Fish Oil is a good source of two Omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids, which are mainly found in cold water fish, are believed to have a number of health applications relating especially to heart disease, blood pressure and inflammation.
Both EPA and DHA occur naturally in the body and are found in especially large amounts in brain cells, nerves and the eyes, adrenal and sex glands. These fatty acids have a very low melting point and a strong urge to disperse. So strong is the urge to move apart that EPA and DHA help to prevent cholesterol and saturated fatty acids from clumping together in the body. Saturated fats can increase LDL cholesterol (Low-Density Lipoprotein), which encourages deposits of fat in the arteries and raises the risk of heart attack and thrombosis (blood clots).
Fish Oil can be obtained by eating fresh fish or it is available as a nutritional supplement in capsule form. If a Fish Oil supplement is being taken it is best to choose a product which declares on the label that it is 'pure fish oil' to ensure that the oil has not been chemically processed which may reduce the effectiveness of the fatty acid content.
The high fatty acid content in the flesh of cold water fish exists to insulate the body of the fish which is living in very low temperature waters and helps to prevent the fish from freezing. Cold water fish usually have a diet, which is high in red and brown algae, both of which are good sources of EPA and DHA fatty acids.
Cold water fish that are especially rich in Omega-3 fatty acids are listed in order of strength:
· Tuna (fresh, not tinned - the fish oil is often drained off before the fish is tinned).
Eskimos in Greenland have a diet that consists mainly of fish, seal and whale meat, all of which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that, compared with Western-European populations, there is a much lower incidence of heart attack, diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis amongst these people.
High levels of triglycerides (fat molecules) in the bloodstream can hinder the body's natural ability to break down blood clots. This can lead to thrombosis, which is caused when a clot forms within a blood vessel and blocks the blood supply to important areas of the body such as the heart, lungs and/or brain. Thrombosis can result in a heart attack or stroke. A major effect of omega-3 fatty acids is to reduce the triglyceride levels in the blood and prevent platelets (blood cells responsible for clotting) from clumping together. This may have a protective effect on the heart and also reduce the incidence of atherosclerosis.
The DHA component of fish oil can improve the functioning of a diseased heart and clinical trials have found that it also helps to improve the functioning of a healthy heart. Fish oil improves the energy production in the heart and has properties to prevent irregular heart beats (arrhythmias). Fish oil is often recommended to heart patients as part of a programme to prevent a second heart attack.
Fish Oil may be of help in patients with high blood pressure. This use for Fish Oil should be under the supervision of a medical practitioner as the dosage may vary depending on the medications that the patient may be currently taking.
Arthritis is an example of a common inflammatory condition that may be helped by Fish Oil. Supplementation with Fish Oil can help to decrease the severity of osteo and rheumatoid arthritis and regulate the number or molecules in the body, which cause inflammation.
Psoriasis is a skin problem also associated with inflammation. Treatment with Fish Oil may help to reduce the symptoms of this condition. Dietary Fish Oil may also help to relieve the itching caused by a number of other skin conditions e.g. eczema.
Studies have also shown that Fish Oil may be of benefit to people suffering from ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn's Disease. People with Crohn's Disease often experience a cycle of having a period of freedom from symptoms followed by a relapse. Fish Oil may help to keep people with Crohn's Disease, symptom-free.