“Without a diet high in seafood we could not have developed our big brains.”
Dr. Michael Crawford (Imperial College London & Director of the institute of brain chemistry and human nutrition
In the past few decades many people have turned to omega-3 fish oil supplements, which have benefits for healthy people and also those with heart disease. Omega-3 fish oil have both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA). Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that are important in preventing and managing heart disease.
The phrase ‘superfood’ is often bandied around, but omega-3 fish oil really is super & essential. From our bodies to our brains, taking this essential fatty acid is a great way to supplement your diet and maintain general good health.
Today, omega-3 is rarely out of the headlines which may make it seem like quite a modern invention. But surprisingly fish oil was also incredibly popular in ancient Greece and Rome. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (the so-called “Father of Medicine”) described using dolphin liver oil to treat skin issues. The Vikings prized fish liver oil as “the gold of the ocean,” thanks to its healing properties. Romans used Garum, more of a fish oil-based sauce, was incredibly popular among all social classes. In fact, take a visit to Pompeii and you’ll see the most widely found relics were garum vessels used to store the stinky liquid.
Recently, Spanish food scientists made some Roman garum for themselves with the help of some ancient recipes. They analyzed the oil and found it contained extremely high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, making it the world’s first-known fish oil supplement.
Some Biology and Human history
74,000 years ago, a super volcanic eruption happened in the present-day Sumatra, Indonesia (Toba eruption). This catastrophic eruption caused a global volcanic winter for six to ten years and a possible 1000-year cooling episode in earth’s history. An atmosphere filled with ash and no or little sunlight caused food scarcity in ancient Africa reduced the human population to 10,000 breeding pairs thus forcing the remaining human population to wander the earth. With the sudden volcanic winter killing off lots of land animals, only those humans intelligent enough to find new sources of food survived. And the ones that did survive were the ones that adapted to ocean fishing.
According to Dr Michael Crawford in his 1989 book, The Driving Force: Food, Evolution and The Future, there’s a connection between our new fish-based diet and human evolution. “Without a diet high in DHA from seafood we could not have developed our big brains. We got smart from eating fish and living in water.”
To prove his theory, Dr Crawford carried out extensive studies into the role of omega-3 in the evolution of the human brain. He studied animals and found that dolphins have much bigger brains than zebras (despite similar body sizes), because their diets are rich in omega-3.
Omega 3 Benefits
Can Improve risk factors for heart disease
Heart attacks and strokes are the world’s leading causes of death. Studies show that fish-eating communities have significantly less chances of getting heart diseases. This is because of the Omega 3 consumption. The potential heart benefits are,
- Reduction Triglycerides up to 15-30%
- Omega-3s reduces blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure
- Raises good HDL cholesterol levels
- They help to prevent the formation of harmful blood clots
- By keeping your arteries smooth and free from damage, they help to prevent the plaque that can harden your arteries.
Omega 3 fatty acids may help to reduce the risk of high pressure on eye, which can lead to “glaucoma”. This is because of DHA a type of Omega 3 a major structural component of the retina of your eye. They also help to treat and prevent dry eye syndrome- a condition where your eyes don’t produce enough tears.
Interestingly, getting enough omega-3 is linked to a reduced risk of macular degeneration, one of the world’s leading causes of permanent eye damage and blindness
Depression and Anxiety
As we all know Depression is the most common mental disorder in the world. Symptoms include sadness, lethargy and a general loss of interest in life. Anxiety- is also a common mental problem, characterized by constant worry and nervousness.
Auto immune diseases
In autoimmune diseases, your immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign cells and starts attacking them. Type 1 diabetes is one prime example, in which your immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. Omega-3s can combat some of these diseases and may be especially important during early life.
Studies show that getting enough omega-3s during your first year of life is linked to a reduced risk of many autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes, other auto immune diseases like Lupus and multiple Sclerosis
Reducing the symptoms for metabolic disorder
Metabolic symptoms include central obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high triglycerides and low “good” HDL cholesterol levels. Omega 3s can reduce insulin resistance, fight inflammation and improve several heart disease risk factors.
Studies show that people who consume the most omega-3s have up to a 55% lower risk of colon cancer. Additionally, omega-3 intake is linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.
Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are considered immune nutrients that are commonly used for nutritional therapy in cancer patients. Also, the research published by National Library of medicine found that a combination of chemotherapy and omega 3 supplementation appears an effective strategy to enhance the clinical outcome of cancer patients in their curative and palliative clinical trajectory.
ADHD in children
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a behavioral disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Several studies note that children with ADHD have lower blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids than their healthy peers
Omega-3s help improve inattention and task completion. They also decrease hyperactivity, impulsiveness, restlessness and aggression
Omega 3s can improve the fatty acid composition in your skin and balance its inflammatory response. In simple words, skin stays softer and less inflamed thus regulating the oil production in skin, improve balanced hydration, subdue breakouts and minimize signs of ageing.
Omega-3s can also protect your skin from sun damage. EPA helps block the release of substances that eat away at the collagen in your skin after sun exposure
Inflammation is a natural response to infections and damage in your body. Therefore, it is vital for your health. However, inflammation sometimes persists for a long time, even without an infection or injury. This is called chronic — or long-term — inflammation. Long-term inflammation can contribute to almost every chronic Western illness, including heart disease and cancer.
Notably, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the production of molecules and substances linked to inflammation, such as inflammatory eicosanoids and cytokines
Omega 3 fatty acids can significantly reduce menstrual pain. They’re even more effective than ibuprofen in treating severe pain during menstruation.
People with mental disorders often have low level of omega 3 fats in their body. Studies suggest that omega-3 supplements can reduce the frequency of mood swings and relapses in people with both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids may also decrease violent behavior.
Reduces fat in the liver
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is more common than you think. It has increased with the obesity epidemic to become the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the Western world. However, supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids effectively reduces liver fat and inflammation in people with NAFLD
Various mainstream health organizations have released their own expert opinions, but they vary considerably. To this day, there’s no official daily dosage recommendation. Most health organizations agree that 250-500 mg of combined EPA and DHA is enough for adults.
However, higher amounts are often recommended for certain health conditions. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for alpha-linolenic acid is 1.6 grams per day for men and 1.1 grams per day for women