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Posted: March 21, 2010 12:00 a.m.

Here's to you health: Nothing fishy about fish oil claims

Fish oil is one of the healthiest nutritional supplements that one can take. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids that are easily absorbed by us and have been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes and slow the formation of plaques in the arteries. The American Heart Association recommends that healthy people eat fatty fish at least twice a week. If you have heart disease, they recommend 1,000 milligrams of omega-3s per day.

Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial beyond just helping the heart. Omega 3s contain EPA and DHA, two important fatty acids that play a crucial role in brain development, proper functioning of the nervous system and better eyesight. The EPA and DHA fatty acids derived from the fish oil are considered to be protective elements for the body and are effective in reducing the risk of developing arthritis and lowering blood pressure. A recent study by the American Dietetic Association revealed that Omega 3 acids are very effective in the reduction of fatty deposits in arteries.

The consumption of fish oil has been touted to reduce the risk of cancer of the breast, colon and prostate. It reportedly reduces the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight for expectant mothers. The consumption of fish oil during pregnancy helps reduce allergy in newborns and lower the incidence of post-partum depression.

Recent studies in Britain, Belgium and Scotland are demonstrating the effect of fish oil on psychological states. Omega 3 can increase the levels of serotonin in your brain, a chemical that seems to be lacking in depressed patients. 70 patients who were on antidepressant medication, but continued to experience depressive episodes, were studied. When given omega 3 fish oils, they showed a remarkable improvement in as short a period of time as one month. It has been shown to be helpful in the treatment of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

Another study revealed that individuals who are more than 85 years old and are voracious eaters of fish have 40 percent less chances of developing Alzheimer's Disease compared to those who don't eat fish. Researchers have demonstrated that the brain of individuals with Alzheimer's contains 30 percent less DHA than found in people without Alzheimer's Disease. Part of the Framingham Heart Study found that low levels of omega 3 fatty acids increases the risk of Alzheimer's Disease by 67 percent. For those who do have Alzheimer's, taking omega 3 acids helps to improve their cognitive skills.

Fish oil helps our eyesight. It not only improves eyesight but decreases dryness in the eyes. Fish oil slows eyesight decline that often accompanies advanced age. Fish oil has been found to be effective in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, systemic lupus and other inflammatory conditions. Recent studies have recognized a role of fish oil can play in weight regulation by reducing craving caused by fatty foods.

Fish oil is derived from mackerel, tuna, salmon, cod and many other fish. Fish oil can be consumed in it's natural state by eating the fish, preferably a cold water fish, or it can be contained in capsule form obtained in most nutrition stores. These are some of the most significant fish oil benefits, and there of others. So do yourself and your body a favor - go eat some fish today.

Dr. C. Kirven Weekley is a clinical psychologist with offices in Covington and Norcross. He specializes in the evaluation and treatment of adults for depression, anxiety, relationship problems and medical issues. He can be reached at (770) 441-9244.

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