Benefits of Fish Oil

Nov 23

by Dr. Bo Wagner on 23 November 2012 in , , , with 0 Comments

I have already written a summary of the importance of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) in Step 6 “Essential Supplements,” and recently a more detailed article on the benefits of Essential Fatty Acids. This article contains more detailed information explaining the value of EFA’s specifically in fish oil. 

The health benefits of fish oil include its ability to aid in treatment of heart diseases, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, AHDH, low immunity, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, arthritis, IBD, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, eye disorders, macular degeneration and ulcers. It also helps in weight loss, pregnancy, fertility and skin care (particularly for conditions such as psoriasis and acne). For this article I will focus more on the benefits of fish oil for ASD, ADHD, ADD and Pregnancy.




Fish oil contains the essential fats, EPA and DHA. These Omega-3 fatty acids produce anti-inflammatory eicosanoids, series 3 (PGE3) prostaglandins, and series 5 leukotrienes. EFAs in fish oil are important for membrane flexibility and synaptic cell signaling. Studies support the use of fish oil supplements for diseases and inflammatory disorders such as:

  • *Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, and Crohn’s
  • *Arrhythmias, coronary heart disease, and stroke
  • *Hypertension
  • *Breast, prostate, and colon cancer
  • *Atopic dermatitis
  • *Diabetes
  • *Regulation of triglyceride, cholesterol levels and prevention of atherosclerosis
  • *Human growth and development
  • *Mood disorders, depression, and dementia




Most of the health benefits of fish oil can be attributed to the presence of omega 3 essential fatty acids like Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Other useful essential fatty acids include Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA and Gamma-linolenic acid or GLA.

DHA plays a critical role during pregnancy, infant development, old age, for mental conditions and
peroxisomal disorders by:

  • *Maintaining membrane fluidity and functions regulating cellular receptors.
  • *Facilitating normal growth and development
  • *Participating in development, composition and function of the central nervous system.




The different types of fish which can be a good source of fish oil are mackerel, rainbow trout, lake trout, halibut, herring, sea bass, sardines, swordfish, oysters, albacore tuna, blue fin tuna, yellow fin tuna, turbot, pilchards, anchovies and salmon. The most common ones among these for obtaining oil are albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines, lake trout and salmon. The quality of fish oil greatly depends on the type of fish used for getting the oil.




With all the attention given to the benefits of fish oils and omega-3s, you may be asking if you can use fish oils for ASD, ADHD and ADD
Well it turns out that scientists now believe there may be a link between the healthy fats found in fish oils and the risk for developing autism behaviors.
And while fish oils may not be a definitive cure for ASD, ADHD and ADD, some studies indicate they may improve behavior and reduce some Autistic, ASD, ADHD and ADD symptoms.




