We’ve all heard all the amazing claims that fish oil can improve our health in myriad ways. Thousands of studies have been done on fish oil over the years, and there are many benefits that they report. Here is a quick list of the health benefits that have been most studied and proven for fish oil:
The Major Health Benefits of Fish Oil
- Health disease
- High Cholesterol
- ADHD & ADD
- Pregnancy & Infant Health
- Weight Loss
- Alzheimer’s and Dementia
This is by no means an exhaustive list, as there are many other conditions that it helps. Sure, it sounds like snake oil, but there is a ton of research to support it. Obviously there is something special about fish oil that makes it work for such an incredibly broad range of conditions — what is it?
Fish Oil Relieves Inflammation
It’s pretty simple, actually. Fish oil reduces the levels of inflammation in the body. Most people are familiar with inflammation as redness and pain in some part of their body, but this the most acute kind. There is a silent but deadly killer lurking through most peoples bodies called “silent inflammation,” which is extremely low levels of inflammation that don’t produce symptoms until a serious condition emerges. Inflammation has been implicated in many chronic diseases, including the list of health conditions above, and fish oil relieves this silent inflammation. What gives fish oil this quality?
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Fish oil is an oil, which consists almost entirely of fat. But the fat in fish oil isn’t any ordinary kind of fat — fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 may sound complicated, but it’s really just an unsaturated fat with a specific kind of chemical make-up. This structure gives omega-3 its potent medicinal qualities. There are three kinds of omega-3 fatty acids.
Three Kinds of Omega-3: EPA, DHA and ALA
EPA, DHA and ALA are the 3 major kinds of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil only contains EPA and DHA (long chain omega-3), while ALA (short chain omega-3) can only be found in vegetarian sources like flaxseed oil. But are all three sources necessary? Actually, no. The human body can only use ALA by converting it into EPA or DHA, but the body can only convert 1-2% of it! This makes flaxseed oil a poor choice of omega-3s, while fish oil is an excellent source. The differences between EPA and DHA has been fiercely debated, with some people claiming that DHA is for structure while EPA is for function, but that hasn’t been completely substantiated. For now, just know that both are important!
Do Fish Make Omega-3?
Actually, fish don’t actually create omega-3 fatty acids. Fish accumulate it in their fat (like humans do with pizza and ice cream) from consuming the micro-algae at the bottom of the ocean. This is the same micro-algae that is responsible for 70% of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere! Why these micro-algae produce something so useful to human health is currently a mystery; some researchers even attribute the complex evolution of the human brain to the point in human evolution when our pre-human ancestors wandered into the East African Rift Valley and their diets began consisting almost entirely of shellfish! But if fish accumulate omega-3s in their bodies, what else do they accumulate?
Fish Contain Toxic Contaminants
You’ve probably heard warnings from the EPA and FDA about how fish can contain toxic levels of Mercury and other toxins due to pollution. The other toxins you can get from fish are PCBs, dioxin and arsenic! This means that you have to severely limit your consumption of fish. But how can you get adequate levels of omega-3s in your diet if you can’t consume fish?
Fish Oil Supplements to the Rescue!
Fish oil supplements are a great way to get your daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acids, but they are also subject to contamination! For this reason, some governments have implemented standards for toxin levels in fish oil, but unfortunately they’re too lax. So the International Fish Oil Standards program was created. This is a third-party testing service at the University of Guelph that allows fish oil manufacturers to voluntarily have their products tested and published on the IFOS website. The IFOS certification is the gold standard for fish oil products, and you should only consider buying a fish oil supplement that they certify, such as See Yourself Well Omega-3.