Table of contents
- Beyond Heart Health - More Reasons to Take Fish Oil
- See also VitaminDWiki
- Fish Oil Reduces Death Rates
- Anti-Inflammatory Fats
- Metabolic Disorders
- What You Need to Know:
- Fatty Liver Disease
- A High-Quality Fish Oil
- Powerful Brain Protection
- Cognitive Impairment
- Defeat Depression
- Additional Omega-3 Benefits
- Editorial Omega-3 and the American Heart Association
Clinical trials have focused on the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil.
More recent data show the biological effects that omega-3s confer extend beyond cardiovascular issues and impact virtually every aspect of our health.
A meta-analysis published last year found that the highest consumption of omega-3s from fish oil was associated with a 14% reduction in the risk of dying from any cause, compared to the lowest category of consumption.1
Fish-oil benefits range from improved cognition to reduction of metabolic disorders.
In this article, we describe recent studies that evaluate the effects of fish oil on human health and longevity.
- Overview: Omega-3 many benefits include helping vitamin D
- Omega-3 is vital for health, mail-in test is low cost and accurate
Omega-3 and Depression (items in both categories)
- Omega-3 did not prevent depression (they failed to reduce Omega-6, which blocks Omega-3) – RCT Dec 2021
- Mental health not helped by vitamin D monotherapy (adding Omega-3 and Magnesium help) – review Nov 2021
- Benefits of Omega-3 plus Vitamin D were additive – RCT Sept 2021
- Depression treatments: diet, exercise, bright light, Vitamin D, B12, Omega-3, Zinc, Music, etc. – May 2019
- Omega-3 helps treat Major Depression – International Consensus Sept 2019
- Mental disorders fought by Omega-3 etc. - meta-meta-analysis Oct 2019
- Omega-3 reduces Depression. Anxiety, Stress, PTSD, etc. – Aug 2018
- Depression treated by Omega-3 (again) – meta-analysis Aug 2019
- Depression after childbirth 5 X less likely if good Omega-3 index – April 2019
- Occupational burnout reduced after 8 weeks of Omega-3 – RCT July 2019
- Anxiety severity reduced if more than 2 grams of Omega-3 – meta-analysis Sept 2018
- Psychotic disorders not treated by Omega-3 when patents take anti-depressants and get therapy – June 2018
- Happy Nurses Project gave Omega-3 for 3 months – reduced depression, insomnia, anxiety, etc for a year – RCT July 2018
- Depression – is it reduced by Vitamin D and or Omega-3 – RCT 2019
- Benefits of Omega-3 beyond heart health - LEF Feb 2018
- Omega-3 improves gut bacteria, reduces inflammation and depression – Dec 2017
- Unipolar depression treated by Omega-3, Zinc, and probably Vitamin D – meta-analysis Oct 2017
- Omega-3 reduces many psychiatric disorders – 2 reviews 2016
- Omega-3 does not consistently treat depression if use small amounts for short time period – review Oct 2016
- How Omega-3 Fights Depression – LEF July 2016
- Depression due to inflammation reduced by Omega-3 (children and pregnant) – Nov 2015
- Depression treated somewhat by Omega-3 (St. John's Wort better) – RAND org reviews 2015
- Depression substantially decreased with Omega-3 – Sept 2015
- Omega-3 for just 3 months greatly reduced psychosis for 80 months – RCT Aug 2015
- Omega-3 prevents PTSD and some mood disorders - Aug 2015
- Omega-3, Vitamin D, and other nutrients decrease mental health problems – March 2015
- Serotonin regulated by Vitamin D – part 1 autism – Feb 2014
Omega-3 and Cognition (items in both categories)
- Dementia 4.1 X high risk in those with low Vitamin D, Omega-3, etc.2 decades before (behind paywall) – Nov 2021
- Early brain development helped by Iron, Iodine, Vitamin D, Omega-3. Zinc etc. – Oct 2021
- Omega-3 paused Alzheimer's decline - RCT Sept 2021
- Seafood (Omega-3) during pregnancy increased childhood IQ by 8 points – review Dec 2019
