Mechanisms and Potential Health benefits of Fish Oil

In the recent times the consumption of nutrition supplements, like Omega-3 Fatty Acids, has taken the centre stage in promoting and maintaining an active lifestyle among health-conscious individuals. Nutritional deficiencies due to poor diet habits are on the rise, especially among working professionals. For instance, IT professionals are prone to Vitamin D deficiency due to their work largely being indoors. Increasing technological advancements are easing the lives of humans, thereby, making them even lazier. As a result, the consumption of nutritional supplements has become an alternative way for working professionals to stay healthy and active, and avoid certain lifestyle diseases.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that are vital for the normal functioning of internal organs like the brain and retina. People need to rely on food sources (like fish) or supplements because the human body cannot create these fatty acids on its own. Fatty acids found in Omega-3 supplements have also been found to be highly beneficial in improving cardiovascular health and preventing the onset of heart diseases. Two crucial fatty acids called EPA and DHA are found primarily in certain fish. Another omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds.

It is good to get omega-3 fatty acids from foods rather than supplements.  It is good to consume non-fried oily fish high in DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids at least two times a week. These include Anchovies, Bluefish, Herring, Mackerel, Marlin, Orange roughy, Salmon, Sardines, Sturgeon, Lake trout, Tuna etc. However, one should avoid fish that may have higher levels of mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), or other toxins such as mackerel, shark, wild swordfish, and tilefish. Fish like wild salmon and wild trout are safer. Good food sources of ALA include Flaxseed and flaxseed oil, Walnuts, Chia seeds, Soybean oil, Canola oil etc. These may however be high in calories.

The benefits of consuming fish oil are multifarious. Fish oil can lower elevated triglyceride levels. Fish oil supplements may curb joint pain and stiffness. Some researchers found that cultures that consume foods with high levels of omega-3s have lower levels of depression. It aids baby development. DHA seems to be essential for neurological and visual development in babies. It even helps in Asthma. A diet rich in omega-3s lowers inflammation, a key component in asthma.

However, there are a few things one may need to be cautious of. Omega-3 supplements are unlikely to cause any serious side effects. However, Omega-3 supplements may alter blood coagulation and negatively interact with blood-thinning medications like warfarin. Mild side effects, such as indigestion, or diarrhoea, or other minor gastrointestinal issues may also occur. Those who are allergic to fish or shellfish should avoid consuming it. One must ensure that the supplements consumed by them are manufactured by a reputable supplier to reduce the chances of pollutants being present in their supplements. Vitamin A is abundant in some fish oil supplements, such as cod liver oil. In excessive doses, however, this can actually be harmful.Fish oil supplements are mostly safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding as it has no effect on the foetus. But it is recommended that pregnant women should avoid certain types of fish, which are known to have high levels of mercury.

Omega-3 is an important component in a healthy, balanced diet. Even though a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has benefits for heart patients, it’s still always important to stick to a diet that is nutritionally balanced and unprocessed. Individuals who consume a balanced diet will not need supplements to ensure a balanced intake of nutrients.

Mechanisms of fish oil and other topics are discussed at the Pharmacy College at Amrapali Institute, Haldwani. Amrapali Educational Institute is a top ranked institute in Nainital.

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