Pretty much everyone has heard that fish oil is good for you. Eat fish, eat your veggies. Omega-3’s!!! Nowadays, omega-6 fatty acids are rampant. The best available evidence that we have, regarding omega-3:omega-6 ratio, points to ancient humans having a 1:1 ratio. These days, that ratio is around 1 to 16! What does that mean? We have a lot of inflammation in our culture these days due to poor diets, lack of exercise, too much stress, etc. With that high of an omega-6 ratio, it can lead to a lot of individuals having cardiovascular disease, arthritis, depression, inflammation (which drives all disease), and a host of other conditions.
So, how do we fix this? Well, it can be a complicated answer. For simplicity’s sake, the best thing we can do is to either supplement with high quality fish oil or eat about 160z of cold-water fatty fish each week, such as Alaskan salmon, halibut, cod, or wild sardines. This can balance out that 1 to 16 ratio and reduce overall inflammation and improve health. Below, I’ll go into a little more depth about what kind of conditions can be improved by incorporating more fish into your life.
Arthritis is an inflammatory disease, whether we’re talking autoimmune arthritis or wear-and-tear arthritis. DHA and EPA (fatty acids found in fish) increase joint lubrication, reduce inflammatory markers, and may even stop the progression of inflammatory arthritis. In a recent study out of Thailand, knee arthritis patients who took fish oil improved their walking speed. Fish oil also helps reduce the symptoms of autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In one paper, fish oil supplements had additive effects of lowering inflammation and improving quality of life. 3-6 grams appeared to be the dosage range, which is pretty high, but you need that much to reduce the exaggerated inflammatory responses of RA.
Depression is another one of those conditions that we don’t often think of as an inflammatory disease, but it can be. The evidence is considerable. Veterans with the most severe depression also have the highest levels of inflammation. Another way to think about addressing depression and inflammation is “treat one, treat the other.” Because omega-3s have potent and wide-ranging anti-inflammatory effects, fish oil can treat depression. It’s even effective in patients with and without an official diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
- Stress Reactivity
The stress response is an inflammatory one, and a healthy omega-3:omega-6 ratio is the foundation of our inflammatory response system. Maintaining that balance produces a healthy stress response. In response to mental stress, fish oil promotes a healthy, less reactive neurovascular response. It also lowers resting heart rate, which is a good indicator of general stress resilience.
- Fish Oil and Cardiovascular Disease
One thing that is unequivocal is that a high omega-3 index in the red blood cell membrane is protective against cardiovascular disease! As omega-6 content goes up, so does cardiovascular mortality. So, not much to say on fish oil and CVD, other than it’s great for you.
- General Summary of Conditions that Benefit from Fish Oil
•Fight depression and anxiety
•Improve eye health
•Promote brain health during pregnancy and early life
•Reduce ADHD symptoms
•Reduce metabolic syndrome
•Fight autoimmune disease
•Fight age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s
•May prevent cancer
•Improve bone and joint health
•Alleviate menstrual pain
•Improve skin health
Adam Gloyeske, LAc