- Omega-3 index of 6 to 7 associated with best cognition in this study – Nov 2019
- Eating fish improves cognition (Omega-3 fish during pregnancy in this case) - Oct 2019
- Mental disorders fought by Omega-3 etc. - meta-meta-analysis Oct 2019
- Omega-3 prevents Parkinson’s Disease – Review of RCT July 2019
- Omega-3 helps brains of seniors – May 2019
- Omega-3 helped Alzheimer’s only if good level of B vitamins – RCT April 2019
- Standard Omega-3 not get past BB barrier in seniors at high risk of Alzheimer’s – Patrick hypothesis Oct 2018
- APOE4 gene problems (Alzheimer’s) reduced by both Vitamin D and Omega-3 - Dec 2018
- Omega-3 is important for Brain Health during all phases of life – Aug 2018
- Hypothesis: Omega-3 reduces Alzheimer’s directly and via the gut – Sept 2018
- Improve Cognitive Health and Memory with Vitamin D and Omega-3 – World Patent March 2018
- IQ levels around the world are falling (perhaps lower Vitamin D, Iodine, or Omega-3)
- Adding Vitamin D, Omega-3, etc to children’s milk improved memory (yet again) – RCT June 2018
- Omega-3, Vitamin D, Folic acid etc. during pregnancy and subsequent mental illness of child – March 2018
- Why Alzheimer’s studies using Omega-3 have mixed results – quality, dose size, Omega-6, genes, etc. March 2018
- Benefits of Omega-3 beyond heart health - LEF Feb 2018
- Supplementation while pregnant and psychotic – 20 percent Omega-3, 6 percent Vitamin D – June 2016
- ADHD, Autism, Early Psychosis and Omega-3 – review Dec 2017
- Mild Traumatic Brain Injury prevented with Omega-3, Resveratrol, etc (in rats) – Oct 2017
- Omega-3 found to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in animals – Sept 2017
- The End of Alzheimer's - if custom adjust Vitamin D, B-12, Iron, Omega-3, etc.
- Violent schizophrenia patients treated by 3 months of Omega-3 – RCT Aug 2017
- Psychosis risk reduced for 80 weeks by just 12 weeks of Omega-3 – RCT Aug 2017
- Alzheimer’s (apoE4) may require more than Omega-3 - May 2017
- Infants getting 1 g of Omega-3 for 12 weeks got better brains – RCT March 2017
- Omega-3 reduces many psychiatric disorders – 2 reviews 2016
- Cognitive Impairment 1.8 times more likely if low Omega-3– Oct 2016
- Omega-3 may treat schizophrenia
- Benefits of Omega-3 on brain development
- Omega-3 helps childhood cognition – meta-analysis April 2016
- Football Brain injuries prevented by Omega-3 – RCT Jan 2016
- Schizophrenia treated by 6 months of Omega-3 – RCT Nov 2015
- Omega-3 and infant development - dissertation Sept 2015
- Omega-3 etc improved both cognition and mobility of older women – Aug 2015
- Schizophrenia relapses reduced 3X by Omega-3 – RCT Mar 2015
- Cognitive decline in elderly slowed by Omega-3 – meta-analysis May 2015
- Cognitively impaired brain atrophy was slowed 40 percent by Omega-3 and B vitamins – RCT July 2015
- Omega-3, Vitamin D, and other nutrients decrease mental health problems – March 2015
- Vitamin D, Omega-3 supplementation helps cognition – perhaps due to serotonin – Feb 2015
- Vitamin D and Omega-3 may reduce cortical atrophy with age – Nov 2013
- Alzheimer’s and Vitamins D, B, C, E, as well as Omega-3, metals, etc. – June 2013
- Spinal cord problems more likely if TBI if little Omega-3 in diet – June 2013
- Traumatic brain injury treated by Vitamin D Progesterone Omega-3 and glutamine – May 2013
Vitamin D and Omega-3 also contains lists for
Omega 3 and Cardiovascular, Infants, pregnancy, obesity, inflammation and trauma
In 2017, a study was published that looked at the effects of fish-oil ingestion on human mortality rates. The implications from this report pertain to us all.
This analysis revealed a significant 14% reduction in the risk of dying from any cause in the group consuming the highest, versus the lowest amount of omega-3 fish oil.
