I ingest four grammes of fish oil every day. I don’t usually eat fish or meat, but obviously, the oil capsules confirm my status as a non-vegetarian. I need them though.
I certainly notice a difference if I skip them for a while. My joints get sore; particularly my knees. My Dad had both knees replaced with Robocop implants five years ago after suffering severe arthritis that made it painful to walk even a short distance. Now he can happily walk for miles.
My father is 24 years older than I am, so you can see what the future might bring. Although he suffered the knocks and stresses of being a semi-pro footballer in his youth, while I was a lazy bum. Is there such a thing as arthritis of the ass? He also smashed up one leg badly in a motorcycle crash. (Actually my very earliest memory is at the age of 3 of the big dark figure of a policeman at the front door, come to tell us there’d been an accident. We were too poor to have a telephone.)
People who suffer from depression say that several grammes a day of fish oils helps them too, but I haven’t noticed any tendency to get more depressed if I skip the capsules. Just the sore knees. But they’re also supposed to reduce the likelyhood of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.
The importance of these oils in the diet was first promoted by Hugh Sinclair in the 1970s (although he’d been researching the subject for decades by then). Famously, after observing the native Inuit diet in Greenland, he put himself on a diet of nothing but fish and seal meat for 100 days, and investigated the results. The most extreme was that the tendency of his blood to clot was reduced dramatically – a scalpel cut which previously would have stopped bleeding within 3 minutes now took 40 minutes. Internal blood clots are important causes of heart attacks and strokes — rare among the Inuit, and common in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Finland.
The most important components of fish oil are currently thought to be the essential fatty acids — omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The human body uses them for a number of different biological functions, but neither can be synthesised, so they have to come from food — hence “essential”. (If you’re a vegetarian, you probably know that there are plant sources too, such as linseed oil, although they aren’t absorbed as effectively as fish-derived ones.)
Obviously fish oils are not the elixir of life, and you have to have a generally healthy diet as well. I tend to go for a kind of Mediterranean cuisine anyway, with lots of olive oil and red wine. Cheers!