Fish oil is derived from the tissues of oily fish. It is one of the most widely used dietary supplements across the world, including the US. Although supplements like fish oil capsules are big and hard to swallow, the fact that they possess a whole host of wellness benefits make it worth all the trouble. The magical bit in fish oil that’s responsible for providing numerous health benefits is the omega-3 fatty acid.
While fish don’t actually produce omega-3 fatty acids on their own, they accumulate these healthy fats by consuming micro algae from the sea or from prey fish that have already accumulated omega-3 fats. Even predatory fish – those that prey upon other fish – may have high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil supplements are made by extracting oils from mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, and seal blubber.
Different Types Of Omega-3 Fats
Omega-3 fats are also known as healthy fats or mono-unsaturated fats. They’re widely used for their potential wellness benefits. There are 3 main types of omega-3 fatty acids that you should be aware of.
1. ALA (Alpha-Linoleic Acid)
ALA is a short chain omega-3 fat that can be found in plant oils like soybean, olive, and walnut. It can also be converted into DHA, but only in small amounts.
2. DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
DHA is a long chain omega-3 fat that can be found in fish oil and breast milk. Besides being a structural component of your brain, skin, and eyes, DHA plays a major role in your cognitive as well as mental health.
3. EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
EPA is also a long chain omega-3 fat, which can be found in fish oil. It is usually associated with wellness benefits that are related to inflammation.1
Health Benefits Of Fish Oil
Fish oil majorly contains a blend of omega-3 fats like EPA and DHA. As you can’t produce these healthy fats in your body, it is absolutely essential that you consume them as supplements or food to take advantage of their numerous health benefits. First, fish oil supplements have been known to reduce blood pressure levels significantly. All you need to keep in mind is to take the right dose to ensure the desired result.
Fish oil supplements can help you keep triglyceride levels in check.2 Triglycerides are stored in your body’s fat cells and are basically your energy reserve. You stand the risk of having coronary heart diseases when triglyceride levels are elevated. Fish oil supplements are also known to be beneficial in preventing heart disease, lowering bad cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation, and promoting good cognitive as well as mental health. Additionally, fish oil is highly beneficial for people with asthma, ADHD, depression, and other such medical conditions.
The Pros And Cons Of Using Fish Oil
Pros Of Using Fish Oil
The most obvious advantage of taking fish oil supplements is its wide variety of purported health benefits. Whether you’re at risk of being diagnosed with heart disease or you need an effective way to reduce your cholesterol levels, the omega-3 fats in fish oil will do the job for you. Fish oil can also help you ease pain due to rheumatoid arthritis and menstruation. Fish oil has the potential to slow down the hardening of your arteries, which means that your chances of having a fatal stroke are reduced.
Even pregnant women are protected from allergies and immune-related diseases while taking fish oil supplements.3 Although seafood is rich in omega-3 fats, it also has a high mercury content, which makes it an unhealthy option when had in excess. Fish oil supplements are a good substitute for fatty fish when it comes to avoiding mercury. While fish and other seafood do possess plenty of wellness properties, buying it can be an expensive affair. If you’re watching what you spend, fish oil supplements are the more cost-effective way to get those all-important omega-3 fats.
Cons Of Using Fish Oil
The common disadvantages of using fish oil supplements are the fact that you need to deal with an unpleasant aftertaste and a fishy-smelling burp. You may also have to deal with bad breath, heartburn, nausea, mild diarrhea, and a rash. Remember to always watch the amount of fish oil that you take. While low doses are highly beneficial for your overall health, high doses can have an opposite effect. From increasing the risk of bleeding to that of stroke, high doses of fish oil can be hazardous to your health. A high dosage can also impair your immunity.
Quality fish oils can be pricey. In such a situation, canned seafood like sardines can be a good and cheaper alternative. But most importantly, having fish oil supplements along with any other medication like birth control pills or statins can be a bad idea. Chances are that other types of medicines can negate the overall effectiveness of fish oils.
The right amount of fish oil that you can take depends on your individual health condition and goals. To put things into perspective, you’d need to take 1–4 gms of fish oil a day to lower your triglyceride levels. On the other hand, you’d need about 9 gms of fish oil to tackle the symptoms of depression. The ideal dosage is 1–3 gms a day, with a 2:1 ratio of EPA to DHA for most healthy people.
|↑1||Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution. Harvard University.|
|↑2||Weitz, Daniel, Howard Weintraub, Edward Fisher, and Arthur Z. Schwartzbard. “Fish oil for the treatment of cardiovascular disease.” Cardiology in review 18, no. 5 (2010): 258.|
|↑3||Dunstan, Janet A., and Susan L. Prescott. “Does fish oil supplementation in pregnancy reduce the risk of allergic disease in infants?.” Current opinion in allergy and clinical immunology 5, no. 3 (2005): 215-221.|