Epidemiologists call this "all-cause mortality,” and it serves as an important metric in evaluating the overall effect of any intervention on lifespan.1
To study the longer-term effects of omega-3 consumption, the researchers combined data from more than one million subjects whose fish and fish-oil consumption had been evaluated in 23 separate studies. A separate sub-analysis of six studies involving over 400,000 participants yielded information on omega-3 fats from fish, specifically.1
The researchers undertook this study to resolve lingering questions. Regular consumption of the major omega-3s in fish oil (EPA + DHA) has been found to reduce specific health threats like heart arrhythmias, and risk factors for disease and death, like endothelial dysfunction, lipid disturbances, and inflammation.2
Data on all-cause mortality, however, had been clouded by differences in study design and populations.1
In this 2017 published analysis, researchers found a modest but significant 6% reduction in all-cause mortality risk among those eating the most fish compared with those having the lowest fish consumption.
That's encouraging, but not everyone can manage the US government recommendations of two fish servings per week.3
For this reason, the researchers also evaluated the pooled data from six of the 23 studies relating to intake of the most relevant components of fish, the omega-3s EPA and DHA.1
They found a greater impact against the risk of dying from any cause among those subjects consuming the most omega-3s. They showed that all-cause mortality risk was 14% lower in those consuming the most EPA/DHA. This is more than double the figure calculated for fish consumption alone.1
Further analysis revealed a 7% reduction in overall risk of dying for each additional 200 mg of fish oil consumed per day.1
From this enormous study, it is clear that people who consume more fish oil are at substantially lower risk of dying from any cause—a worthwhile finding in its own right.
But people die from specific causes that include cardiovascular disorders, obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and even major depression.
Underlying these degenerative conditions are pathological processes like inflammation, which we know is strongly associated with most age-related illnesses.
Here, we examine specific ailments that rob us of life quality, and, when severe enough, of life quantity as well.
Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA have benefits in metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes, in neurological disorders like depression and Alzheimer's, as well as in cancer and autoimmune disease.
Omega-3s favorably affect this wide variety of conditions because they reduce the body's overall burden of inflammation.4
Chronic inflammation plays a key role in the diseases associated with aging.5 By combatting inflammation, omega-3s help us combat numerous age-related issues.
This is especially evident in metabolic disorders.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that includes some combination of high blood pressure, belly fat, high blood sugar, and abnormal lipid profiles. Metabolic syndrome is associated with a sharp increase of risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.6
Omega-3 supplements show remarkable effects on the causes7—and the consequences—of metabolic syndrome. And one of the main driving forces behind metabolic syndrome is obesity.
Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic illnesses, in large part because in obese individuals, fat cells churn out massive amounts of inflammation-inducing proteins (called cytokines).8 These cytokines play a role in promoting insulin resistance as well as two related diseases: non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type II diabetes.9-12
Omega-3 oils from fish exert beneficial effects against obesity. A study published in 2016 concluded that fish-oil supplementation reduced waist circumference and blood pressure.13,14
Human studies confirm that supplementing with omega-3s each day may reduce weight, body mass index (BMI), waist/hip ratio, and total fat mass—when combined with sensible diet and exercise.15,16
The importance of prevention.
Omega-3s achieve these effects through mechanisms that include enhancing oxygen consumption (indicating increased fuel-burning), boosting levels of the protective signaling molecule adiponectin (which mitigates insulin resistance and inflammation), and favorably modulating the gut microbiome.16-18
Type II diabetes is a common consequence of obesity, because the inflammation it causes leads to insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and worsening obesity—creating a vicious cycle.19
Fish-oil supplementation has been shown to have remarkable benefits in people with type II diabetes. These include decreasing fasting blood sugar, markers of sustained high blood sugar (e.g., hemoglobin A1c), and insulin requirements, as well as reducing episodes of dangerously low blood sugar.14,20
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a major consequence of obesity and diabetes that occurs when fat cells build up in the liver causing massive amounts of inflammation.21
When not properly controlled, NAFLD can progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a more serious condition in which the liver becomes damaged or scarred.22
Human studies show that supplementing with omega-3s has substantial benefits in patients with the condition.
