The health effects of fish oil: Where do we stand?

Fish oil supplements, though, are a more complicated story.

which guideline is usually intended to provide you with healthy amounts of two essential omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel along with sardines, are rich in both DHA along with EPA. (There’s a third omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), found in walnuts, canola oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds along with pumpkin seeds. Our bodies can convert ALA, in limited quantities, to DHA along with EPA.)

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Despite the plentiful options for adding DHA along with EPA to our diet, many people prefer to hack the process by taking fish oil supplements, the same way you’d drink vegetable juice instead of eating actual veggies.

“A lot of people don’t know why they take fish oil,” said R. Preston Mason, a faculty member at Harvard Medical School along with president of Elucida Research, a biotechnology research company. “You take fish oil for the omega-3 content. … People have heard which’s not bad for you, so they take which. which’s a booming industry.”

In fact, fish oil is usually the third most widely used supplement inside United States. A National Institutes of Health study published in 2015 estimated which 7.8% of Americans used fish oils in 2012, though some other studies put the number of Americans using fish oil as high as 23%, according to Adam Ismail, executive director of the Global Organization for EPA along with DHA Omega-3s.

Though a simple swap appears to make sense to huge numbers of people, the underlying science suggests which fish oil supplements may not do justice to our physical need for omega-3s.

along with, in recent times, opinion on its benefits has gone back along with forth.

18th century (along with earlier): Fish oil cures what ails you

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Fish oils had been used as a cure for generations in Northern European fishing communities, according to the National Museum of American History. In particular, citizens of Germany along with Britain used cod liver oil to treat rickets, rheumatism, gout along with tuberculosis during the 18th century.

Yet which is usually widely believed which fishermen of earlier centuries commonly used oils for a range of conditions including wounds, body aches, the common cold along with skin diseases. Cod liver oil, as a mass-produced product, dates to the 1700s along with 1800s, according to Ismail.

“In fact, which can be traced to the Viking era,” Ismail wrote in an email. The age of the Vikings is usually commonly believed to range coming from the late eighth century to the mid-11th century.

19th century: Fish oil is usually big business

Though the Vikings may have begun the disruptive technology of fish oil production, the commercial industry took flight at the beginning of the 19th century in northern Europe along with North America, according to the Food along with Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Based mainly on surplus catches of herring, oil production activities found industrial uses in leather tanning, soap production along with some other non-food products.

Originally, the residue was used as fertilizer, although since the turn of the 20th century, the oil leftovers have been dried along with ground into fish meal for animal feeding.

20th century: Fish oil production becomes more refined

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Some of the olders traditions continue unchanged into the 20th century, though the UN report notes which many options inside fields of energy saving, automation along with environmental protection have increased in recent years. Unpalatable species of fish — or so-called industrial fish, including menhaden, sand eel, anchoveta along with pout — are reduced into oil by standard methods — essentially, heating, pressing along with grinding.

While Europe may have dominated production in previous centuries, inside latter half of the 20th century, Peru along with Chile came to the forefront of the industry, each exporting about 18,000 metric tons of fish oil worldwide. Iceland, Denmark, Norway along with the United States also produce fish oil, with all production companies selling mainly to Asia along with Europe.

2010: Fish oil supplements during pregnancy do not prevent postpartum depression

Fish oil supplements taken during pregnancy have no effect on postpartum depression along with do not help babies’ brains develop more quickly, according to a 2010 study published inside Journal of the American Medical Association.

A team of Australian researchers had supposed to find which fish oil had positive effects for the more than 2,000 pregnant women studied. However, the women who took the supplements during their pregnancy were just as likely to experience postpartum depression as those who didn’t along with the brains of their babies didn’t appear to grow along with develop more quickly than some other babies. Yet, the supplements were associated using a reduced risk of preterm birth.

The authors attributed their study’s silver lining to DHA, which benefits the cardiovascular along with neurological systems, along with the some other disappointing results to overinflated claims coming from two past studies.

One study looked at a mother’s seafood consumption along using a child’s verbal IQ score, while the second study looked at a mother’s seafood consumption along with depressive symptoms during pregnancy. although both of these studies involved the benefits of seafood rather than fish oil itself.

