No matter your age or profession, everyone is trying to boost their brain health. It’s no secret that sharpening mental acuity can improve all aspects of your life. New research reveals that traits like intelligence and memory retention are malleable. Using natural brain boosters and challenging your mind are great ways to acquire new skills and enhance cognition.
The benefits of fish oil can help slow the cognitive aging process. People already know that you need to eat a healthy diet to improve your brain health. Eating fish supports cognitive growth, which is why you’ll often hear it referred to as “brain food.” Some people don’t like fish, but they love the multiple health benefits that come with it. These benefits include helping with weight loss, skin health, cholesterol levels, depression, inflammation, joint pain, ADHD, and much more.
That’s why over 18.8 million American adults opt for omega-3 fish oil supplements every single year. It is currently the most popular natural health product on the market. The fish oil benefits are due to its primary ingredient, omega-3 fatty acids.
What are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
What are omega-3 fatty acids? Omega-3 fatty acids are a special kind of fat molecule located in the cells of many organs in your body. They are building blocks for cell membranes and serve two primary functions.
First, they keep cell membranes loose to allow nutrients and waste to flow in and out of the cells. This effect is arguably the most significant benefit of omega-3 fatty acids.
Secondly, omega-3s are part of the receptors in your cell membranes, interacting with hormones and molecules outside of the cell. The human body wouldn’t function properly without them.
The term “omega-3 fatty acid” explains its chemical structure. A fatty acid refers to a long chain of carbon atoms where one of the terminal ends (i.e., the “alpha end) is a “carboxyl group.” A carboxyl group (COOH) consists of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
“Omega-3” refers to the fact that the third carbon from the tail end is doubly-bonded to the fourth carbon. This other terminal end, the tail end, is also known as the “omega” end. In other words, there can be a single bond or a double bond between carbon atoms.
A fatty acid with no double bonds is “unsaturated,” and a fatty acid with at least one double bond is “Saturated.” A “monosaturated” fatty acid is a fatty acid containing one double bond. A “polyunsaturated” fatty acid contains more than one double bond in its chain. Omega-3 fatty acids fall into the latter category.
Omega-3 fatty acids are known as “essential” fatty acids. The body cannot make them, so the only way to acquire them is through a healthy diet. Fish oil supplements, nuts and certain seafood make up one's daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Some people don’t like eating fish, and certain fish may have higher levels of poisonous toxins. Fish oil manufacturers extract fatty acids from the tissue of oily fish like salmon to create omega-3 supplements. This way, you’ll receive the health benefits of a diet high in seafood without the chemicals.
Types of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
There are eight types of omega-3 fatty acids. Three of them are responsible for the health benefits of fish oil. They are docosapentaenoic acid (DPA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
These omega-3 fatty acids have several double bonds and very long carbon chains. Thus, they are very flexible and can quickly change their 3D arrangement. This allows them to interact with other molecules. It also explains how they contribute to cell membrane flexibility.
ALA is found in green vegetables and other plant-based foods. However, it does not directly provide health benefits. ALA gets converted into either DHA or EPA. The body cannot convert ALA into either omega-3 fatty acid at a rate higher than 5%.
Therefore, the best way to add more omega-3 into your diet is to consume more DHA and EPA directly. You’ll find both fatty acids in animal foods like seafood.
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA)
EPA is 20 carbons long and contains a total of 5 double bonds in its chain. Although it provides similar health benefits to DHA, it is superior in two aspects. The first aspect is inflammation. Studies show that people who consume more EPA have lower levels of inflammation. Additionally, EPA is far more effective when it comes to treating depression-related symptoms.
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)
DHA is 22 carbons long and contains a total of 6 double bonds in its chain. It plays a much more critical role than EPA when it comes to development in infants and unborn babies. Therefore, pregnant and breastfeeding women should consume more DHA. Their children have better brain function and improved vision. DHA also plays a more vital role in forming the structures of the brain, skin, and retina in the eyes. Although many studies a higher ratio of EPA, DHA appears in larger amounts in nootropics and smart drugs.
