Fish Oil Lowers Stress Response [Study]

Fish oil supplementation may protect the heart in stressful situations, according to a double-blind study.

Over a two-month period, Michigan Technological University conducted the study with 67 healthy volunteer test participants in their 20s who were either given nine grams of fish oil pills or nine grams of olive oil as a placebo. They were screened for heart rate, blood pressure, and other related metrics.

At the end of the test period, both groups took a arithmetic test (similar to a test administered on day three) that involved adding and subtracting numbers in their head. Their stress response was measured at that time. “Those in the fish oil group showed blunted heart rate reactivity while they were stressed compared to those who took olive oil. Similarly, the total [muscle sympathetic nerve activity] reactivity to mental stress was also blunted in the fish oil group.” There was not much difference between the two groups at rest, however.

The authors of this latest fish oil study summarized their findings: “8 wk of fish oil supplementation significantly attenuated both HR and total MSNA reactivity to mental stress and elicited a paradoxical blunting of calf vascular conductance. These findings support and extend the growing evidence that fish oil may have positive health benefits regarding neural cardiovascular control in humans.”

DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is one of the two most important omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is the other. Previous studies have suggested that fish oil may protect individuals from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. For ordinary consumption, salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines are among the cold water oily fish sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Many holistic-oriented consumers also take fish oil supplements for both brain and heart health.

Added the authors of this report, which was published in the American Journal of Physiology, “Future studies might examine the influence of longer duration (i.e., chronic) fish oil supplementation on neural cardiovascular reactivity to mental stress, with a particular focus on aged and/or diseased populations.”

Do you take fish oil supplements?