The Greasy Facts of Omega Fatty Acids: Part 2

Our colleague, friend and founder of the nutraceutical company ND Essentials, James Yoon is back to provide some more education about omega fatty acids. Check out Part 1 of his series if you haven't yet had the chance.

After quite the hiatus, I’ve finally gotten a chance to write the second part of my fish oil article – the benefits of fish oil supplementation. My apologies, and a sincere thanks to the an avocado a day team!

Fish oil supplementation has been explored for so many different health conditions – rather than just listing all of its potential uses, I figured it would be better to present the overall take-home message, followed by some heavily researched evidence supporting this message.  This way, it makes it easier for you, the reader, to understand the potential needs for your body and how you can take control of your own health. 

IMPORTANT: while supplementation does have a variety of beneficial effects, it is important to remember that the reason why supplementation is helpful is because our current diet is so heavily skewed towards eating foods that are high in omega-6, while low in omega-3. This can leading to the development of inflammatory issues and diseases (see my first post explaining this). 

So what are the benefits of fish oil supplementation?

1. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Fish oils are beneficial in reducing triglyceride levels, and reducing the risk of sudden cardiovascular death, as well as other cardiovascular disease related events.
In a recent systematic review and meta-analysis, fish oil supplementation showed a significant reduction in triglyceride levels (up to 45.8 mg/DL) when compared to placebo.
In another systematic review, the results of 11 studies and almost 40,000 patients showed that supplementation reduced the risk of cardiovascular deaths, sudden cardiac death, all-cause mortality, and non-fatal cardiovascular events. 

2. Decreases Inflammation
Fish oils help reduce inflammation.  This is more towards systemic conditions like (but not exclusively to) arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease. 
In a review conducted in 2004, it was shared that, “the multiple effects of n-3 fatty acids, […] suggest that these fatty acids may be of potential use as a drug therapy for acute and chronic inflammation and for disorders that involve an activated immune response.” 

3. Enhances Mood
Fish oil helps influence mood, and may even be helpful in mild cases of depression.
In a meta-analysis of 28 RCTs: the “overall standardized mean depression scores were reduced in response to Omega-3 LC-PUFA supplementation as compared with placebo.

4. Improves Childhood Development and ADHD
Supplementation may contribute to healthy child development, and reduce ADHD symptoms of children.
In a systematic review of Children > 6 yo diagnosed with ADHD: “Three out of four studies suggest that supplementation with a mix of long-chain PUFA (from the n-3FA family: EPA, DHA; from the n-6 FA family: GLA or DGLA) daily for 3 to 4 months diminishes the frequency and/or gravity of ADHD symptoms.”

5. Decreases PMS and Dysmenorrhea
In conjunction with other antioxidants, fish oil supplementation may help with PMS pain.
In a randomized control trial of 38 women aged 18-22 years supplemented with fish oil, Vitamin A, D, E, and C, the treatment groups reported a significant difference after 3 months of supplementation with fish oil. There was also marked reduction in low back pain and abdominal pain, and the participants needed significantly lower doses of ibuprofen while using fish oil.  (3)
Since most of us are not likely eating enough fish per week to maintain good levels of DHA and EPA supplementation may provide great benefit.  Furthermore, there is much debate on the quality of fish these days and the potential for ingesting harmful toxins (ie. mercury, PCBs, dioxins).  The good news is that there are now several high quality fish oils (or DHA-rich algae oil for vegetarians) manufactured in a capsule or liquid form.  

Remember, it is important to remember that like probiotics, fish oil is best kept refrigerated to preserve quality.

As always, whenever thinking about beginning any supplements, consult with your ND or MD.

James Yoon 

  1. Wei, M.Y., Jacobsen, T.A. (2011).  Effects of Eicosapentaenoic Acid Versus Docosahexaenoic Acid on Serum Lipids: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.  Curr Atheroscler Rep 13: 474 – 483.
  2. Marik, P.E., Varon, J. (2009). Omega-3 Dietary Supplements and the Risk of Cardiovascular Events: A Systematic Review. Clin. Cardiol. 32 (7): 365 – 372.
  3. Mori, T.A., Beilin, L.J. (2004).  Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Inflammation.  Current Atherosclerosis Reports 6: 461 – 467.
  4. Martins, J.G. (2009). EPA but Not DHA Appears To Be Responsible for the Efficacy of Omega-3 Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation in Depression: Evidence from a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 28(5): 525 – 542.
  5. Transler, C. et al (2010). The Impact of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Reducing Child Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders. Journal of Attention Disorders 14(3): 232 – 246.
  6. Moghadamnia AA, Mirhosseini N, Abadi MH, Omranidrad A, Omidvar Sh. (2010). Effect of Clupeonella grimmi (anchovy/kilka) fish oil on dysmenorrhoea.  Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal; 16(4): 408 – 413. 
  7. All images from 


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