  • Omega 3 fatty acids play a key role in the healthy development of our children's neurological development.
  •  The omega 3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is the most abundant fatty acid in our brains and retinas. It profoundly affects our neurological and visual development.
  •  Scientists believe that low levels of DHA are linked to slower brain activity, ASD and Alzheimer's disease. In fact, some studies show that a small minority of severely depressed patients have chronically low levels of DHA.
  •  Studies indicate DHA is passed to babies during breast feeding. This omega 3 fatty acid is particularly important for developing a healthy immune system and enhancing cognitive function in infants.
  •  Researchers at the Child Evaluation and Treatment Program in North Dakota discovered a higher proportion of autistic children were breast fed at fewer frequencies and shorter duration than non-autistic children.
  •  Scientists are claiming, Children with autism can make great improvements if they are fed fish oils.
  •  Scientists have discovered that two-thirds of those with autism, which restricts the ability to communicate and make sense of the world, have a deficiency in crucial fatty acids contained in the fish oil.
  • Children treated with fish oil supplements showed better concentration and their disrupted sleep patterns improved. 
  • When we treat some of the kids by replacing depleted fatty acids, we see improvement in some of the behaviors and characteristics of autism.
  • A leading psychologist, Dr. Madeleine Portwood, who works at the Durham Local Education Authority in Britain, is urging parents of children with autism, dyslexia or ADHD to give them fish oil to improve their learning powers and social skills.
  • Researchers believe there's a possible connection between low omega 3 levels and a risk for autistic-type behavior.
  • Scientists in Belgium found some autistic children have lower levels of omega 3 fatty acids than non-autistic children.
  • Researchers in France compared the omega-3 blood levels between autistic children and mentally handicapped children. They found autistic children had lower total omega 3 and DHA levels than mentally handicapped children.
  • Scientist at Purdue University compared behavior, learning and health problems of young boys with low and normal omega-3 levels. The boys with low omega 3 levels displayed more behavioral problems, temper tantrums, and learning difficulties than boys with normal omega-3 levels.
  • Another study using fish oils on autism showed promising results: Children diagnosed with either autism or Asperger's Syndrome were given a daily supplement of fish oil/borage oil for 90 days. At the end of 90 days, the children on fish oil supplements showed significant improvements in their language and learning abilities.
  • Researchers at the University of Western Ontario recently confirmed a 'gut-brain connection' to autism.
  • Scientists discovered the digestive system produces compounds linked to autistic behavior, supporting the theory that what children eat can alter their brain function.
  • Parents report that their children are more attentive, their concentration improves and their sleep patterns stabilize, when given fish oils. 


Autism is a developmental disorder with an unknown cause. According to Autism Speaks, Inc., approximately one in 110 children are diagnosed with autism, affecting children, parents and professionals worldwide. People with autism often have difficulty with social interactions, they display intense or ritualistic behaviors and they may have problems communicating with others. Some people who have used fish oil supplements have seen a reduction in autism symptoms, including improved social interactions, better sleeping patterns, decreased hyperactivity and less anxiety.




According to the Cherab Foundation, fish oil supplements may help children with speech disorders begin or improve their abilities to talk. If the essential fatty acids found in fish oil support brain development, supplementing with fish oil may help children who have neurodevelopmental speech disorders begin talking. Additionally, autism may impact communication patterns by delaying or limiting speech and supplementing with fish oil may help diminish this effect.

Increasing your fish intake can provide you with more essential fatty acids but some types of fish may contain heavy metals, so avoid certain types such as tilefish, swordfish or shark. Additionally, fish oil may help with symptoms, but it may not be a cure for all negative behaviors associated with autism, nor should it be the only treatment administered for children who have speech difficulties.




Fish oil has been shown to have the ability to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) due to the high concentration of fatty acids. If your child suffers from hyperactivity, dyslexia, dyspraxia, inability to complete tasks, emotional instability, wavering attitude, poor coordination, short attention span, short term memory, low concentration, tendency to interrupt others, recklessness, hastiness, impetuosity, impulsiveness, low IQ, or learning disorders, fish oil is a proven remedy.
Research conducted at the University of South Australia and CSIRO has shown that when children suffering from ADHD were given doses of fish oil and evening primrose capsules for 15 weeks, they showed significant improvement. Since brain consists of about 60% of fats, especially essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6, fish oil helps in improving the functioning of the brain. Further, it is believed that fish oil is useful in the normal development of the brain. It helps your child concentrate on their studies better. It has been further found that when pregnant women are given regular doses of fish oil, the born toddlers show enhanced hand eye coordination. are claiming.




Fish oil is very useful for pregnant women as DHA present in it helps in the development of the eyes and brain of the baby. It helps in avoiding premature births, low weight at birth, and miscarriage. Research conducted in Denmark, which involved 8,729 pregnant women, concluded that diet with low amounts of fish resulted in higher risk of premature or preterm babies. It is also believed that women who do not have a sufficient intake of EPA and DHA in their diet suffer from depression after birth as there is transfer of some amount of brain mass from the mother to the child in the last stages of pregnancy. Moreover, as mentioned above, when pregnant women are given fish oil supplements, the born kids show enhanced coordination between eye and hand. Thus it is very beneficial to consume fish oil either by eating fish or taking fish oil supplements, liquid, tablets, capsules, or softgels during pregnancy for the overall development of the child and well-being of the mother.




