Ok, we’ve all heard of fish oil by now. Perhaps you take it daily religiously; perhaps you take a few capsules when you remember. However what you may not know is that the benefits of fish oil extend past just inflammation and digestion. It impacts everything from city living and bone density to fat burning and brain power.
Protection from air pollution: Who knew that one of the many benefits of fish oil include protecting your heart from air pollution, but according to a new study it’s true. Twenty-nine healthy, middle-aged adults received 3 grams of fish oil daily or a placebo of 3 grams of olive oil daily for four weeks and then exposure to concentrated particulate matter for two hours. Researchers found that very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and triglyceride concentrations increased significantly immediately after exposure to the pollution in those who supplemented solely with olive oil, but not in their counterparts who took fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements offer protection against the adverse cardiac and lipid effects associated with air pollution exposure, which makes them a must if you live in the city.
Power up your fat burning: When Professor Peter Howe and his colleagues at the University of South Australia studied the effects of diet and exercise on the body, they found fish oil supplements and exercise made a powerful fat-loss combination. During the study, overweight to obese adults with metabolic syndrome and a greater risk of heart disease took omega-3 fish oil daily in combination with moderate aerobic exercise 3 times a week for 12 weeks. Body fat stores, particularly abdominal fat, were significantly reduced in the fish-oil-plus-exercise group, but not in those who used fish oil or exercise alone. The insulin-sensitizing ability of DHA, the anti-inflammatory benefits of EPA, and the fat burning benefits of both make choosing a supplement containing significant amounts of each a good idea.
Osteoarthritis prevention: According to the University of Bristol study, omega-3 fish oil could substantially and significantly reduce the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis. Omega-3-rich diets fed to guinea pigs, which naturally develop osteoarthritis, reduced disease by 50 per cent compared to a standard diet. If you have joint pain of any nature, you can cut the inflammatory process in half by taking fish oil daily.
Fountain of youth: Growing evidence suggests that telomere shortening (the DNA at the end of your chromosomes) can inhibit stem cell function and cellular regeneration, which then leads to unhealthy aging. A 2010 study (http://www.theheart.org/article/1041013.do) in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) uncovered an inverse association between blood levels of fish oil and the rate of telomere shortening over five years, suggesting a possible explanation for the protective effects of omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco studied over 600 patients and found that the higher the blood levels of fish-derived omega-3 acids in patients with coronary heart disease, the longer the telomeres.
Better bone health: When it comes to maintaining bone density, calcium, vitamin D and magnesium shouldn’t be your only supplements. The omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is essential for optimal bone health. Researchers compared the effect of an omega-6 DPA and the omega-3 DHA in the growth of long bones in rats. The results showed that the rats fed the omega-6 supplemented diet had the lowest bone mineral content and bone mineral density compared to the rats fed the omega-3 supplemented diet. The study authors concluded that Omega-3s appear to be a vital constituent of healthy modeling bone and maintaining bone mineral density. In addition to the above supplements, be sure to add in a regular strength training routine to prevent osteoporosis.
Get smarter and sharper: Researchers have found positive associations between fish oil supplements and cognitive functioning as well as differences in brain structure between users and non-users of fish oil supplements. Compared to non-users, use of fish oil supplements was associated with better cognitive functioning during the study. The unique finding, however, is that there was a clear association between fish oil and brain volume in two critical areas utilized in memory and thinking (cerebral cortex and hippocampus). In other words, fish oil use was associated with less brain shrinkage in patients taking these supplements. A diet lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, may cause your brain to age faster and lose some of its memory and thinking abilities. Add to keep your brain healthy through the years.
Preserve lean muscle: Supplementing the diet with fish oil may prevent muscle loss that commonly occurs in cancer patients who undergo chemotherapy, according to one analysis. The trial involved 16 patients who took fish oil (2.2 grams of eicosapentaenoic acid/day) and 24 patients who did not. Patients who did not take fish oil lost an average of 2.3 kilograms whereas patients receiving fish oil maintained their weight. What’s even more interesting is that sixty-nine percent of patients in the fish oil group gained or maintained muscle mass. Remember, muscle is metabolically active and burns calories even while you sleep. Adding in fish oil will help preserve muscle, even while dieting.
Photo: flickr user AKZO photo