2011: Fish oil eases ADHD symptoms along with lessens baby colds

Fish oil supplements, particularly those with higher doses of EPA, were found to be “modestly effective” inside treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, according to a review published inside Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

After reviewing along with analyzing 10 clinical trials involving 699 participants, Yale Child Study Center researchers found “a modest although significant effect” demonstrated by omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. Separately, the authors found which supplementation treated symptoms of inattention along with hyperactivity. However, they cautioned against using omega-3s in lieu of pharmaceutical treatments.

Given “evidence of modest efficacy” along with the “relatively benign” side-effects, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, particularly with higher doses of EPA, “is usually a reasonable treatment strategy” to use either alone or along with the usual prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, the researchers concluded.

Also in 2011, a study published inside journal Pediatrics found which the babies of pregnant women who took fish oil supplements containing DHA had more fortified immune systems.

Specifically, those babies had fewer days with cold symptoms in their first six months of life than those whose mothers received a placebo, the researchers found. Newborns inside DHA group were also slightly less likely to come down using a cold inside first place.

2012: Fish oil might help the brain stay young along with heal traumatic brain injury

Accelerated brain aging is usually more likely to occur in people who eat diets short on omega-3 fatty acids — the kind found in fish oil, according to a study published inside journal Neurology.

Lead author Dr. Zaldy S. Tan along with his colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles looked at circulating levels of DHA along with EPA inside blood of 1,575 people.

Next, they compared these levels with participants’ MRI brain scans along with cognitive test results: problem-solving, multitasking along with abstract thinking.

Fish oil helped save our son

They discovered which those participants who scored inside bottom 25% on various mental tests had lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood along with lower brain volumes — what equates to about two years of brain aging.

Tan along with his co-authors said those with lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids were also more likely to have minute although significant structural alterations inside brain, apparent on the MRI images. The brain scans of the low omega-3 fatty acids group even showed tiny lesions inside brain, which might raise their risk for death, stroke along with dementia.

With blood vessels supplying a full third of the brain’s volume, the results are consistent with signs of damage to which intricate network, according to the study authors.

Also in 2012, high-dose fish oil supplementation helped 17-year-old Bobby Ghassemi, who was in a coma after a car crash.

Two weeks after beginning a fish oil regimen, Ghassemi began to emerge coming from his coma, showing movement on his left side. Shortly after, he began to show signs of recognizing his family along with his dog along with of discerning things like colors along with numbers. His family ardently believed high-dose fish oil helped his brain heal.

2013: Fish oil supplements linked to increased the risk of prostate cancer

Eating a lot of oily fish or taking potent fish oil supplements was associated using a 43% increased risk of prostate cancer, according to a Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center study published online inside Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The researchers also discovered a 71% increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer among those consuming fish oil or large amounts of oily fish.

They researchers had looked at blood samples of men taking part inside Selenium along with Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, which ultimately found which selenium supplements did not prevent prostate cancer, while vitamin E supplements slightly increased risk of the disease.

However, blood samples coming from men who went on to develop prostate cancer over the course of the trial showed more omega-3 fats than those of healthy men.

Perhaps because of which well-publicize news, sales of fish oil supplements, which grew coming from about $100 million inside late 1980s along with peaked at $1.3 billion during 2012, began to flatten along with decline beginning in 2013, according to Ismail, of the Global Organization for EPA along with DHA Omega-3s.

2015: Fish oil may transform fat cells

Fish oil may transform fat-storage cells into fat-burning cells, which may reduce weight gain in middle age, according to research conducted in mice along with published in Scientific Reports. According to Kyoto University researchers, fish oil not only activates receptors inside digestive tract, which induces storage cells to metabolize fat.

The scientists fed fatty foods to one group of mice, along using a second group ate non-fatty fish oil additive foods. The mice which ate fish oil gained 5% to 10% less weight along with 15% to 25% less fat than the others, the researchers discovered. An animal study, more research is usually needed to see if the same effects occur in humans.

2016: Fish oil during pregnancy lowers risk of asthma in children — although are the supplements all they claim to be?

Women who took fish oil during the last three months of pregnancy lowered the risk of their children developing asthma, according to a Danish study published inside brand-new England Journal of Medicine.

About 17% of children whose moms took fish-oil capsules had asthma by age 3, compared with nearly 24% of the children whose mothers were given placebos.

The doses were 15 to 20 times what most Americans consume coming from foods a day — 2.4 grams per day — yet no adverse effects occurred in either the mothers or babies. Still, the researchers hesitated to recommend which pregnant women routinely take fish oil until more studies are done.