For example, omega-3s have been found to significantly improve liver blood flow, decrease deposits of liver fat, reduce liver enzyme levels in the blood (a marker of liver-cell injury), and lead to significant increases in insulin sensitivity.23-27
Not All Fish-Oil Preparations Are the Same
Quality counts with all supplements, but it is especially critical when considering fish-oil.
The sources, processing, shipping, and final concentration of fish-oil products are critical indicators of their quality—and many fall short.
Before choosing a fish-oil supplement, you should consider two important categories:
1. Concentration and value
2. Freshness and sustainability
As an example, a readily-available commercial "natural fish oil" supplement sold at a major US pharmacy chain offers an enormous jar of softgels at an apparently reasonable price. But if you take a closer look, you'll see that the recommended dose contains 3,600 mg of "total fish oil," but only 1,080 mg of "total omega-3" fats—and there are no details about exactly how much EPA and DHA is present.
That means that just 30% of the daily dose may be composed of beneficial EPA/DHA.
To achieve desired intake, you would need to take six large softgels of the commercial product, risking fishy burps and other unpleasant side effects.
In addition, few major fish-oil distributors reveal their geographical location, the amount of processing, or the environmental impact of their operations. Many processing plants are located far from the harbors where fresh fish are brought. And few fish-oil operations are owned or operated by the fishermen who bring home the harvest, limiting their personal and ethical investments in the product.
A partnership between a "lipid technology" expert and the two largest fishing companies in Chile (a major source of ocean fish worldwide) began active production in 2012.56
This partnership has a pilot processing plant onsite, where fishing boats arrive daily to unload the freshest possible catch. The operation has a tiny ecological footprint and is in compliance with the very latest sustainable fisheries recommendations and certifications.
Achieving a high concentration of the active EPA and DHA forms of omega-3 is a priority. At their new seaside plant, fish are harvested, and oil is extracted with a process called selective crystallization, which achieves final concentrations of EPA and DHA in the range of 60% to 85% of the product (compared with 30% in most commercial products). This high concentration means smaller softgels are packed with more essential omega-3 fatty acids.
A daily dose of the new fish-oil composition (two softgels, taken twice daily with meals), provides a total 3,580 mg of fish oil that supplies 1,500 mg EPA and 1,000 mg DHA. That means 70% of the daily dose is composed of the beneficial omega-3 fats.
Omega-3s are a virtual necessity for sustaining heart, brain, and overall body health. Choose fish oil as selectively as you would choose fish for the table— wholesome, sustainably harvested, and fresh.
Studies also show an over 98% reduction in the risk of having more severe liver disease after treatment with DHA, compared with a placebo group.27-28
One study also showed that omega-3 supplementation not only slowed the progression of NAFLD to NASH, but reversed some of the structural damage that had already occurred in the liver.29 This is a landmark finding, considering this type of liver damage is considered irreversible.
Finally, in a 2017 review of clinical trials in which NAFLD was treated with fish-oil supplementation, 12 separate trials reported decreased liver fat or other markers of NAFLD. The authors suggested that longer treatment duration and improved patient compliance may be important factors for success.30
Omega-3s play vital roles in the brain's very structure and function.31-34
The amount of omega-3 fats in the brain dwindles as we age.35 This leads to losses of brain plasticity, which is the ability to rapidly form new connections and retain new impressions and memories.33 It is also correlated with the diminished ability to use glucose as fuel—an energy deficit that has been linked to mental slowing and neurological impairment.34
The good news is that supplementing with omega- 3s can favorably alter brain structure and function. And what's more, supplementing with omega-3s improves age-related conditions associated with inflammatory changes, such as memory impairments and Alzheimer's.36-38
Cognitive impairment, dementia, and neurodegenerative diseases are now recognized as inflammatory conditions.
The inflammatory changes may begin years—perhaps decades—before symptoms occur,36-38 which reinforces the importance of supplementing with fish oil before major symptoms arise.
