How to boost your heart and brain health with fish oil?
A diet rich in fish oil may improve heart and brain health, some research suggests, but questions remain about how much fish people need to eat and what fish oil supplements are the best.
A recent study found older women with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, had better preservation of their brain as they aged than those with the lowest levels, which might mean they would maintain better brain function for an extra year or two.
The results suggest that higher omega-3 fatty acid levels may hold promise for delaying cognitive aging and dementia, the researchers concluded.
To get to a high enough level, people would have to eat oily varieties of fish at least five times a week — or eat it twice a week and take fish oil supplements daily, the researchers said.
A study out last fall found that taking fish oil pills rich in omega-3 fatty acids doesn't appear to have a significant effect on heart attacks, strokes or death. Other research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids benefit the hearts of healthy people, those at high risk of heart disease and those who have it, the American Heart Association says.
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Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeats that can lead to sudden death), decrease triglyceride (blood fats) levels, slow plaque growth rate and lower blood pressure slightly, the association says.
The group recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week, particularly fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna. A serving is about 3.5 ounces cooked or about ¾ cup of flaked fish.
Increasing omega-3 fatty acid consumption through foods is preferred, the group says, but those with heart disease may not get enough omega-3 by diet alone. Those patients should talk to their doctors about taking supplements.
When it comes to fish oil supplements, "I recommend them to most of my patients after 50," says preventive cardiologist Gina Lundberg, a spokeswoman for the heart association and an assistant professor of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "Not just for the triglyceride lowering benefit and cardiovascular benefits, but for the powerful antioxidant and brain-power benefits."
Although there are prescription omega-3 fatty acids available, Lundberg says, many over-the-counter fish oil supplements "are very good and more affordable, so I let the patients take them."
"We don't have any studies that show fish oils cause fewer heart attacks or make you live longer," she says, "but they seem to have positive cardiovascular benefits. So in general, I think they are worth the cost."
Physician Steven Masley, a fellow with the heart association, recommends that his patients consume 1,000 milligrams a day of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids — which are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) — either by eating fish or taking fish oil supplements.
He suggests consuming wild salmon, trout, sole, sardines and herring. "Not all fish is equal, so don't expect the same heart benefits from eating fried fish and chips," says Masley, author of The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up.
Those who want to take fish oil supplements need to look for ones that taste fresh, not rancid, and contain at least 1,000 milligrams of EPA and DHA, he says.
Which fish oil supplements are the best?
LabDoor, a company that evaluates the quality of dietary supplements, recently tested 30 fish oil supplements, and found that 21 had omega-3 fatty acid levels that varied by more than 10% from their label claims, says the company's CEO, Neil Thanedar.
The supplements rated as being the highest quality included Dr. Tobias Optimum Omega 3 Fish Oil; Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D3; Axis Labs Citrus Omega Fish Oil; GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil and NOW Foods Ultra Omega 3, Thanedar says.
ConsumerLab.com tested 35 different omega-3/fish oil supplements and found problems with the quality of labeling in 11 of those products.
Two supplements exceeded contamination limits for PCBs, and one soft gel product contained spoiled fish oil, says research physician Tod Cooperman, the company's president. No mercury was found in the products, he says.
He says the top low-cost, high-quality soft gel supplements in his tests included Kirkland (Costco) Signature Natural Omega-3 Fish Oil; Swanson EFAs Super EPA; Vitacost Mega EFA Omega-3 EPA & DHA. The top high-quality, low-cost liquid product was Vitamin Shoppe Omega-3 Fish Oil 800 EPA/500 DHA.
After you open a bottle of the liquids, they start to spoil and can become rancid. You should definitely be refrigerating these and the soft gel pills, Cooperman says. "It will extend the shelf life."
Fish Oil – Get the Best Catch!
Fish oil comes from the tissues of fatty fish. The main components of fish oils are omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which turn into eicosenoids. Eicosenoids are beneficial for health and can reduce inflammation in the body. Fish do not produce fatty acids, rather they consume algae and predatory fish rich in fatty acids. There are many different types of fish rich in fatty acids, but it’s important to choose the right source. Do to the fact that some types of fatty fish are full of toxins as well, some examples are albacore tuna, shark, king mackerel, tilefish and swordfish. (1)
There are two ways to consume fish oil, by eating fish or by taking supplements. ”Fish that are especially rich in the beneficial oils known as omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, tuna, salmon, sturgeon, mullet, bluefish, anchovy, sardines, herring, trout, and menhaden. They provide about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids in about 3.5 ounces of fish. Fish oil supplements are usually made from
mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, or seal blubber. Fish oil supplements often contain small amounts of vitamin E to prevent spoilage. They might also be combined with calcium, iron, or vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, or D. ” (2)
Research shows , fish oil promotes back and joint health, Supports healthy inflammatory levels, Promotes joint mobility and flexibility, Supports internal repair systems that operate in response to inflammation, and Is natural and safe for long-term use (3). Further, Hundreds of studies suggest that omega-3s may provide some benefits to a wide range of diseases: cancer, asthma, depression,
cardiovascular disease, ADHD, and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. (4). Fatty acids from fish oil can be beneficial in so many different conditions, since ”All these diseases have a common genesis in inflammation,” says Joseph C. Maroon, MD, professor and vice chairman of the department of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Co-author of Fish Oil: The Natural Anti-Inflammatory, Maroon says that if taken in appropriate doses, omega-3 fatty acids can
“reduce the inflammatory process that leads to many chronic conditions.” (4) For these and other reasons, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the American Heart Association, and the American Dietetic Association recommend eating two 8-ounce servings of fish each week. Examples of fish and shellfish which contain lower amounts of mercury: canned light tuna, catfish, pollock, salmon, especially wild salmon, shrimp. (4)
What to look for when buying fish oil supplements:
Fish oil supplements contain various amounts and proportions of DHA and EPA. Dr. Oz explains, “For example, salmon oil naturally contains more DHA than EPA; a supplement derived from algae may only contain DHA. Krill oil contains significant amounts of both EPA and DHA. Read the labels and remember whatever supplement you buy, it must have at least 600 mg of DHA.” Keep in mind that fish oil supplements contain other ingredients and stabilizers. If you choose to buy a fish oil supplement, check the label carefully some fish oils have to be refrigerated to keep from spoiling.
Doctor Oz further explains, ” most brands of fish oil have been proven safe, free of detectable traces of mercury, and do not contain unsafe levels of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a toxin and pollutant believed to pose various health threats. To avoid contaminants in an unrefined supplement, it’s best to choose a fish oil supplement made from small, oily fish like anchovy, sardines or menhaden.” (5)
Fish Oil Dosage recommendations depend on which reason the patient is taking the supplement. MedlinePlus recommends 25 different dosages, depending on which condition the patient is treating. For general health, the American Heart Association, recommends a dose 1 gram of fish oil per day in a supplement Which combines eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid. Taking too much fish oil is not safe, “can result in a number of side effects, such as an upset stomach and an increased danger of internal bleeding. ” (6). As with any supplement, consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking fish oil supplements. This way, an optimal dose can be determined for each patient individually and potential problems prevented.
Kedvon Pharmacy offers a great variety of Fish Oils, from the finest companies, with different dosage forms and flavors for adults, children, and pets.