While which is usually certainly not bad news, a very different study of fish oil authored by Harvard’s Mason appeared around the same time.

“I just wanted to ask the question: What’s actually inside these capsules?” Mason said of his study, which looked at a limited number of common US fish oil supplements. “We were quite surprised to see which in some of these widely used supplements, only a third of the product was the favorable omega-3s, along with the balance of them were these some other lipids, including saturated fats, which we don’t associate with health benefits.”

Saturated fats raise our bad cholesterol, or LDL.

Mason said he was also surprised to learn the fish oil supplements contain cholesterol.

“Omega-3s are highly vulnerable to breakdown during manufacturing. They become oxidized or rancid,” Mason said. Along with the challenge of manufacturing these products without damage, most of them come in large shipments sailing the seas.

“During which process, they are often exposed to elevated temperatures, which will rapidly break them down,” he said, adding which “inside lab, if we expose omega-3s to just normal environmental conditions, within hours, they’re breaking down into these oxidized products.

“Once they are broken down, certainly they don’t have their favorable benefits which we trust for,” Mason said.

Though the same thing can happen with fish, you can smell fish along with look which over before you purchase which.

“Imagine going to a store where the fish is usually rotted along with smells terrible,” Mason said, explaining which supplements contain deodorants along with some other chemicals to cover their bad smell.

He said he believes which supplementation is usually necessary for many people, although the bottom line is usually which there’s no consistent quality.

2017: What’s next for fish oil?

Looking to the future, Nancy Copperman, a registered dietician along with assistant vice president public health along with community partnership at Northwell Health, reviewed the latest research. She recommends a simple — if more expensive — option for consumers who want to add fish oil to their diets: “pharmaceutical-grade fish oil supplements which tend to be purer.”

At the same time, Copperman cautions consumers against believing every health claim, since most only hold true for a narrow group of people researched.

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In many studies of fish oil, she said, “the data waned along with waxed.” Though some people did well, others did not, along with even worse, the scientists were unable to replicate the not bad findings coming from one study to the next.

One exception is usually people who have very high triglycerides along with are at risk of cardiovascular disease, Copperman said. “Adding a marine oil supplement — again, which needs to be … pharmaceutical-grade — which does lower triglyceride levels in which population,” she said, based on all the research she’s seen over time.

There may also be some benefit in using fish oil to reduce ischemic stroke risk among people who have atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, according to Copperman.

Since omega-3s are necessary nutrients, Copperman suggests which people stick with eating oily fish rather than taking supplements: When you’re eating more fish, you are most likely eating less beef, including fatty hamburgers.

Fast food burgers, as well as some other fatty foods such as cakes along with cookies, contain lots of omega-6s, which in abundance may lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer along with inflammatory along with autoimmune diseases, according to the American Heart Association.

“You can’t tell the omega-3 story without telling the omega-6 story,” said Floyd “Ski” Chilton, a professor of physiology along with pharmacology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. Omega-3s along with omega-6s come into our diet simultaneously along with are metabolized by the same enzymes.

Over the past 50 years, the ratio shifted coming from two omega-6s for each omega-3 to what is usually today about a 10- or 15-to-one ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s, said Chilton. Working hard to metabolize omega-6s, our bodies cannot metabolize along with effectively use omega-3s. Meanwhile, many people find which difficult to get enough omega-3s coming from the get-go.

There’s dramatic ancestry-based variation in our ability to transform ALA into EPA or DHA, according to Chilton. African-Americans transform ALA into EPA or DHA very well, Europeans not so much, along with Native Americans not at all, with variability among individuals within each group.

When which comes to supplementation, then, “the one-size-fits-all type is usually likely not appropriate,” Chilton said, adding which we have entered the “bold brand-new world of precision nutrition.”

“Precision nutrition simply says which different individuals along with in particular different ancestry-based populations, racial along with ethnic populations may very well require — when which comes to omega-3 along with omega-6 fatty acids — different recommendations,” he said.

Admitting which all of which “is usually confusing for the general population, along with which’s understandable which which’s confusing,” Chilton said ultimately he is usually concerned by the shift away coming from the ratio which naturally evolved over an extended historical period: the two-to-one omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.

Looking into the future, Chilton said, “coming from which perspective, the addition of omega-3s to almost any diet might make sense.”

The health effects of fish oil: Where do we stand?

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