Fish Oil for Everyone: Why the Young, Old & Active All Need Omega-3s
Omega-3s Crucial for Fetal Development
Remember that groundbreaking study from last year that determined vitamin D3 supplementation should begin at birth? Well, now another nutrient is making its way into the womb.
Researchers from the University of California at Irvine tested the effects of maternal omega-3 fatty acid deprivation on female frogs and tadpoles and found that a lack of essential fatty acids can have negative impacts on brain development.
Specifically, the researchers linked DHA deficiencies to inhibited brain growth, stunted dendrite maturation and synaptic connectivity, and decreased neuron function.
Improving omega-3 fatty acid intakes later in pregnancy were also found to make up for lower intakes earlier on in the development process.
Fish Oil Preserves Brain Function in Older Folks
The benefits of fish oil stretch across the decades of life and into old age as the brain requires more support from supplemental nutrients. A recent study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia followed 193 subjects with Alzheimer’s disease, 397 subjects with mild cognitive impairment, and 229 subjects with healthy brain function for five years to observe the effects of fish oil on these three groups. 117 subjects in total reported regular fish oil use.
Neuropsychological tests and MRIs at every six months revealed that while average hippocampus and cerebral cortex gray matter volume decreased over time in the subject pool as whole, those who supplemented with fish oil showed less damage in these areas.
Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may have the power to help slow age-related cognitive decline by nourishing the brain with the very stuff it’s made of!
Why Fish Oil is Better than Dietary Fish Consumption
While consuming fresh, wild-caught fish is great in moderation, there are a few reasons you might want to turn to fish oil supplements to meet your daily omega-3 fatty acid needs.
- The nutrients are more concentrated: A 6 oz. portion of wild salmon contains 883 mg of EPA and 1,111 mg of DHA. In order to meet adequate omega-3 requirements, you’d have to eat 2-3 servings a week. Who wants to be just “adequate” when it comes to your health?
- It’s cost-effective: If you’re looking to really up your intake to say, 1.5 grams per day, you’d have to eat 8.5 oz. of salmon every single day. Unfortunately for many of us, that’s just not doable as high-quality wild caught fish can be quite expensive. You could easily pay double the cost of an entire bottle of fish oil for just one serving of fish!
- It provides bolder benefits: Some of the benefits of taking fish oil supplements have not been observed in people who consume diets high in fresh fish. For example, one study which found taking fish oil decreased coronary heart disease risk found no associations between dietary fish consumption and CHD risk.
- You don’t have to worry about toxic pollutants: If you’re taking a high-quality fish oil supplement from a company you trust, you shouldn’t have to worry about overloading your body with nasty toxins. Sadly, our ocean environments are often contaminated with metallic pollutants like mercury. These toxins build up in the flesh of fish and other seafood and ultimately accumulate in the body of the consumer, which can lead to serious health problems.
Fast Facts: Be sure to take your fish oil with a high-fat (healthy fat, that is) meal! One study showed that fish oil was better absorbed and that blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids rose more rapidly when taken with 12g of olive oil.
Fish Oil Found to Boost Performance for Cyclists
Fish oil has long been a friend of athletes and adventurers alike because of its ability to support healthy joints and encourage suppleness. Now, researchers have added a new notch on this mega-nutrient’s belt.
Researchers discovered that supplementing with 1.3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day boosted baseline nitric oxide concentrations by an average of 8 micromoles per liter more than placebo, and boosted flow-mediated dilation by 5.25% in cyclists. Flow-mediated dilation is a marker of cardiovascular health and the observed uptick in blood flow was associated with better oxygen utilization as well.
These results mark another win for the growing body of science supporting the use of omega-3s for sports nutrition.