There are endless varieties of health and nutrition supplements available. It is easy to get lost in the world of health supplements. Fish oil takes its place among this vast list of health supplement choices.
Many may have heard or read things about fish oil. There are all kinds of claims about the benefits of fish oil. What makes the news and into the public imagination is the benefit we get from the omega-3 fatty acids that are in fish oil.
What can be lost on many of us is that fish oil has numerous health benefits, and there is real since behind these benefits. Of all the dietary supplements available, fish oil might be the one you want to include.
What exactly is fish oil? How is it made? What are the sources of fish oil? What exactly are the real benefits of fish oil and taking a fish oil supplement. This guide will give you all the information you need to make informed decisions about fish oil and fish oil supplements.
What is fish oil?
Fish oil is extracted from the tissue of fish like herring, tuna, anchovies, and mackerel. These are what are called fatty fish. Old fashioned cod liver oil is one such fish oil.
The fatty tissue of these kinds of fish contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which are known to protect us against many diseases and health conditions. The World Health Organization recommends that we eat two portions of fatty fish a week to help get the omega-3 fatty acids we need.
Since many of us do not or cannot eat fatty fish in the ways the WHO recommends, there are now plenty of fish oil supplements that provide all the benefits and protections of fatty fish. Fish oil supplements are usually composed of about 30 percent fish oil and 70 percent other oils. Most of them are also fortified with things like vitamin A and D.
While there are omega-3 fatty acids in some plant-based sources, these simply do not have the same benefits as the omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish. The omega-3s derived from fish are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and do not have the same benefits.
How is fish oil made?
Fish oil is derived from species of fish called Pelagic fish. These are fish that generally live near the surface of the water. The most common species of fish harvested to make fish oil are sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon, and tuna.
After the fish are caught the processing begins as they are cut into pieces using steam. The mass of cut fish is then pressed or centrifuged into fat-free solids, and liquid that contains both water and oils.
The fat-free solids are further processed into fish meal to be used as animal feed. The liquid portion goes through another refinement process to separate the oil from the water. The water fraction is returned to the fat-free solids for further processing of fish mean.
The oil portion is then refined to remove impurities. In the final stage of processing, antioxidants are added to the fish oil as it is prepared to be put into containers.
What is fish oil good for?
Fish oil provides numerous health benefits. Studies of other cultures and their diets reveal that people who eat a diet that includes fatty fish tend to be much healthier than those who do not. These findings led researchers to explore the correlation between fatty fish and good health. Some of the health benefits of fish oil include:
The benefits to the health of your heart from fish oil are many these are:
- Increases levels of good cholesterol (HDL) while reducing bad cholesterol (LDL).
- Lowers triglycerides by as much as 30 percent.
- Helps lower blood pressure for those with high blood pressure.
- Reduces plaque in the blood that can harden and clog arteries.
- Helps control heart arrhythmias.
By providing all of these benefits, fish oil and fish oil supplements can vastly reduce your risk of heart disease and heart attack.
Can help treat some mental disorders
The brain is made up of about 60 percent fat. A large percentage of this is omega-3 fatty acids. This means that omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for proper brain functions. Research on the effects of fish oil and the brain has shown that fish oil supplements can provide benefits to people who suffer from certain mental disorders.
Some studies have shown that fish oil may prevent the onset or control of the symptoms of some mental disorders including some psychotic disorders.
Other research has found that supplementing with fish oil can help reduce some of the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
May help with weight loss
Obesity is a serious and prevalent problem in the United States. Doctors define obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of over 30. Obesity puts you at risk of developing a host of health problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Now researchers have found that fish oil, in conjunction with a balanced diet and regular exercise, can help improve body composition and help control risk factors for heart disease in obese people. Also, fish oil supplements help you lose weight.
Good for your eyes
Our eyes rely on omega-3 fatty acids just like our brains. There is evidence to show that people who do not eat enough omega-3 fatty acids are more susceptible to diseases of the eye.
As we age, our eyes may begin to deteriorate. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is common. Studies show that consuming large amounts of fish oil can improve the vision of people who live with AMD. Taking a fish oil supplement can slow the progression of AMD.
Inflammation is a natural response as the body fights infection and responds to injuries. But when inflammation becomes chronic it can lead to serious health problems like obesity, diabetes, depression, and heart disease.
