7 Health Benefits of Fish Oil

Fish oil is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, and according to studies, it may help with a range of medical conditions.

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Protects your heart

Protects your heart iStock/Thinkstock
Some studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may help reduce several risk factors of heart disease. Fish oil is linked to lower levels of triglycerides (fats in the blood), and helps prevent or treat hardening of the arteries by slowing production of plaque or blood clots. Studies also suggest that regularly consuming foods with omega-3 fatty acids may help protect against stroke. However, new evidence from an analysis of 14 clinical trials suggests fish oil might not benefit people who already suffered a heart attack or stroke, according to Seung-Kwon Myung, M.D., a researcher of family medicine at Seoul National University in South Korea. "There is no evidence that omega-3 supplementation is effective for secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease," Myung told CNN.com

Lowers cholesterol

Lowers cholesterol iStock/Thinkstock
Mayo Clinic lists fish and omega-3 fatty acids (the main component of fish oil) as one of the five best foods to lower cholesterol. The omega-3s help reduce triglyceride levels (fats in the blood), which leads to higher HDL levels, or "good cholesterol." Fish oil supplements can do the trick, or Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, and author of several nutrition books, tells WebMD that eating fatty fish like salmon or even canned tuna two to three times a week can positively impact cholesterol. 

Benefits your bones

Benefits your bones iStock/Thinkstock
According to University of Maryland Medical Center, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can help maintain a healthy bone mass. Studies showed that the fatty acids appeared to increase the amount of calcium the body absorbs and diminish the amount of calcium lost in urine. This promotes bone strength and growth.

May ease menstrual pain

May ease menstrual painiStock/Thinkstock
A small study over four months found that 41 young women who took a fish oil supplement reported less menstrual pain than when given a placebo. Another study by Danish researchers followed 78 women with menstrual discomfort and gave them five capsules a day of either fish oil, fish oil with vitamin B12, sealoil, or a placebo. After four months, they found that women who took a fish oil supplement with vitamin B12 had less painful menstrual cycles. (Note: Always talk to your doctor before taking fish oil supplements.)

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Treat mental illness

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We know that fatty acids are essential to healthy brain function, but study results on the effectiveness of fish oil supplements to treat a range of mental disorders are still preliminary, so always talk to your doctor before treating yourself. A group of studies suggested that the omega-3s found in fish oil had a positive effect on people with primary depression. One small study found that patients with bipolar disorder who took fish oil supplements in addition to regular medication had fewer mood swings than those who took a placebo pill. And, five of six double-blind trials in schizophrenia found omega-3s to have a therapeutic benefit.

May help regulate diabetes

May help regulate diabetes moodboard/Thinkstock
New research from Harvard School of Public Health found that the omega-3s in fish oil supplements increased levels of adiponectin in the bloodstream, a hormone that aids in glucose regulation. Researchers say that higher levels of adiponectin is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

May reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms

May reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
Studies suggest the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that causes painful inflammation of the joints. According to information from the University of Maryland Medical Center, the omega-3s in fish oil may ease joint pain and morning stiffness. One study found that taking fish oil supplements in conjunction with conventional RA therapies was associated with better remission rates, meaning omega-3s may be effective at relieving joint pain in the longterm. 

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