The extraordinary health benefits of fish oil were first discovered back in the early 1970’s when doctors in Denmark studied Eskimos living in Greenland. They noticed that they had fewer heart attacks and a much lower incidence of arthritis than the Danish, despite the fact that they ate a high fat diet. Studies from all over the world, have since shown that the health benefits come from the Omega 3 essential fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are found in the fatty tissue of fish that the Eskimos ate in very high quantities.
Traditionally, man ate a diet that was equally balanced between Omega 6 and Omega 3 essential fatty acids on a ratio of 1:1. Today it is estimated that this ratio is more like 25:1 and sometimes even as high as 50:1, with a whopping 85% of the population consuming too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3. This is having a disastrous effect on the health of the population, leading to a higher incidence of cancers, particularly hormonal cancers, inflammatory diseases and allergies.
Essential fatty acids are essential in that they are necessary for the body to survive, but the body cannot produce them itself, it has to rely on dietary sources. Unfortunately, Omega 6 is in plentiful supply in our diets today; however, the Omega 3 fatty acids, that are so essential for our wellbeing, can only be found in fish oil and not much else. Both Omega 6 and Omega 3 have very different roles in the body and it is this imbalance that needs to be rectified, either by eating more fish or taking fish oil supplements. This becomes alarmingly clear when we consider that the Omega 6 fatty acids behave in such a way that they encourage tumour growth, help the blood to clot and promote inflammation whereas the Omega 3 fatty acids do the opposite.
Fish oil can benefit the heart, the mind and the body all at the same time. Studies show it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, has demonstrated significant success in the treatment of depression, bipolar disorder and ADHD as well as numerous other conditions, and acts as an immune booster to promote general health. It has also been found to improve concentration and memory. A recent article in The Sunday Times revealed that the UK government is considering giving fish oil capsules to schoolchildren as due to a rise in the use of convenience and processed foods, they are not receiving an adequate supply of Omega 3.
One pilot study in Bradford, where pupils were given fish oil on a daily basis, resulted in 81% of pupils showing an improvement in reading, 67% in writing and 74% in Maths. Another study in Lancashire showed that pupils who took fish oil for 3 months before their GCSE exams managed to achieve one grade higher than what would have been expected.
Food for thought indeed.