Fish oil contains anti-inflammatory properties. Taking fish oil can reduce chronic inflammation and can be used to help treat many of the conditions associated with inflammation.
Doctors have found that taking fish oil supplements can reduce the expression of a specific inflammatory molecule called cytokines. This is one of the makers of the potential damage that comes with chronic inflammation.
Fish oil has also been shown to help reduce joint pain and stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis which is one illness that is caused by inflammation.
Can fight depression
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Over 17 million adults struggle with depression.
Researchers have found that people with serious depression all appear to have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. Preliminary studies show that taking fish oil supplements boosts levels of omega-3 fatty acids and thereby relieves some of the symptoms of depression.
May fight mental decline
As we age, our brain function begins to slow down. When this process is severe it is called neurodegeneration and can lead to conditions like Alzheimer's disease.
People who eat large amounts of fish tend to show a less cognitive decline as they age. For this reason, doctors recommend taking fish oil supplements to help with the health of your brain. Studies have shown that taking fish oil supplements can help improve memory in older adults.
Sources of fish oil
To get the levels of omega-3 fatty acids, you must eat the right foods. If for some reason you cannot eat foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, there are many supplements available that are just as effective. Below are some great sources of fish oil.
As with any nutrient, dietary sources are considered to be the best.
- Fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines)
- Nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts)
- Plant oils (such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil)
- Fortified foods (such as certain brands of eggs, yogurt, juices, milk, soy beverages, and infant formulas)
There are numerous safe and effective fish oil supplements available in the U.S. These are capsules containing fish oil and are usually fortified with other vitamins and minerals. Fish oil supplements are the most commonly used nutrition supplement in the United States.
How much fish oil per day?
The World Health Organization recommends that we get 250-500 mg per day of fish oil. These amounts can vary depending on your physical health.
As with any dietary supplement, it is always a good idea to discuss taking fish oil with your doctor to see how much is right for you.
People who take fish oil to help treat specific conditions may need to take more than the recommended dose.
Fish oil side effects
When taken properly, fish oil is widely considered to be safe for most people. There are safety concerns if you take fish oil in high doses. High levels of fish oil can prevent blood from clotting properly and lead to bleeding.
High doses of fish oil can also inhibit your body’s ability to fight infections. This is generally only a problem for people who are already immunocompromised.
Do not take high doses of fish oil without consulting your doctor.
Some people who take fish oil have reported the following side effects:
- Bad breath
- Loose stools
These side effects are anecdotal and do not constitute cause for warnings regarding the use of fish oil as a dietary supplement.
Fish oil FAQs
What is fish oil?
Fish oil is extracted from the tissue of fish like herring, tuna, anchovies, and mackerel. These are what are called fatty fish. The fatty tissue of these kinds of fish contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids which are known to protect us against many diseases and health conditions. The World Health Organization recommends that we eat at least two portions of fatty fish a week to help get the omega-3 fatty acids we need.
What are the benefits of fish oil?
Fish oil provides many health benefits., but most significant is heart health. Fish oil can lower your bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol. Fish oil lowers triglyceride levels. Finally, fish oil can help combat high blood pressure by lowering blood pressure.
How should I take fish oil?
Most doctors recommend you get fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids from dietary sources like fish and other seafood (especially cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines). You can also take fish oil supplements in the form of capsules that are now widely available. Fish oil capsules are often fortified with other important vitamins and minerals.
Are there any dangerous side effects of fish oil?
When taken correctly, fish oil side effects are largely inconvenient rather than dangerous. Fish oil taken in high doses can cause bleeding and can compromise your ability to fight infection. Consult your doctor before taking high doses of fish oil.
In studying the dietary habits of other cultures, scientists have come to find that cultures whose diets contain a large amount of fatty fish are generally more healthy and have a much lower incidence of heart disease than cultures that do not eat fatty fish. This led them to study the effects of fatty fish on human health.
The conclusion is that the omega-3 fatty acids contained in fatty fish provide tremendous health benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely effective in preventing or treating heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil lower bad cholesterol and keep the heart-healthy. It also reduces inflammation and fights depression.
By consuming fish oil, whether from dietary sources like fatty fish, or in the form of a supplement is great for your all-around health. Fish oil has few side effects and is a safe way of maintaining the health of your heart and brain.