their study, fish oil supplements were shown to stimulate receptors in the digestive tract, activate the sympathetic nervous system and prompt storage cells to metabolize fat in mice. The animals that consumed food with fish oil gained 5 to 10 percent less weight, and 15 to 25 percent less fat than the control mice. The researchers concluded that humans taking fish oil supplements could help reduce weight gain later on in life.
7. Protecting Against the Negative Impact of Air Pollution
Air pollution is a serious concern that can have many harmful effects on one’s health, not only in the short-term, such as coughing, wheezing, and breathing difficulties, but over the long-term it can cause cancer, damage your neurological, immune, respiratory, and reproductive systems, and increase your risk of a heart attack.
Taking fish oil, however, can help protect your heart against air pollution, which is especially important for those who live in the city, walk or run on streets, breathing all of that polluted air. A 2012 study in which the researchers gave participants three grams of fish oil or olive oil a day for four weeks, and then exposed them to polluted air for two consecutive hours had their cardiac responses measured. Those who had the fish oil didn’t experience a negative impact on white blood cell activity, and it was also found to protect them against the hazardous cardiac effects linked to the exposure of air pollution.
8. Strengthening the Immune System
Studies have also found that fish oil may boost the immune system. 2013 research from Michigan State University and East Carolina University published in Science Daily, demonstrated that feeding fish oil high in the omega-3 fatty acid compound DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, seemed to heighten activity of a white blood cell called a B cell, a vital part of the body’s immune response. Because of the particular way the DHA-rich fish oil worked in mice, the researchers noted that their finding might lead to special applications for people with compromised immune systems, with the belief that the results would be applicable to human health as well.
9. Reducing the Risk of Diabetes and Preventing Diabetic Complications
Fish oil supplements may also help reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, as well as prevent complications for those with the disease. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are able to raise levels of a hormone called adiponectin that’s linked to insulin sensitivity as Harvard researcher and published in a report published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found.
The study’s lead author, Jason Wu, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, explained, “Although higher levels of adiponectin in the bloodstream have been linked to lower risk of diabetes and coronary heart disease, whether fish oil influences glucose metabolism and development of type 2 diabetes remains unclear. However, results from our study suggest that higher intake of fish oil may moderately increase the blood level of adiponectin, and these results support potential benefits of fish oil consumption on glucose control and fat cell metabolism.”
Another study, published in Brain Research shows just how far-reaching fish oil can be for those who’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. The researchers discovered that it can reduce oxidative stress, which has a key role in the development of diabetes complications, and it lessens the risk of diabetics from developing a cognitive deficit as it protects the hippocampus cells from damage. It also reduces the risk of developing vision-related complications in diabetics. One study published online by JAMA Ophthalmology, followed 3,600 diabetic adults, aged 55 to 80, for about five years, tracking their seafood consumption. They found that those who regularly consumed 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acid a day, or two servings of fatty fish each week, were nearly half as likely to develop diabetic retinopathy, as compared to those who consumed less than that amount.
10. Preventing and Potentially Killing a Number of Cancers
Scientific research has also demonstrated that fish oil can help prevent, or even kill a number of different cancers, including breast, prostate and colon cancer. Some studies have found that it not only makes conventional cancer drugs more effective, but it can be used on its own for an effective natural cancer treatment.
For example, research in 2013 focused on its ability to prevent prostate cancer – the experts concluded that there was a significant amount of evidence that suggested omega-3 fatty acids offer antiproliferative effects – in other words, inhibit cancer cell growth – in cancer cell lines, animal models, and humans. They had “direct effects on cancer cells” and indirect anti-inflammatory effects on the body’s immune system which helped to fight cancer.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oils, has been found to shrink the size of tumors in addition to enhancing the positive effects of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin while limiting its harmful side effects. Professor A. M. El-Mowafy led a team of researchers from Mansoura University, Egypt, who studied the effects of DHA on solid tumors growing in mice, as well as looking into how this fatty acid interacts with cisplatin, a chemotherapy drug that is known to cause kidney damage. He remarked, “DHA elicited prominent chemopreventive effects on its own, and appreciably augmented those of cisplatin as well. Furthermore, this study is the first to reveal that DHA can obliterate lethal cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity and renal tissue injury.
There is a lot of promise in regard to omega-3s and breast cancer too, as a scientific review out of India, published in Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, showed. The data revealed that EPA, DHA and ALA, all found in omega-3 fatty acids, are able to differentially inhibit the development of breast tumors. The review concluded there is solid evidence to support the use of omega-3 fatty acids as “a nutritional intervention in the treatment of breast cancer to enhance conventional therapeutics, or potentially lowering effective doses.”
Further confirming their conclusion, was more recent research conducted in 2016 through multiple prestigious institutions, including the University of Iceland, The Icelandic Heart Association, The Icelandic Cancer Registry, the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden and Boston’s Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The experts found that a diet very high in fish, consumed in early adulthood through midlife may be linked to a lower risk of breast cancer.
The Best Fish Oil Supplements
When looking for a quality fish oil supplement, you’ll want to find out that contains more than 1,000 mg EPA + DHA omega-3 fatty acids per serving. You’ll want a supplement that is sustainably sourced, third party tested for purity, potency and freshness, and you’ll also want one with a number of real human reviews.
These four fish oil supplements meet all of the above criteria: