Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of your diet, supporting good health throughout your body. Omega-3s are an important part of the membranes surrounding all of the cells throughout your body. There are three key omega-3 fatty acids:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
ALA is an essential fatty acid, meaning that it cannot be synthesized by your body naturally. That ultimately means that you need to get it from your diet. Your body can convert some ALA into DHA and EPA in small amounts, so your diet is the only practical way to get enough omega-3 fatty acids into your system.
Scientists have only set recommended amounts for ALA, not DHA and EPA. The actual amount you need may vary based on your personal health needs, but adult men should get about 1.6 grams of ALA per day, while adult women should get about 1.1 grams per day.1
There are thankfully numerous foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, including plant oils, nuts, and seeds. However, the main and most common source of omega-3s is fish oil, particularly from fatty fish, like tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines, and other seafood. Alternately, you can take a fish oil supplement.2 But why should you take fish oil? And how can fish oil help to treat diseases?
Inflammation is one of the body’s natural immune responses. It’s your body attempting to heal itself after an injury, repair damaged tissue, and keep out any foreign microbes that may cause harm. Inflammation is usually characterized by redness, warmth, swelling, and pain.
Without inflammation, your wounds would have a hard time healing and the simplest bacterial infections could be deadly. However, chronic inflammation contributes to a wide range of diseases and disorders. Fortunately, omega-3 fatty acids are known to have anti-inflammatory properties.3 Omega 3 oils block cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes from producing pro-inflammatory molecules. The EPA and DHA in fish oil are converted into potent anti-inflammatory compounds known as resolvins, which block certain pro-inflammatory cytokines and prostaglandins.21
Arthritis is a general term referring to joint stiffness and pain. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, along with numerous related conditions. Over 50 million adults and 300,000 kids have some form of arthritis. The main symptoms of arthritis comprise swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joints, contributing to a decreased range of motion. Severe arthritis can lead to chronic pain and an inability to perform even the most basic daily activities.4
Thankfully, fish oil may help to treat arthritis. A 2010 meta-analysis also suggested that fish oil could significantly reduce joint stiffness and tenderness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.5 An 18-month study published in 2014 found that subjects taking fish oil showed significant reductions in disease activity of rheumatoid arthritis after nine months.6
Cardiovascular diseases have also been linked to chronic inflammation. Cholesterol that ends up in the lining of blood vessels can cause damage and irritation. Cytokines respond and cause inflammation. This can result in systemic inflammation in the blood vessels. Over time, the combination of inflammation and fatty plaques in the blood vessels can lead to blood clots and blockages, which can ultimately result in heart attack.3
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil work by altering plaque inflammation through the creation of resolvins. However, omega-3 fatty acids also reduce levels of serum triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. High levels of triglycerides can contribute to blockages in the blood vessels.7
Compared to their mainland counterparts, American Eskimos have better coronary health which has been attributed to the high amounts of omega-3 fish oil in their diets22.
Mental health awareness is growing as more and more as people discover the diseases and disorders that cause harm to our emotions and behaviors and lead to physical, social, and individual problems. There are a wide range of mental health disorders, many of which can be treated through a combination of medication and therapy. Although specific mechanisms still require further study, growing research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids can potentially help support mental health and complement existing therapies by reducing inflammation.
