Is Fish Oil REALLY That Good For You??

Yes.  Yes.  And YES.  I have always said that if there is one ‘supplement’ that I would recommend across the board for any individual, it would be fish oil, or omega-3s.  There are numerous health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and studies are constantly supporting well known benefits while coming out with new ones.

I began taking fish oil many years ago after being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Yes, I probably should’ve been taking fish oil prior, but no one had ever told me I needed to and, frankly, I just didn’t know.  So, if you don’t take fish oil and think you have no reason to, then I’m hoping that the following information will change your mind.

What is Fish Oil?

Fish oil is an essential fatty acid (EFA) that contains the two most important omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies need, EPA and DHA.  EPA and DHA stand for a lengthy scientific fatty acid name, which I’ll spare you.  Just remember that when evaluating a fish oil, you are looking for EPA and DHA on the label.  EPA is known for it’s strong anti-inflammatory effects in the body.  DHA, on the other hand, is extremely important for healthy brain development and, as a result, has an affinity for the brain.

In order to keep inflammation at bay, it is critical for our bodies to maintain a healthy omega 6 (n-6):omega 3 (n-3) ratio.  A healthy n-6:n-3 ratio should be 2-3:1.  Due to the fact that omega 6 fatty acids are found in abundance in the foods that people eat today, it is not uncommon for most people’s n-6:n-3 ratio to be in the range of 20-30:1.  As you can see, 20-30:1 is far from a healthy 2-3:1!  So how do you re-balance this ratio??  Well, one important way is to take fish oil; to build up the amount of omega-3s in our body in order to normalize the ratio.

Both omega-3s and 6s are part of the inflammation pathways in the body.  You may be familiar with ‘Cox’ inhibitors, which are often prescribed as anti-inflammatory prescription drugs.  Omega-6s are considered pro-inflammatory and lead to the production of Arachidonic Acid, which is one major target of Cox inhibitors.  Omega 3s, on the other hand are anti-inflammatory and help oppose inflammation in the body.

I often get asked, “Well, can’t I just eat fish?”  Yes, you can eat fish, but this is often not enough since most people don’t eat fish on a daily basis.  As a result, supplementing with a high quality, pure fish oil is necessary.  Our fishes, unfortunately, are becoming more and more toxic, and are often overloaded with heavy metals and other environmental toxins.   Buying wild-caught fish, as opposed to farm-raised, will minimize this toxicity.

Quality of Fish Oil

During my last two years of Naturopathic medical school I was the student representative for Nordic Naturals.  While I was already a huge supporter of omega-3 supplementation, I expanded my knowledge of the many ways that fish oil can support multiple systems in the body.  I was also exposed to one of the best fish oil companies in the world.  They are a company that produces only fish oil and this specialization is apparent in the high quality fish oil they produce.  An important thing to note is that there is no fish oil regulation in the US when it comes to producing fish oil.  This means that just about any company can come out with a fish oil product and you never know if you are also being exposed to heavy metals, dioxins and other environmental toxins that are common in fish.  Nordic Naturals abides by the stringent European Pharmacopoeia Standards, which are the toughest in the world.  These standards guarantee quality products by setting maximum allowances on peroxides, heavy metals, dioxins, and PCBs.  Ok, so now that I have put in my two cents on my personal favorite fish oil company, I’ll move on to what you’ve been waiting for.

Health Benefits of Fish Oil

Every cell in the body is composed of a phospholipid bilayer, or more simply a layer made of fats.  This cell membrane protects the cell and assures proper cell function.  Our body processes all fats the same, so when unhealthy fats, such as trans fats, are ingested, our body utilizes these fatty acids and they are added into the cell membrane.  Cells with an unhealthy lipid cell membrane do not function optimally.  For this reason, it is important to focus on getting healthy fats in the diet, in order to promote healthy cells, which leads to proper organ function and optimized overall health.   The following are all ways in which omega-3s can keep the body healthy:

  1. Combating Inflammation:  As previously mentioned, EPA and DHA aid in maintaining a healthy inflammatory balance.
  2. Brain Health:  Helps decrease oxidation, improve memory and focus, slow age-related memory loss and improve mood.
  3. Anti-Aging: Protects against free radicals.
  4. Eye Health:  Supports healthy eye tissue and function and decreases oxidative damage in the eye.
  5. Healthy Skin, Hair and Nails:  nourishes skin, hair and nails.
  6. Heart Health:  Fish oil promotes healthy blood vessel integrity, and can lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
  7. Pregnancy & Lactation: Important for development and growth of the fetus.
  8. Proper Immune Function: Helps to maintain proper immune response and balance.
  9. Growing children: Extremely important in healthy brain development in growing children.

For more information on all of the health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids, visit www.nordicnaturals.com!

 

I know that was a lot to take in, but the bottom line is simple and important:  Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids are critical for proper cellular function and are important for every system in the body.

 

Dr. Leslie White, ND

Naturopathic Doctor

Austin Natural Health

drlesliewhite@gmail.com  •  www.austinnaturalhealth.com

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*Leslie White, ND is a naturopathic doctor, and the state of Texas does not currently regulate or license naturopathic medicine. Dr. White holds a license to practice naturopathic medicine from the state of Vermont. This site does not provide medical or health care advice, so please consult with your physician regarding any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.