Fish oil is a popular supplement for a wide variety of reasons. And although widely supported by medical professionals, it can still be difficult to understand which fish oil is right for you. In this article we break down the following:
Like most things, we must understand what it is to start…
Fish oil is derived from cold-water fish, like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and pollock for example. It is actually the certain fatty acids within the fish oil that are important to understand. For starters, Omega-3’s are probably the most widely discussed. Omega-3’s are essential fats that the body cannot naturally make, so we must get them from food or supplementation (i.e fish oil). The fish don’t actually produce omega-3 fatty acids internally, but rather they get them from a diverse diet of tiny plants, plankton, and other things they eat. The main omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), while the omega-3 in plant sources is mainly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Out of the three, EPA and DHA have many more health benefits.
When considering fish oil as a supplement in your diet, arguably the most important factor is the quality of the fish oil. The harsh reality is that our oceans are highly polluted which also means the fish themselves may carry harmful chemicals and toxins. It's important to choose a supplement that is free of heavy metals contaminants while also offering the right kinds and amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
Factors to consider:
The more unsaturated a fat is, the more vulnerable it is to oxidation. Long-chain, omega-3 fats found in fish oil are the most unsaturated of the fats, and thus the most susceptible to being damaged. This is why it’s absolutely crucial to ensure that the fish oil you select is fresh and not rancid. Once it has gone rancid, it will have the exact opposite effect on your body than you want it to.
In short, it is important to get enough omega-3s because the Western diet has replaced a lot of omega-3s with other fats like omega-6s. This distorted ratio of fatty acids may contribute to numerous diseases including heart disease, cancer, strokes, lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis. Multiple risk factors for heart disease appear to be reduced by consumption of fish or fish oil. Whether it is increasing levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, lowering triglycerides, helping reduce blood pressure, preventing the plaques that cause your arteries to harden, or reducing inflammation, a high quality fish oil can aid in all of the above.
Bottom line - Omega-3s fight inflammation and may help prevent heart disease and a decline in brain function. They can also contribute to normal brain, eye, and mood development. Most people are simply not getting enough of these healthy fats in their normal diets.
According to the Mayo Clinic, studies suggest that fish oil supplements help reduce joint pain caused by excessive inflammation. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have been recorded as seeing improvements in morning stiffness and general relief in joint pain to the point where anti-inflammatory medications were no longer necessary. Allowing arthritis patients to lower, if not eliminate, their dose of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) while also reducing their day-to-day pain is a powerful concept. Fish oil in relation to joint pain has been widely studied and widely supported for many years. As we continue to study the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids for arthritis the outlook becomes more and more promising.
EPA and DHA dosage recommendations vary depending on your age and health.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming no more than 3 grams (3,000mg) per day of EPA and DHA combined, including up to 2 grams (2,000mg) per day from dietary supplements. Higher doses are often used to lower triglycerides, but you should only do so under the guidance of your healthcare professional. Sourcing a high quality fish oil and making sure you are getting what is on the label is very important. It is also important to consider getting your fish oil from a smaller fish since larger fish tend to be more prone to high mercury levels.