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There's Something Fishy Going On - Are those Omega-3 supplements worth it?

Omega-3 SupplementsIf you're reading this blog post and you're shopping on our Smooth 8 website for antioxidant drops to enhance your H2O, then most likely you're someone who believes in the health benefits of certain supplements too. What about fish oil and Omega-3's though? Are you convinced your body can't live without it or are you like us, interested in what science has to say?

According to the Pioneer News [quoted] this weekend and the collective analysis of 24 studies based on randomized clinical trials Americans spend approximately $1.2 billion every year on fish oil pills (and associated products). One author of the new study cited that, in 2013, an estimated 10 percent of Americans take fish oil supplements.

Touted as good fatty acids (Omega 3 fatty acids, to be exact) but although they are safe to take, some are saying that they do not offer the soft tissue benefits they are supposed to provide.

“Unfortunately, it’s a common situation,” explains Stanford University professor John P.A. Ioannidis in regards to the withstanding nutritional research issues. He notes, “What we have found is that the original papers continue to be cited well after they have been refuted. These claims do not easily die away.”

Former AHA president Robert Eckel notes that now would be a good time to reevaluate product efficacy and labels. “It would be a good time for that to be updated,” Eckel said. “Almost all studies of fish oil supplements show no benefit. I really feel this remains unproven.”

NIH’s Dietary Supplements scientific consultant, Paul R. Thomas, writes that the inconsistent articles and recommendations are due to third party prejudice.

Salmon is a natural source of Omega-3'sThomas says, “Their conclusion that fish oil Omega-3s are likely effective for heart disease is generous. Whether fish oil can help healthy people prevent or reduce their risks of cardiovascular disease when taken over months and years is still an open scientific question.”

So we went looking for more evidence to support or revoke the idea that fish oil and Omega-3's can do any good. We found on the website Live Science that the amount of fish oil fatty acids in a supplement can vary, so it is important to check the label. There are risks and benefits to the supplements, so it's important to speak with your physician when deciding whether you are likely to benefit from taking them.

1. Heart Health

When it comes to heart disease, eating fish is recommended as a heart-healthy protein, to substitute in place of red meat. There is strong evidence for the potential of fish oil supplements to help in lowering triglycerides, which are associated with heart disease as well as to lower the risk of heart attack.

But although fish oil supplements may have benefits for people at risk of heart problems, their benefit has been strongly questioned for healthy people, as high levels of Omega-3 intake been linked with increased risk for stroke. High levels may also interfere with some medications, such as blood thinners, according to the National Institutes of Health.

2. Brain Health

The Omega-3 fatty acid DHA is found in both the gray and white matter of the brain, and is an important nutrient in early development, which is why there have been efforts to supplement child foods with it, whether it be the mother who breast-feeds or infant formula.

But taking DHA supplements has not shown clear benefits at the other end of life, where studies have been done to see if the compound may actually help people maintain cognitive function as they age. Although a few studies have shown benefits in reaching certain endpoints, such as maintaining brain size, there has not been a demonstration that DHA accomplishes the overall goal of helping prevent Alzheimer's.

A June 2012 study published by the Cochrane Collaboration, a group that looks at the studies done on a topic to help make decisions for medical practitioners, found no benefit from fish oil supplements for cognitively healthy seniors, but the authors said longer studies would be necessary to come to a firmer conclusion.

3. Autoimmune Disease

DHA has long been studied in relation to immune function. As far back as the 1970s, the compound was found to play a role in the immune system and it was thought to possibly benefit patients with autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, in which the immune system is overactive. Since then, DHA has been tested in people with other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. 

But other treatments have developed since fish oil supplements research began. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society advises that patients use caution and speak with a health professional before taking the supplements, in part because of concerns it may interfere with the front-line immune-modifying drugs used to treat MS, although those concerns have lessened over time.

Findings about other immune system benefits from taking the supplement have been mixed, with some studies showing a benefit and others showing none.

For people with rheumatoid arthritis the supplements have been similarly controversial, although there has been some evidence that they may lessen the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, according to a review published in 2000 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

4. Eye Health

Research shows that the Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils play an important role in the early development of the eyes. What becomes less clear is whether the compounds may also help preserve our eyes as we age.

Age-related macular degeneration, a relatively common condition that can lead to vision loss, may be helped through the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, studies have suggested. However, recent research, including a study of 1,600 people published in 2013 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has shown little to no benefit from taking the supplements.

5. Pregnancy

Because of the need for Omega-3 fatty acids in brain and eye development, it has been recommended that pregnant women take in adequate amounts, which in some cases may include supplements.

Although there have been some concerns raised about mercury in fish, which can have toxic effects, eating fish is still recommended by many as the best source for the Omega-3s, and so pregnant women are advised to choose fish found to be low in mercury.

6. Prostate Cancer

While most studies of fish oil supplements have found few or no adverse side effects, recent evidence in studies looking at prostate cancer have said otherwise.

One such study, published in 2013 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found a link between the supplements and prostate cancer. The authors wrote that their results confirmed past reports of an increased prostate cancer risk in men who had a high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids.

The finding suggests that these fatty acids are involved in the development of prostate tumors, something to be considered in anyone thinking about taking omega-3 supplements, the researchers said.

Chia seeds are thought to be a source of Omega-3'sOK so are you more confused than when you started reading? The findings are a bit on the fence we agree, so what's the bottom line? It’s always best to get nutrients from whole food sources first and of course, there's no substitute for being sufficiently hydrated no matter what time of year it is or your general state of health. We do think here at Smooth 8 that supplementing your wellness program with antioxidant / alkaline drops is a smart move, and keeping your diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids should aid in reducing inflammation, decrease triglycerides, and lower your blood pressure.

For more tips on how you can stay fit and informed, be sure to follow us here on the Wellness H2O blog, on our Smooth 8 Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest social outlets and SIGN UP for our SM8 email list so you can enjoy the perks of special offers, new product announcements and a link to our bi-monthly articles.

Until next time, #getrevitalized and stay #hydrated!

 


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