Fish oil undergoes oxidation and can become rancid, leading to formation of free radicals. Addition of antioxidants such as vitamin E, d-alpha tocopherol or natural tocopherols to fish oil can help prevent the formation of these free radicals.




Fish oil can be consumed in various forms. These include eating the fish directly by baking, roasting, frying, grilling, broiling or eating fish oil which is available in the form of concentrated dietary supplements such as liquid, tablet, capsule, pill, soft gel, etc. Also, there are various pharmaceutical grades of fish oil.




One must pay attention to the quality of fish oil while purchasing. Fish oil is obtained from almost all sources of fish - freshwater, farm, ocean, deep sea and shallow sea fish. All these fish can be contaminated with toxic compounds such as mercury, arsenic, lead, forms of calcium, furans, dioxins, PCBs, and methyl mercury, and may affect the human body. One way to guarantee the fish oil is pure and of the highest quality is to only purchase fish oil that has been molecularly distilled which guarantees that the fish oil is free of all toxins, mercury, dioxins, PCB’s, and environmental contaminants, with either Vitamin E, d-alpha tocopherols or natural tocopherols added to prevent oxidation. 




Fears about mercury and other pollutants may have caused Americans to start eating less fish. So consistently taking a good high quality fish oil supplement has become the best way to guarantying  you are acquiring your EFAs with DHA and EPA. 




Omega-3 EFAs can be added to a child’s diet with a fish oil supplement purchased over-the-counter, online, at a grocery, drug, or health-food store. If you are unable to find these or would like to purchase the supplements I recommend and provide to my clients, I have included links to these products, http://www.drbo.com/kids-omega-oils, http://www.drbo.com/daily-efa. 

The supplement can be taken one or more times every day. Children may find swallowing fish oil capsules difficult; several flavored chewable or custard-like options are available. Alternatively, adult-sized gel caps can be squeezed into a small child's mouth or "popped" by an older child. A flavored liquid taken straight off the spoon, or in water, juice or a smoothie is always the easiest for children.




Fish is recognized for its many health benefits. Fish oil with EFAs may play a positive role in helping people with autism or other communication problems with their speaking and interacting skills. Fish oil is also associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, lowering high cholesterol and decreasing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are compounds that cannot be made by the body, but are required for many crucial biochemical processes and must be obtained through diet or supplementation with EFA-rich food oils. There are two groups of EFAs: omega-6 and omega-3. The relative levels of these two groups of EFAs are critical to the health and development of the brain and the body.
Some scientists have proposed that autism, dyslexia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyspraxia are a related group of neurodevelopmental disorders that are caused by problems in the metabolism of EFAs. The idea is that, for unknown reasons, the brains and bodies of individuals with autism and related disorders have problems converting the EFAs from foods into the forms that are necessary for many biochemical reactions. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids seem to be lower in individuals with autism than in others.
It is then recommended that anyone with Autism, ASD, ADHD or ADD should supplement their diets with all natural fish oil supplements.

To Your Good Health, 
Dr. Bo

About the Author:
Dr. Bo Wagner holds a Doctor of Natural Medicine, a Doctor of Naturopathy, a Ph.D. & Diplomate in Clinical Nutrition, is Board Certified in Integrative Medicine, a Fellow of the American Association of Integrative Medicine and a former Dean of Internal Wellness & Professor of Functional Medicine and currently serves as an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Natural Medicine. Visit: www.drbo.com for more information and resources, and connect with Dr. Bo on Facebook and Twitter.

*These statements in this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your physician if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication or have a medical condition before beginning supplementation. Information contained in this bulletin is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician.
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