Omega-3 Fish Oil Benefits for Heart Health

omega-3 fish oil benefits for

A National Institutes of Health study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that those in the highest percentile of omega-3 levels may live up to five years longer on average than those in the lowest percentile (​​1).

Most Americans are not getting enough omega-3’s in their diets. Omega-3 intake is generally low, intakes above 2000mg/day may be necessary to see positive outcomes, and most would benefit from supplementation (2; 3; 4).

I most commonly use Omega Complete to support omega-3 levels for myself and my clients taking 2-4 softgels per day with food.

Fish oil is well-regarded for its ability to balance out inflammation in the body (5). As inflammation is an important cause of chronic disease, especially cardiovascular disease, fish oil may be supportive in the prevention and management of heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease is associated most commonly with inflammation, the stickiness of blood, hypertension, high triglycerides and metabolic markers, and blood sugar control.

Omega-3 Fish Oil Benefits for:

  • Inflammation:

    Omega-3s not only act as structural components of cell membranes but also act as signaling molecules (6). They also break down into components that are important for curbing inflammation, called Specialized Pro-Resolving Mediators (SPMs).

    They’re known to modulate macrophage, neutrophil, T cells, regulatory T cells, Th17 cells, B cells, mast cells, natural killer cells, eosinophils, basophils, and inflammatory messengers in a number of beneficial ways including genetic expression.

    Alterations in immune cells towards a pro-inflammatory state are a known contributor to cardiovascular disease.
  • Blood Stickiness:

    The stickiness of blood can increase with inflammation and lead to the formation of clots. Clots may then contribute to heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary embolism

    Fish oil supplementation can reduce clotting and can be safe with the use of some medications known to decrease clotting (7; 8; 9). 
  • Hypertension:

    Increasing the intake of fish oil may decrease blood pressure significantly. Intake greater than 2g may be best (10; 11).
  • High triglycerides and metabolic markers

    Omega-3 intake is associated with a reduction of triglycerides in the blood, 2-4g per day intake can be necessary to see significant results (12; 13; 14).

    3.4 grams of a fish oil supplement for 1 month may reduce triglycerides as much as 30-50% (15; 16). >3g per day of fish oil is considered a pharmaceutical dose.
  • Blood Sugar Regulation

    Insulin sensitivity is a measure of how well the body responds to insulin after the intake of sugar and carbohydrates. Someone with insulin resistance needs to pump out increasing amounts of insulin, tiring out the pancreas, leading to high fasting sugar, and putting enormous strain on the body to heal and compensate.

    Triglyceride formation can increase, and build up in the liver, leading to non-alcohol fatty liver disease, weight gain, and increased cardiovascular disease risk. Sugar, when in in the bloodstream, is also directly damaging to blood vessels. Strategies to improve insulin resistance are some of the most important for anti-aging and high quality of life with increasing age.

    For those with some degree of insulin sensitivity, fish oil has been shown to improve insulin dynamics, and improve triglyceride levels which is often a consequence of poor blood sugar control (17; 18).

Omega-3-Index: Measuring Omega-3 Levels in the Body

One of the most important markers for overall health in the body is the omega-3-index. It is as predictive of mortality risk as smoking, hypertension, diabetes, age, and other widely regarded predictors of whole body health.

This simple home blood test lets you know the percentage of omega-3s in the blood.

Ideally, index levels should measure at 8% or higher, yet most Americans will find their levels 4% or lower, the same level that increases coronary heart disease by 30% than those with healthy levels.

Studies show that cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality decrease linearly in line with increasing doses of omega-3 intake.

Those with the highest omega-3-index levels have a 39% reduction in cardiovascular disease and a 34% lower risk of death from all causes. On average they live up to 5 years longer than those with low omega-3 levels. (19; 20; 21; 22; 23).

Fish Oil Supplements

I use the 2-gram Fish Oil Challenge as the most cost-efficient way to measure omega-3’s in the body, support them with a high-potency fish oil, and then re-test to see if they need more or can go to a maintenance level intake. Testing kits can be purchased on their own as well.

For long-term fish oil intake, I use Omega Complete – EPA, DHA, and DPA Support. DPA is a lesser-known omega-3 often referred to as the “forgotten omega-3”. It provides overlapping benefits to EPA and DHA, but also additional benefits on its own.

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