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HEALTH BENEFITS OF FISH OIL

Koteshwar B., Maheswara K. J. and Jaya Naik

Fish is an important dietary constituent of several population groups. It is a source of components of significant nutritional value such as high quality of proteins, vitamins, minerals and lipids, besides being the largest source of w-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic fatty acids (DHA), which bring several benefits to human population.(Belda and Pourchet — Compos, 1991). The various types of fish which can be a good source of fish oil are mackerel, rainbow trout, lake trout, halibut, herring, sea bass, sardines, swordfish, oysters, albacore tuna, blue fin tuna, yellow fin tuna, turbot, pilchards, anchovies and salmon. The most common names among these for obtaining fish oil are albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines, lake trout and salmon. The type of fish used and the purity standards followed in refining the oil govern the quality of fish oil.

The health benefits of fish oil

Heart Disease

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), clinical trials have proved that omega 3 is effective in reducing the incidence of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Fish oil, which is abundant in omega-3, therefore, reduces the risk of heart diseases and heart arrhythmias. It lowers the levels of LDL cholesterol, which is bad cholesterol, and increases the HDL levels, which is good cholesterol. Fish oil prevents accumulation of triglycerides and further reduces the levels of excess triglycerides. Preliminary research has also shown that fish oil can be used for preventing atherosclerosis in coronary patients. Thus fish oil is effective in treating heart strokes and regular usage of fish oil can help avoid numerous sudden cardiac deaths.

Weight Loss

Fish oil also aids in weight loss process. Fish oil improves the efficacy of exercise in reducing weight.

Blood Circulation

It is believed that fish oil has the ability to improve blood circulation along with reducing triglyceride and serum cholesterol levels.

Immunity

It is believed that regular consumption of fish oil aids in increasing your immunity there by enabling you to resist incidence of common diseases such as cold, cough and flu. Omega three fatty acids present in fish oil benefit the immune system by effecting cytokines and eicosanoids present in our body. Fish oil has the potential to enhance the immune system of humans. Fish oil is also beneficial to patients suffering from lupus, which is a disease characterized by the attacks of immune system of the body on various organs and tissues. Fish oil helps in reducing the pain and inflammation that may occur in joints, eyes, kidney, heart, blood vessels, lungs, nerves, etc. It also helps in reducing associated fever, skin rashes and fatigue.

Inflammation

Fish oil has anti inflammatory properties; therefore, it is effective in reducing inflammation in blood and tissues. Regular consumption of fish oil supplements, tablets, pills and capsules is helpful to those suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases. Fish oil is effective in treating gastrointestinal disorders, sprue, short bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) including Crohn's Disease and ulcerative colitis, which are typical disorders of the intestine. Patients suffering from Crohn's disease find it difficult to absorb vitamins, fats and essential supplements. Fish oil supplements are an effective diet for such patients. In ulcerative colitis, fish oil prevents the accumulation of leukotriene on the colon. It should be noted that the anti inflammatory properties of fish oil are limited to reducing inflammation. Fish oil provides little effect in preventing inflammation.

Arthritis

Fish oil is useful in treating arthritis, rheumatism, Raynaud's symptoms and similar conditions. Usage of fish oil can help reducing the dosage of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). The Royal Adelaide Hospital, Australia, and University of Newcastle, Australia have reported that large quantities of fish oil have shown positive effect on the treatment of arthritis. In case of osteoarthritis, fish oil can be helpful in reducing the impact of enzymes that destroy cartilages. However, since the dosage of fish oil required for desirable effect in the improvement of a patient is unknown, the Arthritis Center, Department of Rheumatology, John Hopkins University, considers including omega 3 fatty acids and fish oil in the treatment of arthritis as controversial.

Depression and Anxiety

Due to the presence of Omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil is good for relieving depression, sadness, anxiety, restlessness, mental fatigue, stress, decreased sexual desire, suicidal tendencies and other nervous disorders. Fish oil can be useful in mood stabilizing and treating bipolar disorders. No wonder, it has been found that countries where fish is eaten often have low incidence of depression. Similarly research conducted on prisoners has shown that when prisoners were fed with sea food containing higher amount of omega three fatty acids, there was a significant drop in the homicide rate.

Alzheimer's Disease

Fish oil is one of the best sources of essential fatty acids including EPA and DHA, it helps in Alzheimer disease. Research conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) validates the usefulness of fish oil as a possible remedy for the disease. The Alzheimer's Association recommends fish containing higher content of omega three fatty acids to patients as it acts as a protective diet during Alzheimer disease and dementia.

Eye Disorders

It is well known that fish oil is good for its ability to improve vision. It also helps in avoiding age related macular degeneration. The National Eye Institute at the National Institute of Health, US, plans to conduct a nation-wide study to evaluate the effect of fish oil in treating macular degeneration. This study will provide strong scientific evidence to the benefits of fish oil for eye care, thereby enabling government agencies and physicians to strongly recommend fish oil for macular degeneration.

Skin Care:

Fish oil helps in improving the condition of poor and dry skin by making it shinny and glowing. It is useful in treating various skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, itching, redness of skin, skin lesions, and rashes. In case of psoriasis, the EPA present in fish oil restricts the growth of pro-inflammatory agents by producing arachidonic acid. Fish oil can also be applied topically to obtain relief from psoriasis. Regular intake of fish oil capsules helps in reducing loss of moisture from the skin. It is also claimed by some people that fish oil helps in preventing sunburns.

