Fish Oil, A to Z

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You may think that fat is bad for you, but the type of fat found in fish oil is one that you should eat more of.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines) as well as nuts and seeds play a key role in a range of vital body processes, from regulating blood pressure and blood clotting to reducing inflammation and improving immune and digestive function. Here are 12 benefits of this multi-tasking supplement that you need to know.

1. Acne

Fish oil supplements can help reduce the inflammation that may be associated with acne. This inflammation may be linked to excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids (found in vegetable oils), accompanied by a lack of omega-3 fatty acids. Some evidence suggests that people with acne are often deficient in the essential fatty acids they need.


Essential fatty acids play an important role in the function of the brain. Possibly the most important in this respect are two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are found in oily fish.

3. Arthritis and joint problems

Studies indicate that people with rheumatoid arthritis experience less joint pain and stiffness when they take fish oil supplements, and may even be able to manage on lower doses of anti-inflammatory drugs. The Royal Adelaide Hospital Early Arthritis Clinic, established in 1998, prescribes fish oil to rheumatoid arthritis patients as part of their standard treatment.

4. Asthma

Asthma may be related to, and worsened by, an imbalance of fatty acids in the diet; in particular, a lack of omega-3 fats may promote inflammation of the airways and aggravate wheezing.

5. Benign prostatic hypertrophy

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil seem to play an important role in maintaining the health of the prostate gland. Research suggests they may even improve the symptoms of prostate enlargement.

6. Crohn’s disease

In a year-long study of people suffering from this condition (a painful type of inflammatory bowel disease), 69 percent of those taking fish oil supplements stayed symptom-free.

7. Eczema

Essential fatty acids are needed for keeping the skin healthy; in addition, some research indicates that people with eczema may not process these acids correctly. Supplementation with fish oil is considered by some experts to help reduce the severity of symptoms and the scaling and itching of atopic eczema.

8. Endometriosis

Fish oils may help in the management of this condition, because they appear to increase production of eicosanoids, substances which may reduce the inflammation and pain associated with endometriosis.

9. Fibromyalgia

The persistent muscle pain associated with this condition may be eased by supplementation with a fish oil supplement that is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.

10. Heart health

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil make platelets in the blood less likely to clump together and form the clots that lead to heart attacks. Omega-3s can also reduce triglycerides and may lower blood pressure.

11. Macular degeneration

Eating more oily fish or taking a fish oil supplement may help to prevent the development of macular degeneration, due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. Research shows that eating four portions of oily fish per week was associated with a 35 per cent lower risk of macular degeneration compared to eating three or fewer portions per week.

12. Menstrual cramps

Evidence suggests a role for fish oil supplementation in relieving menstrual pain. One study found that supplementation with fish oil providing 1,080 mg EPA and 720 mg DHA for two months resulted in patients reporting a significant reduction in their symptoms.

Dos and don’ts

*DO choose a fish oil supplement which has been sourced from sustainably harvested fish and which has been tested and cleared for heavy metals and environmental toxins.

*DON’T take fish oil without professional supervision if you are on warfarin. The fatty acids EPA and DHA may reduce the blood’s clotting ability.

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