Benefits of Fish Oil
Fish oil supplements offer several benefits, such as treating cardiovascular disease, helping with mental health problems, and controlling weight. Fish oil may also improve brain and eye development when taken during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, because supplements may contain heavy metals or other toxins, do not use them without first talking to your healthcare provider.
Fish oil appears to provide a wide variety of health benefits. Because the typical American diet does not include much fish, many people turn to supplements to obtain these benefits. Research suggests that taking fish oil supplements probably provides similar benefits as eating a diet high in fish.
Unlike most supplements, fish oil has been studied extensively for a variety of uses. In fact, it seems like researchers have studied fish oil for just about everything. Some of these uses include:
- Treating certain conditions of cardiovascular disease (including cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes)
- Controlling weight (both weight gain and weight loss)
- Treating rheumatoid arthritis
- Aiding in pregnancy and childhood development
- Helping with mental health problems
- Reducing the risk of various age-related conditions.
Fish oil is probably best known for its benefits for the heart and vascular system. It can help lower high triglycerides (known medically as hypertriglyceridemia). It may also slightly increase HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol), although it may also increase LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol). Research suggests that fish oil may prevent cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks and strokes). In people who have already had a heart attack, the supplement may decrease the risk of another heart attack and the risk of death. In addition, taking fish oil after an angioplasty procedure or bypass surgery may help keep the blood vessels from closing back up.
Fish oil also tends to modestly lower blood pressure, a beneficial attribute since high blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for heart disease. Some researchers think that fish oil may also help treat certain irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias), but the evidence at this point is inconclusive.
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that people with heart disease should consider an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (such as fish oil), although a dietary intake of fish is preferred. The AHA also recommends that people who need to lower their triglycerides should take supplements with certain omega-3 fatty acids (such as those found in fish oil), as it is unlikely that most people can eat enough fish to lower their triglycerides. In both of these situations, the AHA recommends that you take the supplements only under the supervision of your healthcare provider.