The fish have occupied the blue waters on our planet earth way before man inhabited the planet. Amongst the entire fauna living on the planet, fish are the ancient most animals that first appeared in the Cambrian era, about 530 million years ago.
Seafood has been a major part of the cuisines across the globe, since ancient times, however its importance in the physiology of the human body has been studied and evaluated only in the early 1990’s.
Advancements in Research and Development in the space of fish oils has demonstrated the benefits of consuming fish oils for a strong and healthy heart. This eventually led to the advancement and propagation of fish oil as a vital supplement.
What makes the fish oils unique?
Oil is the primary source of fat in cooking, universally. Indian and Western diets use different kinds of oils for enhancing the palatability of cuisines. Oils vary in their composition, depending on their source, and they impact all body functions.
Of all the essential fatty acids present in oils, Omega-3 fats, play a distinctively positive role in the well-being of an individual. The Omega-3 fats are made up of long-chain Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA’s), a.k.a. the good fats. These fats are found exclusively in the tissues of fatty fish found in salty waters. The proven health virtues of Omega 3 fats, reducing the risk of hypertension and heart diseases by lowering the speed of plaque formations, decreasing the risk of lowered heart rhythm, and lowering the levels of triglycerides, make them exceptionally distinct from other types of oils.
Myth: Only fish can produce fish oils.
Fact: Well… technically, yes, fish oils are produced within the fish, but the fish aren’t the only ones with unique power to produce omega-3 fats.
Other Omega-3 fat reserve sources
The sea bed is bestowed with phenomenal flora and fauna which makes them one of the most stunning ecosystems; aesthetically and medicinally. Amongst the entire flora present in the oceans the algae, phytoplankton, seaweed, and cyanobacteria are the key organisms responsible for the charismatic omega-3 stores in fish.
The small fish in the sea depend on algae and seaweeds rich in omega-3 fats for their food requirements. These fish become food sources for large fish like tuna, mackerel, herring, etc. The N3 fats gained from the small fish are stored in the body tissues of the larger oily fish making them an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
What do Omega-3 fats do for our body?
To answer this question, let us answer another question, first. What do we do when our kitchen drain gets clogged? …yes! indeed, the all-time famous hack of mixing baking soda and vinegar to clean the clogged drain.
Similarly, when our blood vessels are clogged with ‘bad fats’ and plaque, we need cleaners like Omega-3 fats to help clear the plaques and blockades to enable the free flow of blood to all the organs.
Our heart requires a continuous supply of blood for pumping it to all the other organs of the body and when this fails, it develops cardio-vascular problems like hypertension (high BP), Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), atherosclerosis (narrowing of arteries), Coronary artery disease, and hypertriglyceridemia (elevated fatty molecules in blood) leading to a heart attack.
Besides this the superfood has anti-inflammatory properties and thus is ideal in treating inflammatory diseases like asthma, allergies, celiac disease, arthritis, hepatitis, etc. Fish oils are proven to reduce insulin sensitivity in the body making them diabetic friendly.
How do the blood vessels get clogged?
Fats are a double-edged sword. Fats have a dual role to play in the sustenance of our health; where Omega-3 fats help de-clog blood vessels, over -consumption of their counterpart, the saturated fats, are responsible for the ill effects and clogging of the blood vessels.
Unhealthy fats: sources and issues
Modernization and urbanization have made living comfortably possible for humans. Meanwhile, food preferences have hinged towards conveniently available, processed foods leaving the footprints of unhealthiness behind.
Food items such as sweetened carbonated beverages, bakery items, processed foods, deep-fried foods, salty crackers, animal meats, etc. are high in sugars, LDL-cholesterols, Trans fats, and sodium. A consistent consumption of these foods leads to obesity-related disorders and accumulation of excessive fats, causing blockages and plaques.
Biochemistry of Omega-3 fats
The Omega-3 fats are composed of three important fatty acids – ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid), DHA (Docosa Hexaenoic Acid), and EPA (Ecosa Pentaenoic Acid). Out of the three fatty acids, DHA and EPA are restricted only to animal sources while ALA is available from plant sources.
The human brain and its cells are composed of DHA and EPA. They are essential nutrients to be supplied through diet, from a young age, for proper cognitive and psychomotor skills, more often known as IQ levels in children. At later stages of life, they tend to prevent the symptoms of dementia (mild memory loss), thereby reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive mental disorder, in aged people, where brain cells degenerate and die leading to severe memory loss.
What do Omega-3 fats/N 3’s do to prevent Alzheimer’s?
The Omega-3 fats in fish oils prevent the suicide of brain cells (natural tendency of aging) and nourish them for the proper functioning of the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients but are no silver bullets for health and well-being. They need to be consumed from an earlier age for them to have beneficial effects on the brain’s health.
Consuming fish vs. Fish oil supplements
Industrialization and fishing industry while have made life comfortable in several ways, the oceans have mostly not benefitted from their practices. Oily fish in the sea like herring, mackerel, salmon, etc. are the most often consumed out of the variety of sea-food. Today, these fish are found to carry toxic elements like PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins, and certain heavy metals - cadmium, mercury, lead, copper, etc. which on longer exposure can have fatal effects on the human body.
In such cases, and for vegetarians who do not eat meat, or population allergic to seafood, fish oil supplements are their best alternative. A plant-based source of omega 3 is the algal oil and is a great alternative to fish oil supplements.
How much of fish oils do we need?
One or two servings a week of the oily fish are harmless. Omega-3 fats are sensitive to heat; thus, the preparation technique is vital to minimize the loss of nutrients through cooking. Steaming and boiling for less time is advisable to retain the nutrients.
Too much of anything, good or bad, is bad for our health. Despite the benefits of fish oils, and excessive intake may lead to severe blood loss through continuous bleeding. Therefore, 1g/day of fish oil is the recommended dosage for desired health benefits.
Omega-3’s compatibility with other medications
Sometimes clash of chemicals (in pharmaceutical medicines) happens with omega-3’s circulating in our system. One such example is blood thinners. People taking anticoagulants like warfarin, Acitrom, etc. are suggested not to consume fish oils as they may increase the risk of dangerous bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke. It is advised to consult the physician before taking the fish oils if one’s consuming blood thinner medication.
Kids and Omega-3 supplements
DHA is a major component essential for the brain development at the early ages of life. They increase the cognitive skills and IQ levels of the child. Since mother is the only source to feed the child during gestation and breast-feeding periods, they need to consume the required amounts of the fish oils after consulting the physician.
Coming to kids, it is ideal to feed fish oils once they start eating solid foods, after the age of one. The supplements should be of low concentrations and should be given under the supervision of a Pediatrician.
The secret recipe to the delicious dish of well- being is the holistic approach towards healthy living. Supplements are there to support your journey, but it is a combination of practicing a healthy lifestyle- having a balanced diet, physical workouts, qualitative restful sleep on a consistent basis, are the stepping stones to leading a happy and healthy life.
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