16 Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements
1. Helps Support Weight Loss
Many people believe that omega-3 fatty acid supplements help you lose weight because they reduce hunger. When you feel fuller, you are less likely to eat more and put on extra pounds. For this reason, many people now use fish oil for weight loss.
One study examined obese patients who took as little as 260mg of fish oil per day. After eight weeks, they felt far fuller compared to obese patients who took a placebo.
Some human studies suggest that fish oil benefits fat burning as well. Researchers in Australia divided 75 obese patients into four groups. You either exercised or didn’t, and you either took omega-3 fish oil or didn't.
The group that exercised and took omega-3 fish oil lost an average of 4.5 pounds on top of the decrease in body fat. Moreover, fish oil reduced body fat whether a patient was exercising or not.
2. Reduces Cholesterol Levels
Is fish oil good for cholesterol? Omega-3s reduce cholesterol levels in two ways. First, they can increase your body’s levels of “good” cholesterol, also known as HDL cholesterol. All human trials done between 1996 and 2011 confirm this mechanism is valid.
However, these fish oil supplements slightly increase “bad” cholesterol levels. This type of cholesterol is called LDL cholesterol. Here’s the trick: Fish oil also increases the size of these LDL particles. Smaller particles put you at a higher risk for heart disease, while larger particles don't. For this reason, using fish oil for cholesterol can help, but it’s worth noting the slight increase in LDL.
3. Crucial Supplement During Pregnancy
Many pregnant mothers are severely deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. The benefits of fish oil serve a variety of crucial functions during pregnancy. Omega-3 supplements can help an infant's brain and eyes develop properly. These fatty acids can also ensure that babies are born at the proper time and have a healthy body weight.
Don’t just use fish oil for pregnancy. It’s also an essential post-pregnancy supplement. Mothers who give EPA and DHA to their infants will find that they have proper hand and eye coordination. Studies show these same infants will also have a higher IQ, better communication skills, and improved creativity. Therefore, omega-3 fatty acids are critical for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
4. Improves Skin Health & Acne
Omega-3 fatty acids are present in high concentrations within your skin. Therefore, it makes sense that there would be numerous fish oil benefits for skin health. A review published in 2010 found that DHA and EPA serve two functions. They can regulate oil production and keep your skin hydrated and moisturized. Omega-3 fatty acids can also lower inflammation, a leading cause of aging, and reduce premature aging of skin due to excess sun damage.
Omega-3 fish oil can also help your skin look better. If you’re suffering from moderate to severe acne, studies show that you can use fish oil for acne as well. One study had 13 people take 930mg of EPA for 12 weeks. Their diet, exercise and acne remedy treatment were all unchanged. At the end of 12 weeks, most participants noticed a reduction in acne severity. Omega-3 for acne is a useful skin care tool that’s greatly underappreciated and often underutilized.
5. Lowers Anxiety & Depression
There have been a variety of interesting findings when it comes to the benefits of omega-3 for depression. Less depressed people have higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oils higher in EPA also reduce depression-related symptoms more than DHA.
Fish oil supplements have demonstrated effects that rival those of antidepressant medications. Still, this doesn’t mean you should stop taking prescribed medication in favor of natural mood supplements. If you use fish oil for depression, pair it with antidepressant medication. You'll see more significant improvements in symptoms of depression.
Fortunately, omega-3 fatty acids can also help with anxiety. Medical students took 2085mg of EPA and 348mg of DHA over 12 weeks of high-stress work during a clinical study. They experienced significant reductions in anxiety symptoms. None of the students were suffering from an anxiety disorder when using fish oil.
6. Can Help with Dry Eyes
Dry eyes take place when the tears you produce do not adequately lubricate your eyes. You’re unable to provide enough tears, or the tears are not hydrated enough. This can lead to significant discomfort if left untreated. A 2017 trial found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help treat symptoms of dry eyes.
