We have been told when we were small to eat plenty of fish because fish contains a good number of nutrients. Well, indeed it is true; eating fish can give you a load of essential nutrients that your body needs every day. But what is in fish that makes it healthy? Experts say the secret lies in fish oil.
As the term implies, fish oil is oil from fish, but modern technology has now allowed us to enjoy the benefits of fish oil through supplements sold in drugstores nowadays. Fish oil is fish harvested from fatty fish; this type of oil is especially important because it contains omega-3 fatty acids. Examples of fatty fish include tuna, mackerel, salmon, anchovies, sardines, mullet, bluefish, trout, herring and menhaden. There is about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids per 3.5 ounces of fatty fish.
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Fish oil has been used for centuries because of its various health benefits. It was often used to prevent diseases of the cardiovascular system. Some people claimed it to have blood pressure and cholesterol lowering properties. These findings suggest the use of fish oil to prevent high cholesterol levels, heart disease and stroke when taken in sufficient amounts. Fish oil has actually been named as brain food because of it mood elevation properties and its effect on mental well being. It is said that constant intake of fish oils can help with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dementia, psychosis, depression and other mental problems. Fish oil has also its benefits on the eyes because it can prevent dry eyes, macular degeneration and glaucoma.
Fish Oil and Dementia
A recent study has found out that intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil may actually lead to larger brain volumes in old age which may preserve brain health. This finding was published in the January 22, 2014 issue of Neurology. Larger brain volumes brought about by intake of fish oils can actually be benefited by patients with Alzheimer's disease, as this type of dementia is marked by shrinking brain volume. This study tested the levels of omega-3 fatty acids EPA+DHA in the red blood cells of more than a thousand women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative Memory Study. These women were revaluated after 8 years, when, at an average age of 78, they were made to undergo MRI scans to assess brain volume. The study found out that those who have higher omega-3 levels have larger brain volumes eight years later. Higher omega-3 levels were achieved through the use of fish-oil based diets and fish oil supplements. The researchers theorized that omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils can actually delay the loss of brain cells as a part of aging by about one to two years. The researchers also found out that the volume of the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in memory, was larger in those with higher omega-3 levels than in those who have low omega-3 levels. It is interesting to note that Alzheimer's disease can lead to shrinkage of the hippocampus, a fact that explains memory loss in demented patients.
The benefits of fish oil do not only stop there. There is also widespread use of fish oil for dysmenorrhoea, diabetes, asthma, balance and coordination disorders, obesity, kidney diseases, osteoporosis, psoriasis, arthritis and drug toxicity. It is said that omega-3 exerts its beneficial effects on health through the prevention of inflammation. It is also considered safe when taken for not more than 3 grams per day. If taken for more than 3 grams per day, there is a high risk for bleeding due to its anti-clotting mechanism on the blood. Care should also be observed in patients who are immunocompromised because they may be susceptible to new infections as a result of the anti-inflammatory effect of fish oil.
For more information about the beneficial effects of omega-3, you can check out our other articles.