- The benefits of fish oil mainly reside in its ability to reduce inflammation in your body.
- This makes it ideal for increasing heart health, especially for people with pre-existing heart problems.
- Fish oil can also help fight depression as it can increase serotonin levels.
- Please refer to Insider’s Insider Reference Library for more information.
Fish oil is a natural oil found in oily fish such as salmon, herring, and sardines. But you can also take it as a supplement.
Most of the health benefits of fish oil come from the omega-3 fatty acids it contains, which are great for the heart, brain, and general wellbeing.
Here’s what researchers have found so far about the health benefits of consuming fish oil on a regular basis.
1. Helps fight inflammation
Fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids – a category of fats that you may be missing from your diet.
“Americans typically have much higher intakes of omega-6 fats, which are found in refined vegetable oils made from soybeans, corn, and sunflower seeds,” said Julie Stefanski, a registered nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
Omega-6 acids aren’t necessarily bad for you, but the ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats is important to your health. When you have enough omega-6 fats but too little omega-3 fats, you’re at risk of developing chronic inflammation, Stefanski says.
Fighting chronic inflammation is vital because inflammation can increase your risk for diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and disease
2. Supports heart health
Consuming fish oil can benefit heart health, especially in people who already have heart problems.
A 2017 review found that taking fish oil supplements may help prevent heart attacks in people with coronary artery disease. The researchers also found that consuming fish oil on a regular basis reduced the risk of hospitalization in people with heart failure. However, they say more research is needed to confirm these results.
This may be due in part to the anti-inflammatory effects of fish oil. “Reducing inflammation is a key factor in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease,” says Stefanski.
For heart health benefits, the American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of oily fish, such as salmon, per week. One serving is ¾ cup, or 3.5 ounces of cooked fish.
3. Can improve brain function
Among other things, your brain uses the omega-3 fats in fish oil to build brain cells, which is especially important as you get older.
For example, studies have shown that people with degenerative neurological disorders often have low levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) – a type of omega-3 fatty acid.
This could explain why a 2010 study found that older adults who took 900 mg of DHA supplements daily for six months had better results on memory and learning tests than those without treatment.
4. Can help improve mental health
Depression has been linked to higher levels of inflammation. Hence, fish oil’s anti-inflammatory properties can help fight mental health issues like depression.
A review of 13 studies in 2016 found that taking omega-3 supplements helped improve symptoms of depression, such as sadness and fatigue, by reducing inflammation in your brain cells.
One of the key acids in fish oil, EPA fatty acids are especially helpful for depression because they increase your serotonin levels, an important mood-boosting chemical. Therefore, it may be best to look for fish oil supplements with a “High EPA” label.
The review also found that omega-3 supplements worked particularly well when combined with antidepressants.
5. Supports the development of the fetus during pregnancy
Fish oil provides nutrients that are essential for the baby’s development and the health of the parents, says Stefanski.
Studies show that taking fish oil supplements containing at least 300 mg of DHA daily during pregnancy can aid a baby’s healthy development by:
- Support of vision development
- Improve the development of brain functions
- Lowering the risk of allergies
However, it is important to know that some fish are relatively high in mercury, which can damage a fetus’ developing brain and nervous system. For this reason, experts recommend avoiding large fish like swordfish, king mackerel, and shark. Smaller fish like salmon, light tuna, and sardines tend to have a lower risk.
“Some women who are concerned about the mercury levels in fish may avoid fish during pregnancy and turn to dietary supplements,” says Stefanski. If you decide to use supplements, look for products that run third-party tests for mercury levels, Stefanski says, as this can provide a more accurate measure of mercury levels.
Insider to take away
Fish oil can have a variety of health benefits thanks to its rich supply of omega-3 fatty acids. Adding fish to your diet or taking supplements every day can help improve the health of your heart and brain and support a healthy pregnancy.
You can include fish oil in your diet by eating fish every week or by taking daily supplements.