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Health Benefits of Fish Oil

Thursday October 29, 2009

Bright Hub - Helping in the treatment of depression and prevention of Alzheimer's disease are some of the health benefits of fish oil. Learn what else it is good for and know what side effects of fish oil can occur if excessive amounts are taken.

Fish oil has many health benefits primarily because of its high content of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Unlike omega 3 oil in plant sources (like flaxseed) that must be converted into DHA and EPA in the body, fish oil provides the natural form and does not need to be converted. This benefits some people, especially the elderly, who have a difficult time with the conversion.

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurologic disorder caused by a loss of nerves in part of the brain called substantia nigra that produce dopamine. In one study, omega 3 was shown to protect the nerves. Mice were injected with a nerve toxin (MPTP) known to mimic symptoms of Parkinson's disease (by attacking nerves in the substantia nigra). Those who were on a high omega 3 diet showed no significant changes in nerve cell levels or dopamine levels.

Alzheimer's Disease

Researchers from UCLA say fish oil can reduce one's chances of developing Alzheimer's disease. People suffering from Alzheimer's have low levels of LR11, a protein known to destroy a protein responsible for forming plaques linked to Alzheimer's. DHA in fish oil was found to raise the production of LR11.

Depression

In countries where fish consumption is high, depression rates are low. An insufficiency of omega 3 oils in the diet has been linked to depression and suicide attempts. In one study, 100 suicide-attempt individuals had significantly lower levels of EPA than 100 control individuals.

Schizophrenia

Omega 3 fatty acids may prevent schizophrenia from developing in individuals who are vulnerable. In one study, 81 individuals (13-24 years old) considered 'high risk' were either given fish oil capsules or a substitute. Only 3% of the individuals who took the fish oil capsules (half of the participants) developed schizophrenia compared to 28% who received the substitute.

Other health benefits of fish oil include:

* improving the immune system
* reducing inflammation
* lowering blood triglyceride levels
* reducing the formation of blood clots.

Side Effects of Fish Oil

A common side effect of fish oil supplements is gastrointestinal distress. To minimize this problem, start with a low dose and gradually increase it to the recommended dose. Taking with meals can also be helpful.

Taking excessive amounts of fish oil may cause the following:

* severe diarrhea
* increase risk of bleeding
* anemia
* hemorrhagic stroke.

To get the best health benefits, buy only reputable brands of fish oil with high levels of DHA and EPA and no harmful contaminants such as PCBs, methylmercury, and dioxins.