However, an intensive 2018 research study found the opposite. Omega-3 supplements did not lead to a better outcome compared to placebo. Neither study disproves the other, but this health benefit is not fully proven. Further studies should be completed to confirm the benefit of using fish oil for dry eyes.
7. Reduces ADHD Symptoms in Children
Research shows that using fish oil for ADHD can help reduce the severity of its symptoms. This can be explained by the lower blood levels of EPA and DHA seen in children diagnosed with ADHD. Children find it easier to complete basic tasks while being less hyperactive and less impulsive. Thus, omega-3 appears to be an excellent natural substitute for Adderall.
In the studies that examine the use of omega-3 for ADHD, EPA is always at a higher concentration than DHA. The mechanism by which EPA provides superior results is currently unknown. Further research will determine an optimal EPA:DHA ratio. Until then, any EPA heavy omega-3 fatty acid supplement can effectively treat ADHD in children and adults. It can effectively enhance focus and concentration and support overall brain function.
8. May Promote Hair Growth
There is limited evidence suggesting that there are fish oil benefits for hair growth. One study with 120 females had them take a supplement containing many fatty acids. It had a variety of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids. Patients experienced reduced hair loss and increased hair density. It's worth noting that the effect wasn't entirely because of omega-3 fatty acids alone.
Omega-3 fatty acids may nourish hair follicles and strengthen hair roots. At the same time, the scientific evidence is not conclusive. Further research is needed to provide solid proof that one can use fish oil for hair growth.
9. Helps Reduce Joint Pain & Arthritis
Is fish oil good for joints? This question has been answered in patients who have rheumatoid arthritis. A review of 42 clinical trials found that fish oil taken from marine sources led to major pain reduction. This effect was most pronounced up to 3 months after initial supplementation.
Fish oil supplements are excellent at reducing bodily inflammation, so there are benefits in using fish oil for arthritis and joint pain. One study found that patients experienced statistically significant clinical improvements in their arthritic symptoms. Patients reported greater mobility, improved grip strength, and reduced joint stiffness. This improvement was after 24 weeks of taking 3 grams of omega-3 every day.
10. Lowers Bodily Inflammation
Fish oil for inflammation reduction is another significant health benefit to consider. Fish oil supplements can decrease the production of molecules responsible for inflammation. But why is this important?
Bodily inflammation is a typical response to injuries and infections. It becomes chronic and dangerous when the inflammatory response is excessive and for extended periods of time. Chronic inflammation is responsible for various long-term diseases. These diseases include cancer and heart disease. Left untreated, it can even contribute to accelerated aging.
Omega-3 benefits health and immunity by lowering numerous types of inflammation. For instance, there was a very recent study completed on patients with spinal cord injuries. All they did was follow an anti-inflammatory diet high in omega-3 fatty acids. Chronic inflammation reduced significantly across the board. The cumulative effect of reduced inflammation and less joint pain leads to improved energy. For this reason, fish oil is one of the best energy supplements available.
Recent trials have confirmed that fish oil is highly anti-inflammatory and can reduce other types of inflammation as well. For instance, omega-3s work on the non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The mechanism involves the direct elimination of accumulated fat around the liver itself. It’s a relatively unexplored benefit of fish oil, but it’s worth noting.
11. Enhances Brain Function
If you are a healthy young adult, using fish oil for brain function may give you a cognitive boost. It’s not a limitless pill per se, but it does appear to enhance focus and concentration. A 2012 study done in volunteers ages 18-25 over six months found an amazing discovery. Working memory increased by 23% when supplementing with 750mg of DHA and 930mg of EPA per day! Other scientific research also shows that omega-3 fatty acids may improve mental abilities.
Older individuals may not be so fortunate. Fish oil supplements can improve cognitive function in patients with mild impairment. However, no significant effect can be observed for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s. Therefore, it is best to start using omega-3 for brain health as early as possible and stay consistent. It’s a great brain fog supplement that improves mental acuity and brain function.
12. Stabilizes Blood Pressure
Omega-3 supplements have been proven effective in stabilizing blood pressure. A major review of 70 clinical trials found that using fish oil for high blood pressure is effective. This was observed in healthy patients and hypertensive patients.
