Four Omega-3 Fish Oil Benefits That Will Surprise You
Four Omega-3 Fish Oil Benefits That Will Surprise You
Omega-3 fish oil is unquestionably beneficial for heart health. We know as much from decades of research, and especially from the 2019 meta-analysis conducted by Harvard University – an analysis so rigorous, so comprehensive, that it put the debate to bed once and for all. But what else is fish oil good for?
As one of the most studied nutrients in the world, fish oil is always coming under the microscope of researchers, who dig deep to determine ways in which it can help us combat disease, alleviate stress, recover faster and more. The natural world has richly endowed us with everything we need to maintain or regain health – fish oil is just one component.
In recent times, a number of clinical studies have caught our eye – principally because they revealed benefits of omega-3 that most people don’t often hear about. In this article, we’ll look at just four of them.
1) Could Improve Sleep
Who knew, right? According to a new randomized controlled trial (RCT), fish oil – particularly DHA – can positively influence sleep regulation. By the same token, a lower DHA profile is negatively associated with parent ratings of infants’ sleep disturbance.
The study, which involved several academic institutions including Northumbria and Southampton Universities, identified a beneficial effect when those who “habitually consumed low amounts of oily fish” suddenly upped their intake.
Eighty-four participants aged 25–49 participated in the 26-week, placebo-controlled intervention trial, with “improvements in actigraphy sleep efficiency (p = 0.030) and latency (p = 0.026) observed following the DHA-rich oil.”
Interestingly, despite sleeping better, those who consumed the DHA-rich oil felt less well-rested and less “ready to perform” (exercise) than the group who consumed an EPA-rich oil. Suggesting that an omega-3 supplement containing ample DHA and EPA – or a diet rich in oily fish – could provide the optimal effect.
2) Could Reduce Covid Mortality
According to pilot study published in early 2021, patients with a higher omega-3 profile were 75% less likely to die from Covid-19.
While the study was somewhat underpowered as it only involved 100 patients, the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s have long been known. Moreover, omega-3 intake appears to correspond to fewer severe COPD exacerbations and a trend towards higher lung function – so it’s easy to see why it might be beneficial for this particular infection.
The Covid study was carried out by the Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the Fatty Acid Research Institute.
Lead author Arash Asher, MD, called the results “strongly suggestive,” indicating that marine fatty acids could help “reduce risk for adverse outcomes in Covid-19 patients.”
Naturally, larger studies are needed to confirm the findings. But co-author Dr. William Harris, PhD, of the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota, was suitably impressed by the results.
“I was surprised at the results because we only had 100 subjects and I thought it would be too small to really see anything. Death is a pretty easy outcome to deal with, though. There’s no adjudication on that.”
3) Could Reduce Asthma Risk
More new research rolling through the well-worn academic route concerns the effect that childhood omega-3 intake could have on the risk of asthma onset later on. However, the effect only appears true in children carrying a common gene variant.
The study, a collaborative effort involving the Queen Mary University of London, the Universities of Bristol and Southampton, and Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, was published in the European Respiratory Journal.
Subjects were children growing up in the 1990s, with researchers monitoring EPA/DHA intake from seven years of age.
Over half of the children carried a common variant in the fatty acid desaturase (FADS) gene, which is linked with reduced long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in the blood.
In these particular kids, higher consumption of omega-3s correlated with a reduced risk of asthma in their teenage years. As a matter of fact, the risk was 51% lower when contrasted with those who consumed the least amount of omega-3.
While the academics clarified that they couldn’t definitively state that a higher omega-3 intake in childhood could prevent the subsequent development of asthma, the results indicated a need for further study.
The research builds upon existing literature, such as a 2015 paper entitled “Role of omega-3 fatty acids and their metabolites in asthma and allergic diseases.”
In this paper, the authors noted that “large numbers of epidemiological and observational studies investigating the effect of fish intake or omega-3 fatty acid supplementation during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adulthood on asthmatic and allergic outcomes have been conducted.
“They mostly indicate protective effects and suggest a causal relationship between decreased intake of fish oil in modernized diets and an increasing number of individuals with asthma or other allergic diseases.”
4) Could Promote Exercise Recovery
A study published in the journal Nutrients in 2020 shows that high-strength fish oil supplements could improve muscle recovery following a strenuous bout of exercise.
The placebo-controlled, double-blind study was carried out by assorted North American academic institutions including Kennesaw State University, California State University, Long Beach and the University of New Mexico.
What researchers found was that a daily dose of 6g fish oil (2400mg EPA, 1800mg DHA) “optimised the recovery of jump performance and muscle soreness following a damaging bout of exercise.”
Again, this is not super surprising: omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and previous studies have indicated that fish oil produces a favourable effect on swelling, fatigue and muscle soreness (DOMS).
To be sure, 6g of fish oil is considered a high dose. Most off-the-shelf supplements will offer anywhere between 500g of fish oil and 2g. However, high-dose supplements are available. Alternatively, individuals can combine fish oil supplements with ample dietary intake.
With all of the above, you’re probably wondering just how common omega-3 deficiency is. That probably depends on where you live: in some nations, omega-3 deficiency is low due to seafood-rich diets. According to a 2016 global survey on this topic, areas with a high omega-3 intake include “the Sea of Japan, Scandinavia, and areas with indigenous populations or populations not fully adapted to Westernized food habits.”
Very low omega-3 blood levels, meanwhile, were observed in North America, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa. A German population study published in 2017, moreover, found that 70% of middleaged women were at an increased risk of heart disease due to low omega-3 status.
If you don’t tend to eat oily fish at least 2-3 times per week, you should probably consider a fish oil supplement. We recommend UnoCardio 1000 – but don’t take our word for it. It’s been independently ranked #1 by Labdoor since 2015. Like all WHC products, a particular focus is placed on quality: the oil is derived from sustainably-sourced, non-endangered, small-species fish, with 675mg EPA and 460mg DHA provided per softgel.
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