Fish oils

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In the Book of Genesis, fish appeared in the waters on the fifth day of creation, after dry land and water separated. This may be the first reference to a functional, indeed lifesaving, food for humans. In the 19th century, New England ships harvested marine oil not for food but to light lamps. In the 20th century was discovered the "Eskimo paradox" which refers to the extremely low rates of death from cardiovascular disease among the Inuit, as compared with their northern European counterparts, despite similarly high intakes of fat. Therefore, 'fatty fish' has been dicovered by doctors, dieticians, beauticians and anti-ageing gurus as the newest 'magic food'.

[edit] Why should I be aware of this?

The fatty oil from the bodies of fishes are used in the manufacture of many products, such as margarine, cooking oil, cosmetics, caulking compounds, paints, industrial coatings, lubricants, water repellents, soaps, and candles. It is also used in the tanning of leather, the manufacture of rubber, and the production of chemicals used for making synthetic wax. Anchovy, Cod, Menhaden, herring, and pilchard are the chief sources of fish oil.

[edit] Fish oils and health

Scientifically proved as one of the healthiest foods possible, oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and trout are full of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are good fats unlike the bad saturated fat found in most meats. These fish or their oils, health professionals say, should be a staple of everyone's diet.

[edit] All about fish oils

Till quite recently dietary fat was often given a bad rap as any extra dietary fat is converted to body fat and stored in fat cells. Since the body has an almost unlimited capacity to store fat, eating a diet too high in it can lead to obesity. What is important is the type of fat one consumes. Fish oils contain an essential fatty acid for the human body called the Omega-3 fat.

[edit] Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential fatty acids. They are essential to human health but cannot be manufactured by the body. They can be found in fish, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut, other marine life such as algae and krill, certain plants (including purslane), and nut oils. Also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function as well as normal growth and development.

Dr Perricone, dermatologist and Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, suggests a diet can allegedly slow, or even reverse, the visible ageing process. Some of his most notable recommendations are a diet high in salmon (primarily for its Omega-3 fatty acids).

[edit] Synonyms of Omega-3 fatty acids

Linolenic acid (ALA, C18:3n-3), alpha-linolenic acid, cod liver oil, DHA, docosahexaenoic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, fish body oil, fish extract, fish liver oil, fish oil fatty acids, halibut oil, long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, mackerel oil, marine oil, menhaden oil, n-3 fatty acids, n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, Omacor®, omega fatty acids, omega-3 oils, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), salmon oil, shark liver oil, w-3 fatty acids.

[edit] New research

  • Cardiovascular Disease

Fish oils have been shown to reduce risk of sudden death among men without evidence of prior cardiovascular disease. Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in fish and fish oils,can protect against heart disease.

  • High blood pressure

Trial reports have suggested that the intake of omega-3 fatty acids cause small reductions in blood pressure

  • Hypertriglyceridemia or Cholesterol

There is strong scientific evidence from human trials that omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish oil supplements significantly reduce blood triglyceride levels, though these benefits appear to be dose-dependent.

  • Brain Inflammation and Nerve regeneration

The n-3 fatty acids present in fish oils, according to the British Medical Journalcould reduce inflammation in the brain and may have a specific role in brain development and regeneration of nerve cells

  • Depression

Fish oils are also added to the diet of people suffering from Depression.

  • Dementia and Alzheimer's disease

Helps in the lowering of the risk of elderly people developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

  • Crohn's Disease

In patients with Crohn's disease in remission, a novel enteric-coated fish-oil preparation is effective in reducing the rate of relapse.

  • Cancer-Associated Weight Loss

n-3 Fatty Acid Supplements are also being used for Cancer-Associated Weight Loss.

  • Breast and Prostate Cancer

The consumption of fish oils have been shown to inhibit the proliferation of breast and prostate cancer cell lines in vitro and to reduce the risk and progression of these tumors in animal experiments.

  • Infant eye and brain development

Early evidence suggests that infants have improved problem solving skills but not memory if their mothers consume DHA-containing foods during pregnancy. Other research suggests that DHA supplementation during pregnancy plays an important role in the development of the visual system.

  • Protection from cyclosporine toxicity in organ transplant patients

Trials report improvements in kidney function and reduced high blood pressure compared to patients not taking fish oil.

Many studies report improvements in morning stiffness and joint tenderness with the regular intake of fish oil supplements for up to three months. Fish oil has been shown to increase the effects of anti-inflammatory medications, such as NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen).

  • Undergoing tests and trials

Asthma, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (related learning and behavioral problems), Bipolar disorder, Cystic fibrosis, Colon cancer, Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), Eczema, Energy, Epilepsy, Growth rates (DHA taken by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers may reduce the body mass index of infants), Osteoporosis, Phenylketonuria, Psoriasis, Schizophrenia.

