Fish feeds on microalgae which contain many fatty acids. From eating the microalgae, fish accumulate the fatty acids in their tissues. In effect, fish do not produce fatty acids but rather simply accumulate the same from algae they eat. However, not all fish accumulate fatty acids. Some fish accumulate toxic substances that can cause health risks. In particular, predatory fish such as albacore tuna, shark and swordfish contain high levels of toxic substances including mercury. For this reason, fish oil producing companies carefully select the type of fish that they obtain fish oil from, including salmon, sturgeon, bluefish, sardines, herring, menhaden, trout, mullet, tuna, mackerel and anchovy.
The fatty acids contained in fish oil include omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), which have been studied and found to be very beneficial to human health. One can obtain these fatty acids by eating the appropriate fish. However, because not everybody may have access to fresh fish, fish oil supplements are available. In addition to fish oil obtained from the other appropriate fish, fish oil supplements are further enriched with fish oil obtained from halibut, cod liver, seal blubber and whale blubber. Fish oil supplements also contain certain minerals and vitamins including calcium, iron, and vitamins E, A, B1, B2, B3, C and D.
Health Benefits of Fish Oil
Fish oil (including supplements) has been found to be very beneficial and effective in the prevention, treatment and management of various health conditions. Such include:
- From studies undertaken, fish oil has been found to have anti-cancer properties. In particular, fish oil suppresses the growth of breast, colon and prostate cancer.
- Fish oil has been found to be very effective in minimizing the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure.
- Fish oil has a positive effect on mental health. Those who consume fish oil have been noted to experience no depression. It is not surprising that fish oil is referred to as ‘brain food’ in some quarters.
- Fish oil has a positive effect on both pregnant women and fetus. The oil provides protection to fetus against brain injury. It also promotes the development of psycho motor. Born babies fed on reasonable amounts of fish oil have been noted to have proper visual development.
- Fish oil supplements are very effective in fighting skin diseases and conditions. Taking the right amount of fish oil produces smooth skin without any blemishes.
Side Effects of Fish Oil
Although fish oil supplements are effective in managing health conditions, they have side effects. The side effects mainly occur when one takes high doses. In case of HIV/AIDS patients, the immune system is reduced, resulting in opportunistic infections. Such patients may therefore avoid fish oil supplements altogether.
For those who do not use supplements but instead eat fish, the way that the fish is prepared can cancel out the benefits of fish oil. In order to obtain the benefits of fish oil, fish should not be fried but instead cooked for a reasonable time. Certain medications have also been found to reduce the effectiveness of fish oil. Such include birth control and high blood pressure medications.