Research has shown that taking fish oil may have several benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, preventing blood clots, and lowering blood pressure. The oil comes from fatty fish and is high in omega-3 fatty acids. While normal doses are probably safe for most people, higher doses may lead to problems. Fish oil can cause side effects such as a fishy aftertaste, nausea, and indigestion.
What Is Fish Oil?Fish oil, as you might guess, is oil from fatty fish. Because many people do not eat much fish (and because fish is recommended as part of a heart-healthy diet), these supplements have become very popular in recent years. Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids and may help to lower triglycerides. It may have numerous other health benefits as well.
(Click Benefits of Fish Oil for more information on what it is used for.)
How Does It Work?It is thought that omega-3 fatty acids are the active compounds in fish oil. These fatty acids in fish oil include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty 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).
- Lowering triglycerides -- Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglyceride levels.
- Lowering blood pressure and preventing blood clots -- 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.
These are just a few of the benefits that researchers think fish oil may have on the body. As more studies are done, more information about how it works will become available.