Taking supplements can be a bit of a crapshoot, because there is conflicting evidence on the effectiveness of many products on the market. However, fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acid, has long been touted for cardiovascular benefits. Here is some of the latest research on omega-3.
Can Omega-3 prevent skin cancer?
A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that omega-3 fish oils can help prevent skin cancer. Researchers explained that sunlight can induce immunity suppression, which hinders the body’s ability to protect against skin cancer and infection. The fish oil directly decreases the immunosuppression that sunlight would cause.
Volunteers were given a 4g dose of omega-3 every day. Then they were exposed to either 8, 15 or 30 minutes of midday summer sun in Manchester, England, through the use of a light machine. Another group of volunteers took a placebo before sitting in front of the light machine. Researchers found that immunosuppression was 50 percent lower in the volunteers who took the omega-3 and were exposed to 8 and 15 minutes of sunshine. No significant impact was shown in the group that sat for 30 minutes in the light.
Researchers note that sunscreen should still be worn, but that fish oil may offer extra protection.
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Does fish oil protect against cardiovascular disease?
A growing body of research has suggested that fish oil can improve blood flow by decreasing triglyceride levels and the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaques, and by reducing blood pressure. Researchers hypothesize that a reduction in sympathetic nerve activity could be a major contributor. However, other studies have not found the same benefits, causing conflicting reports as to whether fish oil can protect against cardiovascular disease.
According to a review of 20 studies, with a total of 70,000 participants, there is no statistically significant evidence that omega-3 supplements can prevent heart attack, stroke or premature death. Researchers looked at 20 studies, which included 7,044 deaths, 3,993 cardiac deaths, 1,150 sudden deaths, 1,837 heart attacks and 1,409 strokes. Although, they said that the findings suggest omega-3 is not useful in everyday clinical practice, they do not rule out the idea that certain people could benefit from the supplement.
Another recent analysis of studies on the effect of omega-3s on cardiovascular disease came to a different conclusion. Researchers found that consumption of fish and omega-3 supplements do, in fact, help prevent heart disease. They also found that certain sources of omega-3s are more effective. Plant-derived sources, such as flaxseed and chia seeds, have less benefit than those from cold-water fish, due to the way our body processes those nutrients.