Research and the role of Omega-3 fatty acids in growth, development and in health and disease has expanded over the past 15 years. In the 1950s the emphasis was on vegetable oils and their high cholesterol effects. Today there has been an important shift to investigate the important functions of Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) from fish oils or fish, in the possible prevention of such conditions as hardening of the arteries, inflammation, blood clot formation and even cancer.
Diets today are high in Omega-6 fatty acids because of the increased production of oils from oil seeds such as corn, safflower, cottonseed, and other vegetable oils for cooking. Over the past 40 years, there has been an increase in hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated oils increase cholesterol and lower HDL (good lipids). The increase in consumption of saturated fats from animal sources and hydrogenated vegetable oils has led to a drastic reduction in EPA intake.
Numerous studies involving animals and humans indicate that the ingestion of fish or fish oils may play some role in managing healthy blood lipid levels. They also show populations with a high consumption of fish, such as Eskimos and Japanese have lower rates of heart disease and may in fact prevent atherosclerosis. Studies in 1983 show EPA may have a positive effect on the joint health, healthy skin, digestion and elimination, and respiratory health. Therefore, regular ingestion of EPA should have a beneficial effect on numerous health conditions, which may include inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, colon health, and a healthy heart.