Blood fat [triglycerides]. According to a number of studies, fish oil supplements can also cut elevated triglyceride levels. Having high levels of this blood fat is a risk factor for heart disease. DHA alone has also been shown to lower triglycerides.
Cardiovascular health. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to lower the overall risk of death from heart disease. Fish oil may reduce arrhythmias, and people who take fish oil supplements after a heart attack cut their risk of having another heart attack. Eating fish once or twice a week seems to significantly lower the risk of stroke.
Rheumatoid arthritis. A number of studies have found that fish oil supplements [EPA+DHA] significantly reduced stiffness and joint pain. Omega-3 supplements also seem to boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Depression. Researchers have found that cultures that eat foods with high levels of omega-3s have lower levels of depression. Fish oil also seems to boost the effects of antidepressants. Fish oil may help reduce the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Prenatal health. Studies show that EPA and DHA supplementation during pregnancy boost the health of pregnant women and the development of their children. DHA appears to be important for visual and neurological development in infants.
Asthma. Evidence suggests that a diet high in omega 3s reduces inflammation, a key component in asthma. However, more studies are needed to show if fish oil supplements improve lung function or reduce the amount of medication a person needs to control their disease.
ADHD. Some studies show that fish oil can reduce the symptoms of ADHD in some children and improve their cognitive function. However, more research is needed in this area, and omega-3 supplements as a primary treatment for this disorder are not supported by research.
Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The evidence is preliminary, but some research suggests that omega-3s may help protect against Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Recent studies have also evaluated whether the omega-3 supplement DHA can slow the decline seen in those with Alzheimer's dementia or in age-associated memory impairment. One recent study showed that DHA can be a beneficial supplement and may have a positive effect on gradual memory loss associated with aging. However, more research needs to be done.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3s and Omega-6s
You may have heard about the importance of having a healthy balance of omega-3s with another fatty acid, omega-6s. Omega-6s are found in many oils, meats, and processed foods.
Many experts believe that most people in the U.S. are eating far too many omega-6s and far too few omega-3 fatty acids. They argue that this imbalance may be causing many chronic diseases.
However, other experts disagree. They don't believe the ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s is actually significant. They also argue that the health benefits of omega-6s are being ignored.
For now, the full implications aren't clear. But the bottom line is simple. Whether the ratio turns out to matter or not, increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids is still a good thing.