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a disorder characterized by ongoing patterns of:
- Inattention (difficulty maintaining focus, disorganization, lack of persistence, wandering off of tasks)
- Hyperactivity (constant movement and physical activity, extreme restlessness, excessive fidgeting)
- Impulsivity (making hasty decisions that may have high potential for harm without thinking about it, a desire for immediate rewards, inability to delay gratification)8
Many studies suggest that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids may correlate or contribute to symptoms of ADHD. In a 2012 study, children age 6 to 12 years old who had been diagnosed with ADHD were given omega-3 and omega-6 acid supplements or a placebo. Those given the fish oil supplement showed statistically significant improvement in several categories, including restlessness, aggressiveness, work completion, and overall academic performance.9 Another study showed that increasing omega-3 levels, particularly DHA, can help kids with ADHD improve literacy and behavior.10
The exact mechanisms involved still require research, but omega-3s play an important role in the brain, acting as building blocks in cell membranes. Getting enough omega-3 fatty acids may help facilitate the transmission of neural signals.11
Depression, or major depressive disorder, is more than just “feeling a little blue.” It can exhibit itself in a variety of ways, but it is mainly characterized by intense feelings of sadness and a disinterest in activities that you once enjoyed. This can lead to emotional and physical problems that can prevent people from working or functioning in their day to day. Symptoms vary from mild to severe based on the person, but common symptoms of depression include:
- Sudden changes in appetite
- Sleeping problems
- A loss of energy or general fatigue
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Suicidal ideation
Depression can affect anyone and can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics and biochemistry. An estimated one in 15 adults have depression in a given year, and about one in six people will experience symptoms of depression at some point in their lives.12
Initial research shows promising results for using fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids to help treat symptoms of depression. Some researchers believe that some people experiencing depression may not have enough EPA or DHA.13 Research from 2009 reviewed the results of three studies involving EPA and three different types of depression: bipolar depression, major depression in kids, and major depression in adults. In these controlled studies, a vast majority of participants taking EPA showed significant improvement over subjects who took a placebo.14
Occasional anxiety is a natural response to fear or apprehension, but when anxiety is persistent, overwhelming, and seemingly uncontrollable, it can become a real problem. Anxiety can be disabling if it’s excessive and an irrational dread of seemingly everyday situations. If anxiety is consistently interfering with your daily activities, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States. An estimated 44 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders, but only about a third of those suffering from anxiety disorders actually receives treatment. The term “anxiety disorders” is an umbrella term for a variety of disorders involving feelings of extreme worry and fear. These include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder and panic attacks
- Social anxiety disorder
- Separation anxiety
- Specific phobias15
Preliminary studies showed that omega-3 fatty acids reduced inflammation and anxiety in healthy students. The idea is that psychological stress increases the production of cytokines, which also results in inflammation. The studies considered the possibility that omega-3 fatty acids reduce cytokine reactions, suggesting that they may also help with psychological stress.16
Metabolism is the process through which your body breaks down food to extract energy, fueling every action you perform, from walking to breathing to reading this very blog. Metabolic disorders occur when that whole process is interrupted by abnormal chemical reactions. This can result in you having either too much or too little of certain substances or nutrients, affecting specific organs and your overall health.17
Diabetes is caused by abnormally high blood sugar levels. Glucose is a basic sugar that comes from the foods you eat, and your body creates insulin to make sure that that glucose enters your cells properly to give you the energy you need. Diabetes comes in two forms. With type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin. With type 2 diabetes, your body has trouble making insulin. Type 2 is the more common form.
Over time, having too much glucose in your system can have severe consequences. It can cause damage to your eyes, nerves, and kidneys. Diabetes can also lead to stroke, cardiovascular disease, or the amputation of limbs.18
Fish oil can help to prevent diabetes and better manage diabetes to those who have been diagnosed. Studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids can promote healthy gut bacteria, which can help to reduce the risk of diabetes and maintain proper digestion and metabolism.19 Another study from Harvard found that omega-3 fatty acids may help raise levels of adiponectin, a hormone that can increase insulin sensitivity. Type 2 diabetics have decreased insulin sensitivity.20
Skin and Hair
Fish oil is essential to healthy skin and hair. Omega-3 fatty acids provide healthy fats and fat-soluble vitamins that help skin stay smooth and elastic. Without these omega-3s, the skin has trouble maintaining moisture. Some evidence even suggests that fish oil may help to combat signs of aging and prevent wrinkles.
EPA and DHA fish oil supplements have been found to help reduce the inflammation in the skin. Inflammation is a component of skin diseases. such as eczema, psoriasis, and dandruff/dry scalp. By reducing inflammation, fish oil contributes to healthy skin.
Incorporate fish oil into your diet with DrFormulas™ Triple Strength 2000 mg Fish Oil supplements, which offer 2000mg of fish oil per 2 easy-to-swallow softgels. Our Triple-distillation process ensures that you’re getting the most potent fish oil. Each softgel also features a phthalate-free enteric coating to help reduce and prevent fishy burps.