For example, in a study of adults with mild cognitive impairment (which often precedes dementia), a daily supplement of 720 mg EPA/480 mg DHA improved basic cognitive aptitude, speed of perception, and working memory compared with people receiving a placebo.39
In a study of healthy adults between 50 and 75 years old, supplementation with 1,320 mg EPA/880 mg DHA daily for 26 weeks improved memory performance and ability to recall object locations.38
Late-Breaking Findings on Omega-3 Fats
New studies on omega-3 fats suggest still more mechanisms of action—and ultimately more roles for these versatile nutrients in preventing disease and promoting good health. Here is a summary of their findings:
- The long-chain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are molecular precursors of the endocannabinoid signaling compounds.57 The brain-signaling endocannabinoidsystem is involved in regulation of appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory.58
- Blood levels of total omega-3 and DHA fats are strongly correlated with diversity in the gut microbiome, the intestinal community of microbes that is intimately related to our health.59 Greater diversity is nearly always associated with greater disease resistance and better health.
- In a further exploration of relationships between omega-3 fats and the microbiome, researchers leveraged omega-3's anti-inflammatory powers, coupling them with a probiotic formulation to reduce the inflammation-induced side effects of chemotherapy.60 In a group of patients with colorectal cancer, this approach improved quality of life, relieved some chemotherapy side effects, and reduced key markers of inflammation.
Depression comes in many different forms and can arise for any number of reasons. Studies consistently show that omega-3s have benefits against depression, regardless of the cause.
For example, one study evaluated the impact of omega-3s on women with major depression associated with menopause. After eight weeks of taking 930 mg EPA/750 mg DHA daily, the average standardized depression score fell by 56%.
Even more compelling data from this same study showed that 45% of participants reported feeling normal and experiencing no depression by the end of the trial.40 As an added benefit, the women experienced a reduction in the frequency of hot flashes with supplementation.
In a more recent study, young adults with symptoms of depression were randomly assigned to take either a placebo or 1,000 mg EPA/400 mg DHA daily.41 After just 21 days, scores on the depression inventory (a self- reported test that measures the severity of depression) fell significantly in supplemented subjects, but not in the placebo group. This study found that 67% of the patients taking omega-3s “no longer met the criteria for being depressed.”41
A human and an animal study both suggest that the antidepressant effects of fish oil/omega-3s may be a result of anti-inflammatory activity.42,43
The ability of omega-3 fats/fish oil to fight inflammation and induce favorable gene expressions in various tissues is now attracting the attention of researchers in virtually all fields of medicine.
Here are just a few highlights of some recent studies:
- Cancer is highly dependent on inflammatory changes for its promotion once a malignant cell has developed.44-46 Animal and human studies are revealing multiple ways in which omega-3 fats may quell cancer-associated inflammation, with far-reaching effects, in colorectal, breast, pancreatic, and blood system cancers.47-50
- Autoimmune diseases are a group of destructive disorders characterized by out- of-control inflammation and the immune system attacking one's own tissues. These conditions are relatively common in the elderly. Current treatments are less than adequate, often requiring high doses of immunosuppressive drugs. A pair of studies has shown impressive results of fish oil/ omega-3 supplementation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, a notoriously painful autoimmune disease for which conventional treatments can be highly problematic.51-53
- Chronic kidney disease and its progression are closely linked with high levels of inflammation, making it an ideal target for omega-3 intervention. Two recent papers examined the role of omega-3 supplementation in chronic kidney disease. One showed that omega-3 fats were an effective solution for one of the most frustrating and even disabling symptoms of this disease, chronic itching, also known as pruritus. In another study, omega-3 supplementation resulted in longer telomeres, which are the longevity-associated chromosomal “clocks” that shorten as we age.54,55
These findings are almost certainly the tip of a very large iceberg, as researchers pursue potential benefits of omega-3s in a host of inflammation-related disorders.
Peer-reviewed published studies continue to document the anti-inflammatory value of omega-3 supplements in some of the most troubling symptoms and chronic diseases of aging.
Metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and fatty liver are yielding to treatment with omega-3s, as are numerous brain-related conditions including major depression and dementia.
Evidence is also accumulating about roles of omega-3s in inflammation-dependent conditions such as cancer, autoimmune disease, and chronic kidney disease.
Supplementing with fish oil ensures you remain on the higher end of the omega-3 scale that has been shown to reduce human mortality rates, along with many chronic conditions of older age.^
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.
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Same Feb 2018 issue of Life Extension Foundation
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