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New Years’ resolutions are hard to keep. It’s true—while nearly half of Americans make them, by early February most have abandoned their good intentions. Maybe you resolved to lose weight, be more active, or just be healthier. Or maybe you are like me, and shun resolutions altogether, but would still like to be healthier in 2017. Here’s a piece of good news for everyone, no matter what your resolution for better health was (or wasn’t): you can be healthier this year, and with little effort. How? Start taking fish oil. It’s really that simple!
The omega-3 fats found in fish oil, EPA and DHA, are essential for good health. They influence weight, strength and muscle building, mobility, brain health, cardiovascular health, and so much more. There are studies investigating their role in weight loss; chronic pain; learning and behavior in children; diabetes; neurogenesis; age-related macular degeneration; immunity; osteoarthritis; heart failure; and depression.1 So whatever area you want to improve on this year, from head to toe, fish oil will likely help.
Losing weight tops the resolution “to-do” list each year. And while losing weight to fit into your skinny jeans is a noble cause, the health implications go far beyond looking good. Carrying around extra weight increases your risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.2 Dropping those extra pounds becomes more important when you consider that. Fish oil can help!
A number of studies have shown that the omega-3s in fish oil support weight loss, in part by reducing the proliferation of fat cells, preventing the accumulation of fat, and improving insulin and glucose tolerance.3 4 And now, two new studies have discovered that fish oil can prompt fat storage cells to act like fat burning cells. To explain: our bodies have both brown fat cells and white fat cells—brown fat’s job is to burn fat to maintain body temperature, while white fat’s job is to store fat for future energy use. The studies confirmed that fish oil causes white fat to act like brown fat, which may reduce weight gain in middle age.5 6
Building muscle mass is important to looking and feeling good in your body and supporting healthy glucose metabolism, but it is also important in maintaining mobility and the ability to remain active throughout life. Know what can support muscle building? You guessed it! Fish oil! Studies looking specifically at older adults (60 and older) have found that fish oil supplementation increases muscle mass and improves strength, especially when combined with strength training exercise.7 8 Much of the research has focused on muscle building in older populations because muscle loss presents such a problem; however, there is also research that shows omega-3s, when taken with protein, increases muscle synthesis in healthy middle-aged men and women too, even when they didn’t engage in regular physical activity.9
Okay, so maybe improving brain health wasn’t at the top of your to-do list for 2017, but it should be! What does an unhealthy brain look like? It can manifest as anxiety, depression, addiction, inability to focus, forgetfulness, uncontrollable temper, aggressive behavior, or dementia, to name a few. And the omega-3s have been shown to help with each of these issues. The omega-3 fat DHA comprises up to 30% of fat in the brain, influencing nerve transmission and cellular communication—low levels of DHA can negatively affect brain function. In young and old alike, the omega-3s have proven to improve cognition, learning, attention, focus, and memory. They also have a positive effect on mood and mental health, particularly in depression and stress and anxiety. One study found EPA to be as effective as Prozac in reducing the symptoms of depression.10 And research has also shown that omega-3 supplements reduce both anxiety and stress-induced inflammation.11 The anti-inflammatory docosanoids produced by DHA are also thought to function as neuroprotectins in the brain, protecting brain cells from inflammation and oxidative damage, which are thought to play a role in the development of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.12
As we move further into this new year, don’t feel guilty if you’ve strayed from your resolution! Look forward and focus on improving whole body health, one step at a time. A perfectly easy place to start is with a fish oil supplement. One survey concluded that each year 84,000 deaths are attributable to low-dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake—start your total health makeover with fish oil today!13 14