How exactly does fish oil help the heart? It counteracts the effects of mental stress

A study found that fish oil benefits the heart by counteracting the effects of mental stress in several measurements of cardiovascular health, such as heart rate and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA).

In conducting the study, a team of researchers at Michigan Technological University worked with 67 adult participants. At the start of the study, the research team conducted a battery of tests on the participants to assess their cardiovascular function, such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), and blood flow through the forearm and calf. These tests were conducted first when the participants were at rest. The same tests were performed again when the participants were accomplishing a mental arithmetic test, while the investigators encouraged them to hurry. This particular situation induced short-term mental stress on the participants.

After that, the team divided the participants into two groups. Each group was randomly assigned to take either nine grams of fish oil each day or nine grams of olive oil. The olive oil served as a control as it does not provide the same cardiovascular beneficial effects as fish oil. After eight weeks of the oil interventions, the researchers conducted the same tests again on the participants.

The results of the study revealed that the test results remained the same in the two groups when they were at rest. However, the team saw changes in the tests when the two groups underwent mental stress. Participants who took fish oil exhibited blunted heart rate reactivity while they were stressed compared to those who took olive oil. Likewise, those who took fish oil had blunted MSNA reactivity to mental stress.

The study suggests that fish oil consumption could protect the cardiovascular system during mental stress. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have long been known to keep the heart healthy.

“Overall, the data support and extend the growing evidence that fish oil may have positive health benefits regarding neural cardiovascular control in humans and suggest important physiological interactions between fish oil and psychological stress that may contribute to disease etiology,” the researchers wrote.

The findings of the study were published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative, and Comparative Physiology.

Other health benefits of fish oil

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to have various medical benefits. You can get your fish oil from supplements or by adding omega-3 rich foods in your diet. Here are the other health benefits fish oil could give you.

  • Lowers cholesterol – Omega-3 fatty acids, the primary component of fish oil, help lower triglyceride levels in the blood. In turn, this causes higher HDL levels, or “good cholesterol.”
  • Strengthens the bones – Another benefit of fish oil is that it can strengthen your bones. Studies showed that omega-3 fatty acids seemed to increase the amount of calcium the body absorbs and reduce the amount of calcium lost in urine, promoting bone strength and growth.
  • May relieve menstrual pain – A study found that fish oil supplementation reduced the incidence of menstrual pain. Another study revealed that women with menstrual discomfort and took five capsules of fish oil with vitamin B12 reported less menstrual pains.
  • Treats mental illness – Studies found that omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for people with primary depression. Moreover, some studies suggested that they help with mood swings and schizophrenia. (Related: Fish oil supplements prevent mental illness; safe and effective alternative to antipsychotic drugs.)
  • May help regulate diabetes – A Harvard study discovered that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil increased levels of adiponectin in the bloodstream, which is a hormone that contributes to the regulation of glucose. Researchers say that greater levels of this hormone are linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • May improve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms – Studies suggested that the omega-3s found in fish oil may help with joint pain.

Read more news stories and studies about the heart by going to

Sources include:

comments powered by Disqus