The Benefits Of Fish Oil And Our Mental Health
Good physical health has been a topic of research and conversation for decades, even centuries, but good mental health has only recently become a point of focus. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being and is all about how we think, feel, and act. It includes many factors such as how we handle stress, having a sense of meaning, and feeling confident in who we are.
Good mental health does not necessarily mean we never feel sad, overwhelmed, or anxious, but rather that we are able to cope with these feelings in a healthy manner and bounce back from life’s adversities. Like good physical health, good mental health means taking care of ourselves and investing in wellness on a regular basis. Our mental wellness can be improved by moving our bodies, connecting with our loved ones, eating nourishing food, engaging in meaningful activities, being out in nature, enjoying a good laugh, and more. We can also improve our mental health with supplements that impact our brain function. In this series we are looking at different supplements that can support mental wellness.
Fish oil is extracted from fatty fish like sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and salmon, and it is almost exclusively from these fish that we find two key fatty acids called EPA and DHA. From in utero to old age, the importance of fatty acids cannot be underestimated for good brain health. Since 50-70% of the brain’s mass is made up of lipids, or fats, it makes sense that fatty acids are essential to the development, functioning, and healthy aging of the brain.
As mentioned above, the main source for the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA is fish. The nutritional content of fish oil will vary depending on the source, but here is an example of what you would find in a teaspoon of fish oil sourced from anchovy, sardine and mackerel.
- 4.5g Fat
- 41 Calories
- 0mg Sodium
- 0mg Carbohydrate
- 0mg Protein
- 3% Vitamin D
- 760mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- 505mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
Benefits Of Fish Oil
Omega-3's have been shown to be critical in the development of the central nervous system. Fish oil has been known to affect mood because of its affects on the brain. Fish oil is comprised of essential fatty acids made of EPA and DHA, which also provide anti-inflammatory properties. Since the brain is made up of 60% fat, it is essential to obtain a sufficient amount of healthy fats on a daily basis. A lack of essential fatty acids can lead to the brain fog, low mood, impaired concentration and irritability.
Inflammation is a defensive response of the immune system to unknown pathogens. When the immune system is in overdrive and constantly reacting to substances it can lead to inflammation in different parts of the body. Cytokines, which are a large group of proteins that are secreted by specific cells of the immune system and can have an impact on mental health. When cytokines are released they block the uptake of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. The essential fatty acids found in fish oil have natural anti-inflammatory properties and provide healthy fat to support mood.
3. Skin and Hair
Fish oil is rich in essential fatty acids, which helps to keep our skin soft and moisturized. When we don't consume enough omega-3's in our diet, we can start to notice a number of effects. From dry skin, to impaired wound healing and flaky scalp. The moisturizing effects of omega-3 fatty acids are essential to maintain our skin barrier and nourish hair follicles.
EPA and DHA are an essential component of every cell membrane in the body and neurons, which transmit every message our brain sends, are also rich in fatty acids. So providing sufficient amounts of EPA and DHA leads to nourished and well-functioning cells and transmitters. The resulting peak connectivity and processing leads to more optimal brain health, and therefore, better mental health. In fact, low levels of DHA have been associated with accelerated brain aging, smaller brain size, and higher incidence of depression and anxiety. Supplementing with essential fatty acids is a great way to prevent cognitive decline in the future and improve mental functioning today.
Huang, Tse-Hung et al. “Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil's Fatty Acids on the Skin.” Marine drugs vol. 16,8 256. 30 Jul. 2018, doi:10.3390/md16080256
Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K., et al. “Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, vol. 25, no. 8, 2011, pp. 1725–1734., doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.229.