As you probably now, hardening of the arteries is the main sign of heart disease. What happens is that fat and cholesterol deposits form arterial plaques that cause the arteries to stiffen and harden. But fish oil supplementation is proven to have the opposite effect–it makes the blood vessels more elastic.
Specifically, the omega–3 fats in fish oil make the cell membranes of arterial cells softer and more pliable. As a result, the arteries are better able to expand to increase blood flow and are less susceptible to damage.
Exercise also increases the elasticity of the blood vessels. More elastic blood vessels are beneficial for exercise because they allow greater blood flow to the working muscles, enhancing performance. So what happens when fish oil supplementation and exercise are combined? Researchers from the University of South Australia recently answered this question with an interesting study.
Twenty–five elite rugby players were divided into two groups. One group took a daily fish oil supplement and the other group took a placebo (sunflower oil) during a five–week training camp. Before and after this five–week period, all of the subjects completed a pair of high–intensity treadmill running test.
Performance in the running test improved equally in both groups at the end of five weeks. So fish oil apparently had no effect on performance. However, the athletes receiving the fish oil had a lower heart rate in the second running test than in the first, while the athletes in the placebo group did not. This result indicates that fish oil made high–intensity running less stressful on the body.
In addition, blood triglycerides and blood pressure decreased significantly in the fish oil group compared to the placebo group. So not only did fish oil make these athletes better able to handle the stress of hard exercise, but it also improved their general cardiovascular health, just as it does in non–athletes.