Fish oil, no prizes for guessing, is oil/fat obtained from fish tissue. Some fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, mainly eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, which are essential fatty acids and cannot be produced by the body.Some of the fish oil benefits as well as the side effects of consuming it are discussed in this article.
Yes, I have no idea how to pronounce them either. Or I didn’t, until I read the words slowly and carefully, pronouncing each syllable. Talk about tongue twisters.
Biochemists are probably experts at them. For example, titin is a complex protein present in our muscles.
Biochemists could have left it at that, but oh no, they didn’t. They made the chemical name so long that it takes 3.5 hours to pronounce.
Why, do you ask? Because they could. Simple.
Anyway, coming back to fish oil. Fish don’t produce these fatty acids. Instead they eat algae which produce these fatty acids.
Usually pelagic fishes are used to make fish oil. Pelagic fishes are those staying near the surface of the water, instead of deep down.
The usual fishes used are sardines, cod, anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon and tuna.
You must have heard of people saying that cod liver oil, a type of fish oil, is very good for your health and that everybody must have it.
Have you ever wondered why? Well, go no further! Here are a few of the benefits of fish oil.
Fish oil is beneficial to the heart and reduces the risk factors for heart disease.
It increases the levels of the HDL cholesterol, which is the “good” fat of the body, and reduces the triglycerides level in the blood, which reduces the risk of development of heart diseases later in life.
It also reduces the blood pressure of those who are in the moderate to severe category of high blood pressure if taken along with an energy restricted diet (a diet which doesn’t meet the required daily calorie intake).
It improves the blood flow to the brain, and reduces the risk of stroke in the elderly.
It helps prevent the formation of plaques, thereby reducing the risk of heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure, to name a few.
Fish oil is an anti-thrombotic (prevents the formation of clots) by nature, and so may help in the prevention of stroke in patients who suffered a massive heart attack.
Your brain is roughly 60% fat, most of which is the omega-3 fatty acids. It is thought that people with a low omega-3 fatty acid level are more prone to depressive diseases and schizophrenic patients.
Fish oil may be beneficial to treat such patients along with the prescribed drugs.
Fish oil also reduces the rate of development of senile dementia and other age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Fish oil is an anti-inflammatory in nature and so it helps in inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, allergic reactions (asthma, hay fever) and IgA nephropathy.
4.Pregnancy and early (neonatal) life
Pregnant women who have been given fish oil have been found to have infants with a higher birth weight than those who haven’t been given fish oil, and it also helps to prevent premature birth and birth complication.
The infants have also been reported to have accelerated neural development than those who haven’t been given fish oil.
Fish oil also helps in mothers who have rheumatoid arthritis, as there is an immediate fall in the DHA levels following the birth of the infant.
Fish oil given during pregnancy also helps to prevent allergic reactions in the infant later in life.
Lactating mothers who were given fish oil were reported to have children with better developmental scores, both mentally and physically.
Studies have shown that fish oil, in combination with diet and exercise can help you to lose weight faster than without the supplementation and also decreases the adipose tissue in our bodies.
Fish oil also helps to decrease the risk of development of diabetes.
Fish oil also helps to prevent age-related macular degeneration in the elderly populace.
Fish oil sometimes also contain essential vitamins like vitamin D, which helps to improve bone health and bone density.
Some also contain vitamin A, like cod liver oil, helping in normal functioning of the eyes.
Fish oil may also help in the prevention of skin cancer and progression of prostate cancer in the elderly.
After reading all that, you must be thinking that fish oil is some kind of miracle drug that helps to treat or cure most diseases or help prevent them.
But this is where it gets kind of tricky. Most of these studies are individual studies and take very few parameters into account.
For more concrete results and proof, more number of studies need to be conducted and more variables need to be taken into consideration. Until then, these benefits of fish oil are all a big “maybe”.
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Now, fish oil is not all good and no bad. Everything has a little bit of good or bad in it, and fish oil is not an exception.
The fish oil benefits are discussed above,now let’s move on to the side effects of consuming it.
Side effects of fish oil
- Fish oil prevents the formation of clots, so it may cause excessive bleeding. Such a state is not good for the obvious reasons like emergency surgery and accidents, where it may become fatal.
- Fish oil also supresses the immune system, which is dangerous as it may cause serious infections for something that usually wouldn’t require a lot of attention, like a cold or cough. Sometimes, these infections may also become fatal. Also, people in a immunocompromised state (long term steroid use, organ transplant recipients, HIV/AIDS infected people) are in more danger as they do not have any immune system to protect them from disease causing germs and pathogens.
- Ingestion of fish oil causes burping, bad breath, nausea or loose stools. There go your chances of reeling in the girl you’ve been thinking about asking out.
- Making fish oil from dietary sources like shark, king mackerel and salmon is dangerous as these fishes may contain a dangerous level of mercury, industrial waste materials and other hazardous environmental waste products. Fish oil supplements do not have these by-products, and soare safe for consumption. Microalgae oil is a vegetarian alternative to fish oil, and doesn’t contain the toxic by-products.
Taking fish oil when you are on prescribed drugs is dangerous as it may cause drug-drug interaction, like:
- Anti-coagulant drugs – these drugs prevent clot formation, and fish oil prevents clot formation too. Mixing them might cause bleeding and easy bruising.
- Anti-hypertensive drugs – these drugs lower the blood pressure, and taking both of them together might cause a drastic fall in the blood pressure and cause low blood pressure, resulting in symptoms like dizziness, fainting spells, blurred vision, nausea and sudden tiredness, and requires emergency treatment.
- Oral contraceptives – OCPs can interfere with the effect fish oil has on the “bad” fat, i.e. triglycerides.
- Statins – statins help to reduce weight, and it does so by reducing the absorption of fatty acids, including the omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil.
- Vitamin E – fish oil consumption can reduce vitamin E levels, causing
- Vitamin A – some fish oils contain vitamin A as a supplement. But high doses may cause hypervitaminosis, a condition causing osteoporosis, and a chain reaction with other fat soluble vitamins, namely vitamins D, E and K. This can cause a series if malfunction in the normal functioning of the body, and is a dangerous situation.
Hence, always be careful in taking supplements. They are not naturally produced by the body and need to be taken in controlled environments, with the approval of doctors.
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