Acne

Fish oil is effective for acne as well. EPA is known to inhibit androgen formation. Androgen can affect the formation of sebum in hair follicle.

Cancer

Fish oil is useful in delaying weight loss in patients suffering from pancreatic cancer. Fish oil supplements can also be helpful to patients suffering from cancer related hyperlipidemia.

Diabetes

Type II diabetic patients are more prone to cardio vascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, and stroke. As mentioned above, fish oil is helpful in treating various heart problems. Research conducted at the University of Oxford, UK, has proved that fish oil is useful in reducing triglyceride levels in diabetes.

Fertility

Preliminary research conducted on boar has shown that when male boars are fed with diet containing fish oil, the quality of the sperm is enhanced. After ejaculation, the sperms have increased survival against lipid peroxidative attacks in the female genital tract, thereby increasing the chances of conception. On the other hand, similar animal studies have shown inhibition in the synthesis of prostaglandin E and prostaglandin F, which are produced in large quantities by human seminal vesicles. The research found no impact in the count and mobility of sperm.

Hair Care

Fish oil helps maintain a good luster of the hair. Omega three has hair growing properties as it provides nourishment to the follicles. It therefore aids in faster development of hair and preventing hair loss. A good supply of proteins is also necessary for hair growth. Since most fish varieties are rich in protein, eating fish helps in keeping healthy hair.

It is also believed that fish oil helps in asthma and kidney failure. Many people also like to feed fish oil to their pets especially dog and cat as it enables in the growth of shinny hair and smooth skin. It also helps the dogs and cats deal with arthritis, which is a very common disease among pets.

Caution on dosage

Excessive dosage of fish oil can have adverse allergies and side effects on the body. Further, fish oil can be problematic in many conditions and hence it is necessary to fish oil supplements cautiously. You should consult a doctor or physician for the exact dosage of fish oil you should take. Moreover, fish oil can be consumed in various forms. These include eating the fish directly by baking, roasting, frying, grilling, broiling, or smoking it or eating fish oil which is available in the form of concentrated dietary supplements such as liquid, tablet, capsule, pill, soft gel, etc. Also, there are various pharmaceutical grades of fish oil. You should also consult your doctor to check the mode of eating fish oil.

Fish oil and vitamins

Vitamin A and Vitamin D: Fish oil, especially the one obtained from liver such as the cod liver oil, is a rich source of vitamin A and vitamin D. However, excessive dosage of cod liver oil can lead to Vitamin toxicity, accumulation of excessive vitamins in the body, which can cause side effects.

Vitamin E: There are various beliefs surrounding fish oil and vitamin E.

Fish oil undergoes oxidation and can become rancid, leading to formation of free radicals. Addition of antioxidants such as vitamin E to fish oil can help prevent the formation of these free radicals.

  • Excessive dosage of fish oil leads to reduction of Vitamin E in the human body. This loss of vitamin E should be supplemented with external vitamin E supplements.

  • The combination of fish oil and vitamin E can have added benefit in the treatment of many cancers and heart diseases, than if they are used individually.

Preliminary research has been carried out which prove the above beliefs; however, these need to be substantiated with detailed research before drawing strong conclusions on the use of fish oil and vitamin E.

We concluded that fish nutraceuticals are destined to play an important role in future therapeutic developments and their success will be governed by control of purity, safety and efficacy without inhibiting innovation.

References

  1. Belda, M. C. R., and Pourchet-Campos, M. A. 1991 Ácidos graxos essenciais em nutrição: uma visão atualizada. Ciência e Tecnologia de Alimentos, 11, 5-35.        

  2. Bell, J.G., Henderson, R.J., Tocher, D.R. and Sargent, J.R. (2004) Replacement of dietary fish oil with increasing levels of linseed oil: Tailoring flesh fatty acid compositions in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) using a fish oil finishing diet. Lipids. Lipids 39: 223-232

  3. Berntssen, M.H.G., Lundebye, A.K. and Torstensen, B.E. (2005) Reducing the levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCB's in farmed Atlantic salmon by dietary substitution of fish oils with vegetable oils; a life cycle study. Aqua. Nutr. 11, 219-232

  4. Cleland  LG, French  JK, Betts  WH, Murphy  GA, Elliott  MJ.  Clinical and biochemical effects of dietary fish oil supplements in rheumatoid arthritis.  J Rheumatol.  1988;15:1471-5

  5. Iso H, Rexrode KM, Stampfer MJ, et al. Intake of fish and omega-3 fatty acids and risk of stroke in women. JAMA. 2001; 285: 304—312

  6. Prasad Palthur, M., Sajala palathur., Suresh kumar Chitta 2010. Nutraceuticals: Concept and Regulatory Scenario. International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2(2): 14-18

  7. Ruggiero C, Lattanzio F, Lauretani F, Gasperini B, Andres-Lacueva C, Cherubini A (2009). "Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids". Curr Pharm Des 15 (36): 4135—48.

  8. Wall R, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Stanton C (2010). "Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids". Nutr Rev 68 (5): 280—9.

  9. Kremer, Joel M.; Bigauoette, J.; Michalek, A.V.; Timchalk, M.A.; Lininger, L.; Rynes, R.I.; Huyck, C.; Zieminski, J.; Bartholomew, L.E. (1985). "Effects of manipulation of dietary fatty acids on clinical manifestations of rheumatoid arthritis.". The Lancet (Elsevier) 1 (8422): 184—187.


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