In the latter group, systolic blood pressured was lowered by 4.51 mm Hg. Diastolic blood pressure saw a 3.05 mm Hg decrease. The former group observed a 1.75 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure. A 1.1 mm Hg decrease in systolic blood pressure was also observed.
However, these trials used very high doses of EPA and DHA combined (+3 grams daily). Earlier studies confirm that such high doses are not always necessary to achieve these health benefits. One 2016 study used as low as 0.7 g of EPA and DHA combined per day in hypertensive individuals. The reductions in blood pressure were still statistically significant.
13. Supports Heart Health
Omega-3 fatty acid benefits are being examined for their effects on heart health. This inquiry started when diets high in fish were correlated with a lower risk of heart disease. A fish oil supplement may prevent blood clot formation and stop plaques from forming by acting as a blood thinner. It can even lower the chance of a heart attack.
Sadly, using fish oil for heart health doesn't prevent heart disease altogether. A 2018 review of 79 randomized clinical trials shed lift on this discovery. Omega-3 fatty acids were shown to have little to no effect on the prevention of heart disease. However, there is still promise that it can have a cumulative positive impact on heart health.
14. Reduces Risk of Diabetes
Did you know that you can use fish oil for diabetes? A meta-analysis of 14 human studies found that omega-3 fatty acids increase adiponectin. This happened whether the individual in question was overweight or had diabetes. Higher levels of adiponectin are correlated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes stops insulin production in the body. Your immune system mistakenly attacks your pancreas, which is responsible for producing insulin. A study of 545 people with childhood type 1 diabetes had them using an omega-3 supplement. As a result, the studied group had a lower risk of diabetes.
15. Helps Asthma & Allergies
Other benefits from fish oil include reduction of asthma and allergies. An old study found that children with asthma reduced its severity by using fish oil. This happened after ten months of taking 84mg of EPA and 36mg of DHA daily.
A similar observation surfaced in a 2003 double-blind study involving elite athletes. All participants were experiencing exercise-induced asthma. A steady diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids decreased the severity of the asthma attack while exercising.
One 2015 review of many observational studies discovered an important causal relationship. There was an observed higher incidence of allergic diseases by lower intake of fish oil in modern diets.
This trend falls in line with another controlled trial. Fish oil supplements in pregnant women lower the risk of infants having allergies.
16. Promotes Healthy Bone Formation
Many trials report improvements in bone mineral density with omega-3 fatty acid supplements. It should be mentioned many of the studies also involved a high-calcium diet. Essential fatty acids can also improve your body’s ability to absorb calcium from the gut. Enhanced calcium absorption is a significant health benefit of omega-3 for all age groups.
Except for calcium absorption, the mechanisms by which omega-3s promote bone formation requires more research. We need more clinical trials to determine if fish oil by itself supports bone health. Still, if you’re trying to improve bone health, we recommend pairing fish oil with a calcium supplement for best results.
Omega-3 Fish Oil Side Effects
Regarding the adverse side effects of omega-3 fish oil, they are mild in severity and rarely occur. Commonly reported effects include bad breath, nausea, and diarrhea. People with seafood allergies may want to avoid taking fish oil supplements.
Patients taking blood thinners or blood pressure medications should avoid fish oil altogether. This will prevent the possibility of increased bleeding. To date, it’s one of the most severe side effects of omega-3 supplementation.
Pregnant women should only use mercury-free fish oil. Contraceptive drugs may also interact negatively with omega-3 supplements. Other drug interactions may contribute to side effects of fish oil pills.
Talk to your doctor or primary care physician to ensure the health benefits of omega-3 outweigh any possible side effects. They will give you the correct dosage, along with any necessary recommendations.
Omega-3 Fish Oil Dosage
The recommended dosage of fish oil differs depending on your health and your goals. However, 2.7-3.0g of omega-3 fatty acids per day is a good starting point. Clinical trials use this range to establish health changes over a period of 2-3 months.