Turns out the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil may just be a fisherman’s tale after all. According to the New York Times, at least two dozen studies of fish oil were published in leading medical journals from 2005 to 2012, nearly all of which focused on the pill’s ability to prevent cardiovascular events. All but two found fish oil had no benefit to heart health. (Find out more about what you should know about heart health here.)
However, fish oil is now the third most widely used dietary supplement in the United States—about 10 percent of Americans take the pill believing the omega-3 fatty acids will bolster their heart health—according to the National Institutes of Health. So, should we just flush ‘em down the drain? Of course not. Just because fish oil may not live up to the touted heart health benefits, doesn’t mean there aren’t other reasons to take them. You can also get the omega-3’s in these foods if supplements aren’t your thing. To prove it, here are six other ways you can benefit from fish oil.
Improve Fat Metabolism
Researchers from Kyoto University in Japan recently discovered fish oil transforms fat-storage cells into fat-burning cells in mice. In their study, fish oil supplements stimulated receptors in the digestive tract, activated the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for fight or flight responses), and prompted storage cells to metabolize fat in mice; the ones who ate food with fish oil gained 5-10 percent less weight and 15-25 percent less fat than the control mice. The researchers believe in humans, fish oil supplements might help reduce weight gain later on in life.
Eighteen- to 25-year-olds who consumed fish oil pills every day for six months boosted their working memory by 23 percent, according to research published in the journal PLoS ONE.
Improve Moderate to Severe Acne
A 2012 study from California State Polytechnic University Pomona found evidence that fish oil can improve the severity of acne. Participants supplemented their normal acne-fighting regimen and typical diets with 3 grams of fish oil per day. After 12 weeks, the acne symptoms had greatly improved for 60 percent of the volunteers.
Boost Eye Health
A 2009 study from the National Eye Institute found that participants who reported the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet were 30 percent less likely than their peers to develop macular degeneration during a 12-year period.
Reduce Disease-Causing Inflammation
A study from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in fish oil enhances B cell activity (a white blood cell), believed to prevent disease by reducing inflammation.
Reduce Impact of Air Pollution
A 2012 study suggests fish oil can help protect your heart against air pollution—good news for city dwellers, and great news for city dwellers who run on highly-polluted streets. Researchers gave 29 middle-aged adults three grams of fish oil or olive oil every day for four weeks. Then they exposed them to two consecutive hours of unclean air, after which their cardiac responses were measured. The participants who were given fish oil didn’t experience as negative an effect to their white blood cell activity. The fish oil protected the participants against the harmful cardiac effects associated with air pollution exposure.