Fish Oil And Stress
by David McEvoy
hormone cortisol through the blood brain barrier. This indicates that ethyl-epa fish oil
could help cortisol to return to normal levels, which is important when we consider
that during periods of prolonged stress, cortisol levels can remain very high and pose
a significant risk to health.

Previous Research

Previous studies have already shown us that Omega 3 fatty acids can help us deal
with stressful situations. For example, an Israeli study by Yehuda and colleagues
reported in 2005 that Omega 3 fatty acids appear to lower cortisol levels, reduce
anxiety and improve test anxiety responses. Stress and anxiety related to tests and
exams is quite common and can be a major problem for some people and the
implications are that increasing intake of Omega 3 fatty acids by supplementing with
fish oil might offer some relief. But it's when we are under sustained pressure that we
are most at risk of the negative effects of stress, particularly when we cannot relax
and allow the body to return to normal afterwards.

A study at Lausanne University published in 2003 found that after giving fish oil for 3
weeks, there was a reduction in stress hormones. Also in 2003, Dr David Horrobin
reported that EPA was effective for reducing cortisol and anxiety levels. According to
Robert Sapolsky, a neuroendicronlogist and expert on the effect of stress on the
body, sustained high levels of cortisol can actually damage the neurons in the
hippocampus, the part of our brain we use for learning and memory. Indeed, a recent
study conducted by the University of Edinburgh and published in February 2006 in the
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, suggested that high levels of cortisol
could be a cause of Alzheimer's disease later in life.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is an important chemical that is produced by the body to help us cope with
stress. It is part of the "fight or flight" mechanism and without it we would not
survive. It is at its highest level first thing in the morning and at its lowest last thing at
night. Problems arise when we are subjected to prolonged or continuous periods of
stress when cortisol levels are likely to remain very high for some time. Some of the
health problems associated with prolonged stress include:

• cardiovascular disease
• depression
• skin problems
• digestive problems
• memory loss
• high blood pressure
• inability to concentrate
• decreased immunity
• mood swings
• fatigue
• anxiety
• feeling of negativity

How can EPA fish oil help?

Research has shown that people under stress have an increased ratio of Omega 6 to
Omega 3 fatty acids in their blood. Omega 6 fatty acids are known to be pro-
inflammatory and result in an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines and eicosanoids
which can not only lead to many new health problems arising, it can significantly
worsen any existing health conditions.

Fish oil that is high in the Omega 3 fatty acid EPA helps the body to produce anti-
inflammatory cytokines and eicosanoids, reducing the risk to health and at the same
time can provide some relief for many existing health problems. The following list
represents just some of the other health benefits of EPA fish oil:

• Helps the blood flow more efficiently through the body and to the brain
• Increases serotonin levels, the ‘feel good' hormone, the opposite one to Cortisol,
the ‘stress hormone'
• Stabilises mood and alleviates depression
• Alleviates symptoms of skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema and acne
• Improves memory, concentration and mental processing
• Lowers high blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides
• Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis and stroke
• Lowers risk of sudden death in heart attack patients
• Boosts the immune system
• Reduces inflammation and associated pain of arthritis


Stress is a natural and necessary part of life and can be described as any event,
external or internal, that causes us emotional worry and/or physical distress. It is
when it is sustained and prolonged that it becomes a major risk factor for illness and
disease. Increasing our intake of Omega 3 fatty acids by supplementing with fish oil
can play a role in helping us to face and deal with stressful situations. However, ethyl-
epa fish oil in particular, would appear to be an effective, natural and safe option not
only to help us deal with stress as it arises, but to reduce the risk posed by the
potentially serious effects of prolonged stress.

Copyright 2006 David McEvoy

About The Author

Dave Mcevoy is an award winning personal trainer with over 20 years experience; for
more information about fish oil and how it can help come and visit.
, .
It is well known that stress can
potentially have a negative effect
on both physical and mental
health, but recent research
conducted by the University of
Valencia in Spain indicates that
high-grade ethyl-epa fish oil could
possibly prevent some of the
adverse effects associated with
chronic or prolonged stress.
Ethyl-epa is a concentrated and
purified form of the Omega 3
essential fatty acid
Eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA.
Researchers found that ethyl-epa
helps transport the stress
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