What is Fish Oil?
Benefits of Fish Oil
Fish Oil Supplements
How Much Fish Oil Should I Take?
Health Risks of Fish Oil
Interactions with Drugs and Other Supplements
Other Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Where to Buy Fish Oil Supplements
The term fish oil commonly refers to oils that contain the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) usually found in the tissues of fish, particularly cold-water oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, halibut, tuna, trout, sardines, and anchovies.
EPA and DHA are also found elsewhere, including in other animals and phytoplankton, but fish have the highest levels of these omega-3 fatty acids and are the cheapest and most common source.
While omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish, the fish themselves do not produce the oils — rather, they acquire the oils from having a diet consisting largely of algae, plankton, or prey fish.
Fish oil capsules are a dietary supplement staple for most health enthusiasts, as opposed to rarer supplements like kratom or kava, which have had little research done at present.
The human body doesn’t produce its own omega-3 fatty acids. Because of the omega-3 fatty acids content, fish oil consumption has a wide-variety of associated benefits, such as an improved cardiovascular system from healthier blood vessels, a lower lipid count, and reduced plaque buildup. There’s evidence to suggest fish oil lowers high triglycerides. In addition, fish oil may decrease a person’s chance of getting certain forms of cancer.
One of the most well-known and scientifically acknowledged benefits of fish oil is its ability to reduce pain and swelling (similar to the benefits of kratom) due to inflammation in the body. This trait is likely why it’s effective for certain conditions that are related to inflammation.
Fish oils, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, have earned a reputation as being healthy for the brain, with anecdotal reports claiming fish oil can be used to prevent the decline in brain function that’s caused by normal aging as well as progressive brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Some have even gone as far as to call fish oil supplements a “nootropic,” though much more research would be needed to support this claim.
While fish oil has been studied extensively and there is wide-spread speculation over the benefits for many conditions — including depression and anxiety, heart disease, strokes, eye problems (dry eyes, glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc.), osteoporosis, and cancer (such as breast cancer) — not enough evidence exists to verify these benefits. More research is needed.
The following is a list of conditions on which fish oil may have a positive effect:
- Eye conditions (particularly age-related macular degeneration)
- Miscarriage prevention for certain pregnant women
- Depression (especially in combination with standard anti-depressants)
- Bipolar disorder
- Menstrual pain
- High blood pressure
- Unintentional weight loss (particularly when associated with cancer)
- Poor circulation
While these possible benefits are promising to the medical community and general public, more research is needed in order to verify the claims.
In addition to eating fatty fish, fish oil can be added to a person’s diet by taking supplements. Extracted from the tissues of fish and then packaged in liquid or pill form, often as softgels, fish oil is sold over the counter and is becoming one of the most popular health supplements available today.
How much fish oil a person should take varies. A standard dose as a general health supplement is around 1-2 grams (1,000-2,000 mg), with EPA at around 400-800 mg and DHA around 400-600 mg.
It’s always good to have all the info you can about a supplement before trying it out. Fish oil is seen as generally safe for most people at low to moderate doses. Large doses of fish oil have been known to thin the blood significantly, preventing it from clotting and increasing the chance of bleeding. In addition, high doses have the potential to reduce immune system function, which can be problematic for the elderly and those with already-weakened immune systems.
Consuming large amounts of fatty fish or even some low-quality fish oil supplements can increase a person’s risk of consuming contaminates. Any fat-soluble toxin can be stored in the tissues of fish. Certain fish, particularly fatty fish that are predatory and those that “bottom-feed,” may have accumulated higher concentrations of toxic substances, such as mercury.
Unfortunately, fish oil supplements can contain the same contaminants as the fish. However, this is highly dependent on the quality of the product, the fish source and methods of processing. As stated above, difference kinds of fish will have varying levels of toxins, with non-predatory and surface fish the safest to use.
Taking fish oil supplements can cause certain side effects, including:
- Skin problems
- Bad breath
However, these potential side effects can largely be averted with proper dosing and taking only high quality fish oil supplements.
There are some interactions with certain medications and supplements. As always, consult with a doctor before starting or stopping any drug or supplement, and when combining drugs and supplements.
- Contraceptive drugs (Birth control pills): Evidence has emerged that pills for birth control may alter the positive effects of fish oil, such as its ability to lower triglycerides.
- High blood pressure medication/supplements: Fish oil has the ability to lower blood pressure. When used in combination with medications or supplements for high blood pressure, a person’s blood pressure could potentially lower too much.
- Anticoagulants (Medications/supplements meant to slow blood clotting): Fish oil can reduce the blood’s ability to clot. When used in combination with medications or supplements that slow clotting, bleeding may occur.
To be safe, particularly if you take any of the above medications or supplements, consult with a doctor before taking fish oil pills.
While the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are mainly found in fish, the other omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can be found in certain oils (like vegetable), nuts, flax seeds, and leafy vegetables.
Because of the abundance of ALA in more types of foods, it is much more common in Western diets. ALA can be converted into EPA and DHA by the human body, but it doesn’t happen in a large enough quantities to really make a difference, which is why people usually need to consume fatty fish or take fish oil supplements to get the full benefits of EPA and DHA.
Fish oil pills are one of the most common and heavily-researched health supplements on the market. They are sold over the counter and can be found in virtually every health and supplement store in the world.
Fish oil supplements can also be found over the Internet, usually at great prices and conveniently shipped right to your door, from online superstores like Amazon.
It’s important to note that fish oil supplements can vary in quality depending on the brand. Lower quality products will increase a person’s risk of consuming contaminants and may have fishy aftertastes with unpleasant belching. To avoid side effects like this, choose your fish oil product carefully.
A good general rule of thumb: Often a higher price indicates a higher quality product. However, this is not always the case. When in doubt, search for nutritional info and costumer reviews on any product you are thinking about buying and, as always, consult a doctor before taking any new supplements.