You know this, having heard for years about the heart-health benefits associated with eating fish. There have been many studies confirming this understanding since the 1980s, as well as research indicating performance and health advantages in a variety of areas. We have cataloged some of the studies and articles that detail why it’s so good for you. For some, this may serve as a starting point for more in-depth study into particular facet of omega-3 research.
First, a brief description of the three types of omega-3 fatty acids, referred to as alpha-linolenic, EPA, and DHA. The term omega-3 is derived from the double bond at the third carbon atom from the end of the carbon chain in each of these fatty acid types. Alpha-linolenic acid is a chain of 18 carbon atoms and is found in plant oils. These are typically consumed via seeds (flaxseed, chia are examples), nuts (walnuts, almonds) and common vegetable oils. EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) are chains of 20 and 22 carbon atoms and are the fatty acids associated with fish consumption. The presence of each have been linked to both our mental and physical condition, and deficiencies in either have been noted in common key human disease ranging from cardiac disease to cognitive decline. DHA in particular is a primary component of the brain, cerebral cortex, retina, skin and testes.
Omega-3 fatty acids are called essential fatty acids because they cannot be synthesized by the human body. Humans and other mammals have a limited ability to convert one of these fatty acids (alpha linolenic acid) to the others (EPA and DHA), but fish are much better at making this conversion. Dietary fish provides a way for humans to boost their levels of EPA and DHA.
So when we talk about Omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish, we are essentially talking about EPA and DHA. What is the best source of these key fatty acids?
The evidence today points to eating fish and seafood as the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids for human performance and health. This is not to say that fish oil supplements are ineffective. Studies have noted, however, differences between populations consuming fish and those consuming fish supplements. For the athlete, nutrition is a key consideration that favors eating fish over supplementation. Fish is a great center-of-plate protein source, as well as an optimal omega-3 source. In contrast, fish oil supplements are usually consumed in addition to normal meals. When you take fish oil supplements without reducing your food intake, you consume at least 50 extra calories for a less-efficacious omega-3 dose – a good reason why a delicious fish meal at least 2 times per week is a much better alternative.
Following are two publications found at the US Library of Medicine- National Institutes of Health referring to safe, effective sources of omega-3s:
Enhanced incorporation of omega-3 fatty acids from fish compared with fish oils:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17269556
“In conclusion, fish consumption is more effective in increasing serum EPA and DHA than supplementing the diet with fish oil.”
Seafood is currently the best and generally a safe source of long-chain omega-3 oils: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257669/
Typically, fish species with a higher fat content will contain more omega-3s. Most all fish contains some level of omega-3s, however, and eating a variety of fish will help you reach your goal of maintaining omega-3 levels as well as enjoying a wide variety of delicious meals. If you want to focus on eating only the Sizzlefish products with the highest omega-3 levels, you can purchase our salmon species and sablefish (black cod). All Sizzlefish products contain omega-3s, however, and we encourage you to try a variety. Enjoying a variety of fish types and recipes each week will soon help produce positive results in your health and endurance performance.
Because omega-3 fatty acids have broad, positive effects on cardiopulmonary function and on lowering inflammation, they “get at the heart of” performance of the athletic human body, positively affecting the body during its exertion, rest and recovery phases. To use a body-as-vehicle analogy, omega-3 fatty acids are positively affecting the body’s “engine” as well as other key structural components. While many of the advantages to athletes coming from general health study results should be apparent, there are athletic-specific research results as well. Here are some examples.
Article citing positive effects on heart, lungs, and arteries, as well as reduction in inflammation: http://sircsportresearch.blogspot.com/2012/10/can-omega-3-fats-aid-performance.html#axzz2YSGIHNNz
Study citing significantly positive pulmonary effects of omega-3 supplementation of wrestlers during intensive training: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19523875
Study citing lower oxidative stress before and after intense cycling, for athletes consuming flavonoids, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin C: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21813916
Study shows omega-3s reduce severity of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction in elite athletes: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12904324
The following provide summary overviews of human health benefits, and offer a good starting point for more-detailed, specific scientific reading on omega-3 effects.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids EPA and DHA: Health Benefits Throughout Life:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3262608/
Overview of Omega-3 fatty acids, citing wide range of health benefits of fish consumption, with a good list of supporting research:http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids
Clearly the cardiovascular benefits of omega-3s alone are so significant that they stand as reasons to make sure that you get enough. Think of omega-3s as the ultimate lifetime lubricant for your engine.
Cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 fatty acids – including lowering triglycerides, blood pressure, cardiac disease, risk of stroke, as well as a faster return to resting heart rate after exercise: http://cardiovascres.oxfordjournals.org/content/73/2/310.long
Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/106/21/2747.full
N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials: http://www.amjmed.com/article/S0002-9343(01)01114-7/abstract
Increased longevity of 2.22 years w higher omega-3 PUFA levels – Harvard long term health study: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1671714
Plasma Phospholipid Long-Chain omega-3 Fatty Acids and Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Older Adults: A Cohort Study - http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1671714
Research article linking omega-3 fatty acid levels with cognitive function in children: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0066697
Seven-year study of 1,674 elderly adults shows those who ate fish and seafood at least once per week were less likely to experience dementia: http://www.bmj.com/highwire/filestream/387625/field_highwire_article_pdf/0.pdf
Nutrients for the aging eye: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693724/
50% decreased risk of Rheumatoid arthritis: http://ard.bmj.com/content/early/2013/07/25/annrheumdis-2013-203338.short?g=w_ard_ahead_tab
JPEN Journal of Parenteral Enteral Nutrition 2010 Mar-Apr;34(2):151-5. Omega-3 Fatty acids infusions as adjuvant therapy in rheumatoid arthritis: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20375422
Omega-3 fatty acids in cancer, the protectors of good and the killers of evil?: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014482710001011
Intake of fish and marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of breast cancer: meta-analysis of data from 21 independent prospective cohort studies: Published 27 June, 2013 in the British Medical Journal: http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3706
Reduced risk of prostate cancer with consumption of fatty fish- long term study 6000+ men in Sweden: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(00)04889-3/fulltext