If you’re like many adults, a fish oil supplement (or flaxseed supplement, if you’re vegetarian) is a common part of your daily routine. If you’ve never given much thought to why you take this supplement (apart from "because it's good for me"), then it’s time to take some appreciation for this little pill! Fish oil supplements are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which do an amazing array of wonders for the body. Just check out these health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids!
The majority of us likely take fish oil supplements because they promote good heart health. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can lower levels of bad cholesterol and increase levels of HDL or good cholesterol. Omega-3 can also lower high blood pressure and help prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, by slowing development of plaque buildup—all of which helps prevent heart disease and lowers our risk for heart attacks and stroke.
Omega-3 fatty acids also play an important role in maintaining brain health, making omega-3 useful in both treating and preventing a variety of mental disorders. Studies have tied omega-3 fatty acid deficiency to a number of mental health problems, and have also shown that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids can help improve symptoms of depression, ADHD and age-related cognitive decline and dementia, as well as disorders such as Schizophrenia and biopolar disorder.
One of the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are their ability to reduce inflammation—a useful tool in preventing type 1 diabetes, which is often triggered by inflammation. A study conducted on children who were at risk for type 1 diabetes found that children who consumed foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids were 55 percent less likely to develop islet autoimmunity, antibodies that attack insulin-producing cells in the pancreases and are a precursor to type 1 diabetes. Omega-3 can also be useful in treating issues such as low levels of HDL cholesterol and high levels of triglycerides, or fat, in the blood in those who already have diabetes.
Omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which causes inflammation in the joints. Several studies have shown that taking fish oil supplements improves morning stiffness and joint pain. (Limited studies have been done on omega-3 fatty acids’ ability to prevent and treat osteoarthritis, but the results are hopeful.)
A 10-year study of almost 40,000 women found that women who consumed a healthy balance of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet were 35 to 45 percent less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration than those who did not.
Several studies have shown that taking omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil supplements can reduce pain associated with menstrual cramps by reducing inflammation.
Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living.