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What Does Taking Fish Oil Do for You?

By Mala Srivastava

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that your body needs for optimal health. Because fish oil supplements can cause side effects, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends that you should take no more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day from supplements, unless your doctor specifies a different amount. The Institute further advises that you should purchase fish oil supplements from reputable companies that have declared that their products do not contain toxic heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury.

May Help Reduce Blood Pressure

In a study published in the August 2002 issue of “Journal of Hypertension,” researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 90 randomized trials of fish oil on blood pressure from the years 1966 to 2001. In most trials, test subjects were given a median dose -- 3.7 grams per day -- of fish oil. Researchers found that fish oil reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressures by 2.1 millimeters of mercury and 1.6 millimeters of mercury, respectively. This led to the conclusion that taking fish oil may help bring the blood pressure down, particularly in elderly and hypertensive subjects.

May Help Heart Disease

The two omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid that are found in fish oil, help decrease the risk factors for heart disease, including high blood cholesterol, according to the UMMC. Fish oil has been shown to reduce triglyceride levels -- fats in the blood -- and decrease the risk of heart attack, abnormal heart rhythms, death and stroke in people who have already suffered a heart attack. In addition, fish oil helps restrict the development of plaque and blood clots, thereby preventing and treating atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries.

May Help People With Diabetes

People who suffer from diabetes often have low high-density lipoprotein levels, the good kind of cholesterol, and high triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can help boost HDL levels and reduce triglycerides and apoproteins, which are markers of diabetes. Hence, taking fish oil supplements may provide benefits for people with diabetes. If you suffer from type 2 diabetes, you may experience a slight increase in your fasting blood sugar when taking fish oil supplement, so consult your doctor before using the supplement.

May Help Reduce Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterized by inflammation of the joints. Several small studies have demonstrated that fish oil helps ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, including morning stiffness and joint pain, notes the UMMC. A study published in the January 2000 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” suggests that people with rheumatoid arthritis who use fish oil supplements may be able to cut their dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. While fish oil may help treat rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, it does not appear to slow the development of the disease.

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