What is Fish Oil and Why is it Helpful?
Fish oils are full of Omega-3 fatty acids. The fatty acids from fish are found just below the skin of the fish and from the liver of the fish. These fatty acids are also found in lower doses from plants and various vegetables. Our body cannot make these beneficial fats so we need to get them through our diet. Fatty acids are good fats that help fuel our cells with energy and muscular contraction. They’re important to the heart muscle and skeletal muscles and are generally water soluble. Some symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency may be fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, moods swings, depression and poor circulation.
Fish Oil Benefits
Some health benefits include its ability to aid in the treatment of heart diseases, stroke, high cholesterol, depression, cancers, diabetes, chronic joint pain, neurological diseases, MS, osteoporosis, fertility and pregnancy, fat loss and weight control, inflammation, ADD, healthy skin (especially psoriasis and acne), brain trauma, IBD, macular degeneration and ulcers. Some health issues benefited from a higher dose prescribed by a doctor. However, high dosages of fish oil supplements may have harmful side effects, such an increased risk of bleeding, easy bruising and nose bleeds, whereas low dosages generally have little to no associated side effects.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are extremely important to the overall health of our minds and bodies. They work by lowering the body’s production of triglycerides; high levels of triglycerides can lead to coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and stroke.
Here are a few simple rules to follow in order to choose the highest quality fish oil supplement:
– The fish oil must contain Omega-3 fatty acids, not just “fish oil.” Remember, it is from the Omega-3 fatty acids that we receive health benefits.
– The supplement should list the total amount of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) on the label. You want to get a supplement where the total of the EPA and DHA adds up to the total amount of oils in the product. If there is only 350 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids but the capsule is 1,000 mg, what kind of oil makes up the missing 650 mg? The higher the EPA/DHA the better the supplement.
– Ideally, the oil should be pressed only from the flesh of the fish. Some supplements are pressed from heads, tails, or internal organs. You wouldn’t eat these parts on a fish if you were obtaining your Omega-3 fatty acids via the food source. Thus, you shouldn’t want a supplement made out of the inedible parts of the fish either.
– The fish used for the oil should be health screened and disease free. This means the manufacturer needs to know where their fish is coming from and must assess the fish before including them in their processing plant.
-Be sure the supplement you buy is GMP (good manufacturing practice) certified; it will say it on the label.
The amount of fish oil one should take depends heavily on the reasoning behind their consumption of fish oil. Dosage should always be discussed with your medical doctor, and should be discussed especially if taking fish oil for a specific medical condition. Fish oil may also interact with some medications so before you begin taking it, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it will be safe to add to your diet with medications you may already be taking or a medication that is prescribed to you while you consume fish oil supplements. If you’re allergic to shellfish or seafood you need to be cautious as well. If you are in fact allergic omega-3 oils can also be obtained through vegetable oil such as canola, flax seed oil and walnuts.
In short, fish oils are healthy and beneficial and as with everything, moderation is key. Many of us become either addicted to, or overwhelmed by supplements. In my opinion, eating a well balanced diet that will supply you with all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients from the food directly is the best way to supplement. That said, I myself take a fish oil supplement because I don’t eat nearly enough small, wild caught, cold water fish on a weekly basis so I choose to add it through supplementation.
If you’re curious about how it may benefit you, try a self-study. If you’re generally healthy but exhibit one or more of the omega-3 deficiency symptoms described above, try a good quality fish oil supplement for 1-3 months and decide for yourself. And as always, check with your doctor if you have concerns or are taking medications.