Over 20 years of published studies have demonstrated that people consuming at least 2-4 servings per week of fatty fish have many more health benefits when compared to others consuming little to none. Fish oils are fats found in fatty fish (e.g. mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon) and are responsible for the many potential benefits related to maintaining cardiovascular, brain, eye and hearing health.
Fish oils are a rich source of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, better known as the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. DHA is a key essential fatty acid found in the retina and is involved in visual development giving rationale for its potential to help maintain eye health. Because DHA is integral to the maintenance of the cell membranes in the brain and important to the overall central nervous system function, regular consumption of omega-3 fats is believed to dramatically reduce the risk of dementia, thus preserving cognitive function in the aging population and contributing to mood improvement.
The anti-inflammatory effects of DHA and EPA might be explained by competitively inhibiting cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), lipoxygenase-5 (LOX-5), interleukin (IL)-1a and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), enzymes involved in inflammation and cartilage degradation. Therefore, the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, may possess anti-inflammatory activity, reducing rheumatoid arthritis and other arthritic conditions.
A recent published review concluded that there is extensive evidence from three decades of research that fish oils, or more specifically the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids contained in them, are beneficial for everyone. This includes healthy people as a supplement for disease prevention as well as those with heart disease — including post myocardial infarction (MI) patients and those with heart failure, atherosclerosis, or atrial fibrillation.
If you are seeking the potential benefits of fish oils, look for fish oil capsules containing ~600 mg of omega -3s made up of 360 mg of EPA and 240 mg of DHA. Take 1 capsule daily if you’re not consuming 2 to 4 servings a week of fatty fish - unless a qualified health professional advises more for a specific condition.
More Answers from Kat Barefield, MS, RD