Why is Fish so Healthy for Me? Evidence-based Review

Do you eat fish or take any omega-3 fatty acid supplements? If not, read why you should think about adding this wonderful thing in your diet.

The omega-3 fatty acid articles are a trilogy that covers all important aspects of adding more of this fatty acid family in your diet. In the first post you will see how eating omega-3 fatty acids can impact your physical health. The second one talks about the mental health aspect, and the last one about our brain and known cognitive outcomes due to omega-3 fatty acids.

Quite a few studies with omega-3 fatty acids have shown how eating healthy will affect your physical health. In my post Your Evidence-Based Food Guide, you have probably noticed that most of the reviewed nutritional guidelines have a few things in common. One of those shared characteristics is regular fish consumption, with that comes a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. And that’s hardly surprising. Besides tasting great, being a great source of healthy proteins, and the possibility of preparing them in many ways, they also give different health benefits due to the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) content.

Just a short lecture. Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential fatty acids. These are required for good bodily functioning, however, our body does not produce them by itself. We have to make sure we get adequate levels of these nutrients through healthy food or supplements. The mentioned fatty acids include EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linoleic acid). The former two are mostly found in oils from the sea (fish, algae, sea-mammals), while the latter in flax, chia, hemp seeds (others too), and nuts.

 

Currently known effects

  • Greater effects are observed in studies using higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids, patients with higher levels of triglycerides, and younger patients.
  • There is conclusive and real evidence for their anti-inflammatory potential. Rheumatoid arthritis being one of the cases.
  • They significantly improve inner blood vessel lining functioning, this improves atherosclerosis and increased blood pressure.
  • No difference in risk of stroke. However, there is a possible trend toward harm for intracerebral hemorrhage.
  • Larger amounts of DHA+EPA supplementation may cause excessive bleeding if you cut yourself due to the blood thinning properties.
  • Supplementing with amounts higher than 1g/day for at least one year to high risk cardiac patients prevents the onset of cardiac death, sudden death, and myocardial infarction.
  • They can lower systolic blood pressure in adolescent boys, middle-aged people, and people with high blood pressure.
  • EPA seems to have a greater effect on lowering systolic blood pressure than does DHA.
  • Reduction of triglyceride levels: reducing their production in the liver and increasing their clearance.
  • They stabilize atherosclerotic plaques.
  • None or inconclusive evidence about cancer outcomes.
  • Improvement (reduction) in the rate of relapse in Chron’s disease.

And…

There seems to be a growing body of evidence that consumption of fish does little to help with heart disease in most cases. Newer meta-analysis that analyzed much smaller randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, and others, found little effect of omega-3 fatty acid intake and a reduced risk of dying. There were small observable changes; a relative reduction of 4% for all cause mortality, when people were taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements, but these results could have happened by chance; they were not statistically significant, and not due to the supplementation.

 

Final thoughts

The current recommendations for omega-3 to omega-6 strive for an intake around 1:1 up to 1:4 (omega-3: omega-6), compared to a typical Westerner who is supposed to have a ratio around 1:10 and up. Usual recommendations of omega-3 fatty acids vary around 1g to 2g per day – in certain studies higher doses were used for the measured effects.

This is current evidence, and as we can see, it is quite impressive. Adding such a nutrient to your diet is a very smart choice. If you’re not yet convinced in the healthiness of omega-3 fatty acids, I suggest reading the second part of the trilogy. The link is provided below.

References used: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14]

Continue to the mental health part.

About Author

Sebastijan Veselic

BSc in Psychology, currently doing a MSc in Cognitive science. Pursuing and interested in many academic and scientific disciplines and topics, as well as some less so. These include, but are not limited to, cute cats on the internet.

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