Deep sea stress relief

It’s amazing to think the first report on the heart health benefits of fish oil was published all the way back in the 1970’s.

With more than four decades under our belt, you’d think we would be further along than we are now. Sure, we have a qualified health claim from the FDA–so I guess that’s something.

But just think about the countless lives that could have been saved had everyone hopped on the fish oil bandwagon so many years ago.

Over the last half century, research has linked fish oil to better cholesterol levels, balanced blood pressure, and improved vascular function. And that’s just the short list.

Now, a new study is showing that fish oil is able to do all of this in part because it lowers the toll that mental stress takes on your cardiovascular system.

It makes sense, when you think about it. Taking very high doses of fish oil–in the range of 9 to 12 grams per day–can combat depression. So obviously, it does something positive to your brain chemistry.

In this study, 9 grams of fish oil (containing 1.6 grams of EPA and 1.1 grams of DHA) per day significantly reduced stress-related heart rate changes. It also lowered total muscle sympathetic nerve activity. (Your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for your body’s “fight or flight” response.)

Even better, fish oil managed to achieve these effects in just eight short weeks.

This is pretty exciting news. We’ve known for a long time now that high stress levels can send your mental and physical health into a tailspin. And there’s no question that this is one reason why heart disease remains a leading killer in this country.

In fact, another recent study shows that if you even think stress is chipping away at your health, you’re probably right.

Researchers analyzed data from large cohort of over 7,000 middle-aged British men and women. Subjects responded to questionnaires asking to what extent they thought that stress levels were adversely affecting their health.

Results revealed a deadly side of the mind-body connection. As it turns out, your own perceptions of what stress is doing to your body can wind up being a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Subjects who answered that stress is affecting their health “a lot” or “extremely” were more than twice as likely to die from a heart attack over the 18-year follow-up period.

At the end of the day, stress kills–in more ways than one. Far too many people reach for anti-anxiety medications to try to manage this problem. And they wind up messing with their brain’s chemical balance in untold ways.

Meanwhile, a daily dose of fish oil may be all you need.

It’s remarkable, really. We’re only starting to scratch the surface of all the benefits that this simple supplement can deliver. As you’ve heard me say, time and again, taking fish oil is an absolute no brainer.

The dose I recommend to all of my patients is 1,500 mg of EPA/ DHA twice per day. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Please do not be fooled into thinking you are getting a high potency fish oil until you look at the supplement facts.

The key component to any fish oil product is the levels of EPA and DHA. So make sure you’re getting the proper amounts.

Fish oil and neurovascular reactivity to mental stress in humans. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2013 Apr 1;304(7):R523-30.
Increased risk of coronary heart disease among individuals reporting adverse impact of stress on their health: the Whitehall II prospective cohort study. Eur Heart J. 2013 Jun 26. [Epub ahead of print]