Benefits of Fish Oil
Researchers have noticed that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids but low in omega-3 fatty acids (such as the typical American diet) may increase the risk of depression or other mental health problems. Early studies suggest that taking fish oil may help antidepressants work better and improve the symptoms of bipolar disorder. However, fish oil only seems to be beneficial for the depression symptoms of bipolar disorder (not the mania symptoms) and may actually increase the risk of mania symptoms.
Fish oil may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, osteoporosis, strokes, and heart attacks. However, it is not clear if fish oil benefits extend to preventing Alzheimer's disease or cancer.
How Does Fish Oil Work?Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to be the active compounds in fish oil. These fatty acids in fish oil include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These acids have various effects on the body, such as:
- Decreasing inflammation -- Omega-3 fatty acids seem to decrease inflammation in the body by suppressing a specific enzyme (COX-2) and inflammatory chemicals, such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). This is likely how fish oil may work for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Lowering triglycerides -- Omega-3 fatty acids can help to lower triglyceride levels.
- Preventing blood clots and lowering blood pressure -- Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the production of a chemical called thromboxane A2. This chemical causes blood platelets to stick together (which encourages blood clots) and increases blood pressure. Because omega-3 fatty acids decrease thromboxane A2, they can "thin" the blood (perhaps preventing blood clots) and lower blood pressure.