[edit] Side effects and warnings

  • Allergies

People with allergy or hypersensitivity to fish should avoid fish oil or omega-3 fatty acid products derived from fish. There have been rare reports of skin rash.

  • Dosage

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies intake of up to 3 grams daily of omega-3 fatty acids from fish as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe).

  • Diabetics

Diabetic patients must be careful due to potential (albeit unlikely) increases in blood sugar levels, patients at risk of bleeding, or in those with high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

  • Mercury in Fish

Fish meat or oil may contain methylmercury and caution is warranted in young children and pregnant/breastfeeding women. Heavy metals are most harmful in young children and pregnant/nursing women.

  • Contaminants and toxins

Potentially harmful contaminants such as dioxins, methylmercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are found in some species of fish. Methylmercury accumulates in fish meat more than in fish oil, and fish oil supplements appear to contain almost no mercury. High mercury content in some fish may diminish the cardio-protective effect of fish intake. Therefore, safety concerns apply to eating fish but likely not to ingesting fish oil supplements.

  • Risk of bleeding and stroke

Omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding, although there is little evidence of significant bleeding risk at lower doses. Very large intakes of fish oil/omega-3 fatty acids ("Eskimo" amounts) may increase the risk of hemorrhagic (bleeding) stroke. High doses have also been associated with nosebleed and blood in the urine. Fish oils appear to decrease platelet aggregation and prolong bleeding time, increase fibrinolysis (breaking down of blood clots).

  • Gastrointestinal upset

Gastrointestinal upset is common with the use of fish oil supplements. Diarrhea may also occur, with potentially severe diarrhea at very high doses. There are also reports of increased burping, acid reflux/heartburn/indigestion, abdominal bloating, and abdominal pain. Fishy aftertaste is a common effect. Gastrointestinal side effects can be minimized if fish oils are taken with meals and if doses are started low and gradually increased.

  • Swelling of the nasal passages

Fish oil has caused swelling of the nasal passages and the upper part of the pharynx (called nasopharyngitis) in some patients. Some patients taking fish oil developed upper respiratory tract infections.

  • Increases (worsening) in low-density lipoprotein levels

Increases (worsening) in low-density lipoprotein levels ("bad cholesterol") by 5-10% are observed with intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Effects are dose-dependent.

  • Weight Gain

A point to remember, however, is that ‘fatty fish’ is still fatty and high in calories. Beneficial though they may be, overeating would result in weight gain.

  • Vitamin A or D toxicity

Fish oil taken for many months may cause a deficiency of vitamin E, and therefore vitamin E is added to many commercial fish oil products. As a result, regular use of vitamin E-enriched products may lead to elevated levels of this fat-soluble vitamin. Fish liver oil contains the fat-soluble vitamin A and vitamin D, and therefore fish liver oil products (such as cod liver oil) may increase the risk of vitamin A or D toxicity.

[edit] What can I do?

Fatty fish are typically cold-water fish. The American Dietetic Association recommends the following for consumption:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Herring
  • Sardines
  • Mackerel

[edit] Helpings and cooking methods you can adopt

Four ounces, or 114gms, of salmon alone offers 83 per cent of the Omega-3s one needs each day. If these fish aren't to your taste, you can also try white fish such as halibut and cod. A 4-ounce (114gms) serving of halibut offers 25 per cent of the omega-3s you need each day; cod offers about 15 per cent.

The way the fish is prepared is as important as the type and quantity of fish one takes. Deep frying cancels out any benefits the fish may provide. Dr Keecha Harris, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, recommends broiling, grilling, or steaming these foods.

[edit] Storage tips

Fish oils are extremely susceptible to damage from heat, light, and oxygen. When exposed to these elements for too long, the fatty acids in the oil become oxidized, a scientific term that simply means that the oil becomes rancid. This alters the flavor and smell of the oil, but it also diminishes the nutritional value. More importantly, the oxidation of fatty acids produces free radicals, which are believed to play a role in the development of cancer and other degenerative diseases.

The oils should be stored in dark glass, tightly closed containers in the refrigerator or freezer. In addition, these oils should never be heated on the stove.

[edit] See Also

[edit] References and Useful Websites

  • Fish Oils: The Essential Nutrients
  • Results from tests of store-bought farmed salmon show seven of 10 fish were so contaminated with PCBs that they raise cancer risk
  • Mercury, Fish Oils, and the Risk of Myocardial Infarction by the New England Journal of Medicine
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Omega-3 fatty acids published at the University of Maryland Medical Center
  • Cholesterol lower by Cod liver oil

[edit] Additional Information

  • Fish — Food to Calm the Heart
  • Fatty Acid Supplements for Cancer-Associated Weight Loss
  • Intakes of fish and marine fatty acids
  • PCBs in salmon

[edit] Watch videos and online documentaries

  • What Fish Oil Can Do for You: an interview with Dr. Hyla Cass
  • Fish oil and omega 3 better than statins, lipitor?