Fats and oils are an indispensable part of the human diet. If anyone were to completely eliminate all fats and oils from their diet, then they would eventually become malnutritioned and die not long afterwards. There are healthy fats and unhealthy fats, but they must be consumed in balance. Too much or too little of either has detrimental effects on a person’s health.
The Lowdown on Fats and Food Oils
The fat components that are so vital to our health and life are called “essential fatty acids” (EFAs for short). They are termed “essential” because we have to have them in our diet and our bodies cannot and do not make EFAs themselves.
There are two basic groups of essential fatty acids: omega-3 EFAs and omega-6 EFAs.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are both classed as polyunsaturated fats. The difference between them is that in Omega-3 the last double carbon bond from the “omega” end of its molecular chain is 3 carbon atoms away and in Omega-6, that double bond is 6 carbon atoms away.
Omega-6 EFAs can cause health problems if too much is consumed and not balanced with Omega-3 EFAs such as: supporting tumor growth, inflammation and blood-clotting. Remember that we must have Omega-6 in our diets. The problem is we have too much. The key to maintaining health is to balance the Omega-6 with Omega-3 EFAs at a ratio of about 4:1 or less.
The typical western type diet has a ratio of up to 50:1.
This is where fish oil comes in. It is a rich source of Omega-3 EFAs. You could actually ingest quite a lot of it to bring that ratio from 50:1 down to 4:1 and under.
What a difference 3 atoms makes
Research has shown that the imbalanced Omega-6 : Omega-3 diet is a major part of the cause of increasing rates of illnesses which include:
- heart disease
- hypertension or high blood pressure
- premature aging
- cancer of various forms
Omega-6 EFAs are present in various different vegetable oils including corn, soy and canola oils. They are also found in foods such as eggs, nuts and pumpkin seeds. The tricky thing is that Omega-6 EFAs are healthy oils and are found in a lot of healthy foods. Remember, it is the imbalance of oils that causes health problems.
To balance the abundant Omega-6 EFAs, Omega-3 EFAs can be sourced from fish, krill, walnut and flaxseed oils (these also contain Omega-6 but at a lesser ratio). The beneficial part of fatty fish and fish oils is eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids have been found to provide many benefits to the human body.
The preventative benefits of EPA and DHA extend to guarding against conditions such as clinical depression, atherosclerosis, heart arrhythmia and attacks, also cancer prevention.
Treatment of illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, Raynaud’s disease and ulcerative colitis is made greatly effective with the addition of fish oil in the patient’s diet.
Studies performed on various groups around the world including parts of China, the Inuit and Pacific Islanders have shown that their high fish-fat diets contribute greatly to a very low incidence of heart disease among those populations.
Obviously, the health of the heart is absolutely vital to life. Since we know from those earlier studies that fish oil has a net positive effect on heart health, it would make sense to incorporate it into our diets as part of a healthy regime.
Further fish oil studies results
Most of our planet is covered in water. So it stands to reason that a significant proportion of the overall human diet comes from water-dwelling creatures such as fish. This being the case, scientists, researchers and physiologists all have a vested interest in making extensive studies of the health effects of a high fish diet on the human biological system. Following are the results of a few of those studies on the consumption of fish in the diet.
In Athens, Greece, there was a study conducted to determine whether or not there was any relationship between blood vessel inflammation and a diet high in fish and fish products such as oil. That study concluded that the test subjects who had more fish in their diets than the others showed lower levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 in their blood. Both of these are markers that are commonly used to measure the likelihood of inflammation in the body, including that of blood vessels.
Researchers at the University of Western Australia discovered that a weight-loss diet which includes a regular amount of fish consumption can be quite effective in reducing blood pressure and increasing glucose tolerance. Also in Perth, Australia, a study showed that fish consumption is effective against high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity.
Asthma is quite endemic in the modern world, with some estimates putting up to 25% of children as sufferers at one time or another. There is relief on the horizon, however, in the form of fish oil that has been shown to work very well in the treatment of asthma.
One very high correlation of asthma sufferers is that they almost all have a diet with a high linoleic acid (Omega-6 EFA) content. The studies actually link the two and state this as a primary cause of asthma.
The University of Wyoming conducted a study with child asthma sufferers by splitting them into two groups. Some of the children were given a diet containing a lot of fish, while the others, as the control, continued with whatever they would ordinarily eat. At the end of the study, they could see clearly that the children who had eaten more fish over the time period were showing far less symptoms, had fewer asthma attacks and were less frequently finding themselves short of breath.
Not so fishy after all
I hope that after reading through this article the information about the benefits and health advantages of using fish oil regularly in your diet have been made clear. Naturally, you do not want to over-consume fish oil any more than any other nutrient. It is best used as part of a well thought out diet designed for optimal overall health. Take a look at the resources I have made available and bookmark this website to read more of the most pertinent health related information.