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Benefits of Fish Oil for Fitness and Health

A common question that comes up when physical therapists treat patients is, "Are there any foods that can help me out?" Believe it or not, fatty acids (found in fish oil) might be an appropriate answer.

When the words "fatty" and "acid" are mentioned, health-conscious individuals tend to run for cover. However, recent studies combined with the rapid proliferation if information through the Internet is helping to dispel myths about fats in our diet. There are good fats and bad fats; indeed, a complete avoidance of intake of oils and fats would actually be detrimental - rather than beneficial - to anyone's health.

Good Fats and Bad Fats

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) must always be part of our daily diet - without them, we take one step closer to poor health. Essential fatty acids are divided into two families: omega-6 EFAs and omega-3 EFAS.

Although there are only very slight differences in the chemical composition of these two groups of essential fatty acids, studies have revealed that too much intake of omega-6 EFAs can lead to inflammation, blood clotting and tumor growth. The good news, however, is that the opposite is true for omega-3 EFAs. Omega-6 EFAs can be found in vegetable oils while omega-3 EFAs can be found in fish oils among other foods.

Omega-6 versus Omega-3.

Physicians and researchers generally share a similar opinion that the cause behind increasing cases of heart disease, hypertension or high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, premature aging and certain kinds of cancer is none other than an imbalanced diet high in bad fats (omega-6 fatty acids) and processed sugar.

As mentioned earlier on, omega-6 EFAs can be found in vegetable oils. This includes but is not limited to corn oil and soy oil, both of which contain high amounts of linoleic acid. Omega-3 EFAs on the other hand can be found in fish, marine plankton, walnut and flaxseed oils. It's important to note that fish oils typically contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), fatty acids that have been observed to provide many benefits to the human body. A study almost 40 years ago, on Greenland Eskimos, concluded that one of the major reasons why they rarely suffer from heart diseases is because their diet is high in EFAs (mainly composed of fish). Other studies suggest that these two essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA, may be beneficial with the following conditions:

  • Blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride reducation
  • Heart health - EFAs seem to decrease the risk of death from heart disease
  • Asthma - EFAs may improve lung functions and decrease the need for asthma medications
  • Depression - the EFAs in fish oil seem to help increase the potency of antidepressant medications and certain groups of people that have diets high in EFAs have a lower frequency of depression too.
  • Rhematoid Arthritis - EFAs seem to reduce pain and stiffness in people that suffer from this arthritic condition.
  • Prenatal Health - DHA may be an important fatty acid for proper development of vision and the nervous system.
  • Osteoporosis - bone density might be positively affected by EFAs.

Fish Oil is Worth Checking Out

The benefits of including fish oil or foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are numerous. Benefits beyond those described above, have been reported in the medical literature. Ask your doctor of fish oil supplements and/or changes in your diet are right for you.

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