For years now, you may have been trying to eat more fish or even take supplements, since you know about fish oil’s heart healthy benefits. You may have even heard about fish oil’s role as brain food. Is fish oil all powerful? What’s the science behind it?
Omega 3 through 9
As more research comes out, it is clear that more and more studies are focusing on the different types of fish oils, too. Whether long or short chain amino acids, Omega-3 or Omega-9, it really makes a difference.
Perhaps one of the more interesting findings is that young women tend to process ALA omega-3s two and a half times faster than their male counterparts.
This area of fish oil research is second only to heart health in terms of well documented supporting evidence. Recently, scientists have been looking at fish oil’s effect on Alzheimer’s Disease.
According to researchers at the University of California in Los Angeles (2007), studies done with animals, DHA may play a part in preventing amyloid proteins and neurofibrillary tangles, both known to be involved in the dementia which is brought on by Alzheimer’s.
Currently, the outlook is optimistic for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, or with very mild cases. More research is still needed to confirm any effects for those already experiencing severe symptoms (Archives of Neurology).
A few studies have linked omega-3 fish oil supplements to the prevention of certain cancers, such as prostate cancer and breast cancers. Research in this area is still in its infancy, however. Many scientists are still reserved about the preliminary data, and would like more studies to confirm any causal relationships (as cited by Daniells, 2008).
Cardiology centered studies are undoubtedly fish oil’s premier wellspring of scientific data and date as far back as the 1970s. According to literature recently published in the American Journal of Cardiology (2006), fish oil may actually decrease risk for an occurrence of a second heart attack, and improve heart rhythm.
More importantly, perhaps for vegetarians, new studies on ALA type omega-3s confirm that even though very little ALA gets converted to the usable form of DHA or EPA, significant heart healthy benefits are still possible.
Several studies link fish oil with superior vision. Most notably, fish oil is being studied for its effects on macular degeneration. So far, studies published in the American Journal of clinical nutrition have shown that you can reduce your risk for AMD by 70% just by taking fish oil.
Mood Disorders/Mental Health
This is probably one of the more interesting directions in fish oil research right now. Recent studies are linking both the DHA and EPA components of fish oil with a reduction in symptoms of depression.
According to one article published by the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (2008), this reduction accounts for a 50% drop in depression ratings following just 1g of EPA. This effect is comparable to those seen in prescription drugs like Prozac (fluoxetine).
Given fish oil’s effects on brain functioning, expecting mothers often face the difficult challenge of trying to increase their intake of oily fish foods while at the same time trying to stay in the FDA’s recommended guidelines for fish consumption.
As reported in the Journal of Pediatrics (2008) New studies suggest that benefits from omega-3s do indeed extend to the growing fetus, and may even play a larger role during periods of critical development.
Furthermore, new mommies can avoid the worrisome guidelines set by the EPA to protect against potential toxins present in fish simply by taking a high quality fish oil supplement that will not contain them.
Source: Science: Is omega-3 omnipotent?