What are fish oil supplements, and are they really good for you?
Fish oil is one of the most common health supplements out there, and for good reason.
Fish oil is a great natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are building blocks for many of the organs in our bodies, and what our brains and muscles use as energy. Fish oil contains two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids in particular, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
DHA is present in every cell in the body, and found in high amounts in the eyes and in the brain (especially the cerebral cortex - where it impacts neurological functioning).
Salmon, anchovies, and herring contain large amounts of DHA. Tilapia and catfish do not appear to have the same omega-3 fatty acids as other fish, so it is worth noting that not all fish contain these nutrients.
The role of EPA in neurological functions is still being explored by researchers, including its impact on mood, the stress response, dementia, and cognitive wellness.
But don’t let the fact that EPA still being researched scare you away; keeping high EPA levels is important for maintaining robust cognitive wellness throughout life, especially in advanced age.
The World Health Organization recommends 1-2 portions of fish per week in order to reap the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids: but many people do not have regular access to seafood, choose to abstain from meat, or simply don’t like the thought of multiple fish dinners a week.
Another concern for people when eating seafood is the meat’s purity. Some fish contain high levels of methylmercury, a mercury compound which accumulates in streams and oceans. The higher up on the food chain a fish sits, the more mercury it absorbs from the smaller fish it eats.
Always check that your fish oil supplement comes from a pure source, and has been processed to eliminate the risk of pollutants.
Care/of’s fish oil is derived from wild Alaskan salmon, harvested from the pristine waters of the North Pacific — and naturally free of heavy metals.
Fish oil and heart health
Penn Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania states that fish oil consistently demonstrates the ability to lower cholesterol levels, including triglycerides. They also conclude that diets high in fish oil have been associated with a reduced risk of heart attacks.
The American Heart Association states that while eating fresh fish is preferable, supplements may offer benefits to those with cardiovascular challenges, and patients should field the treatment with their cardiologist.
Individuals whose family history point to a high risk of heart disease should also discuss fish oil as a preventative measure with their doctor.
Fish oil and mental health
The effects of fish oil on mental health have been studied extensively, particularly among populations with seafood heavy diets.
Several studies suggest that fish oil might be beneficial for improving mood disorders. Mental Health America’s evaluation of eight fish oil studies reveals that the majority of the studies cite potential benefits of fish oil on mental health, while three remain inconclusive.
Reported by Psychology Today,another study showed that fish oil reduced anxiety levels in students. There is a lot of positive evidence for fish oil improving mental wellbeing, but those suffering from mental health issues should always discuss with their care provider before adding the supplement to their treatment regime.
Fish oil and skin health
Fatty acids are a growing trend in skincare, and can be found in moisturizers, serums, and even sunscreens. One 2018 study found fish oil to be beneficial for several aspects of skin health, including moisture and appearance. Fish oil may also improve the appearance of wrinkles.
Fish oil and eye health
Whether you work in an office, or just spend a lot of time staring at your phone, you’re probably absorbing more blue light than is good for you.
Blue light from electronics — including smart-phones and laptops — may damage the retina of the eye, contributing to dryness, macular degeneration, and the development of cataracts.
One of the nutrients in fish oil, DHA, is naturally concentrated in the retina of the eye, According to the American Optometric Association, fish oil may help soothe dry eyes, and clinical trials in infants suggest that omega-3 fatty acids are essential to the development of healthy eyes.
Fish oil supplements may also help protect your eyes with age. Bausch and Lomb note that a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests supplementation from fish oil supports macular health. In addition, the Mayo Clinic News Network states there are some promising studies that suggest fish oil may also assist with dry eyes.
What are the benefits of fish oil for women?
The word ‘fatty’ may scare a lot of women off using fish oil. But the fatty acids in fish oil have a number of benefits for women’s health, and — as we’ll discuss later — may actually help with weight loss.
Before menopause, many women experience menstrual discomfort every month, known as dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea can lead to pain, contractions in the uterus, and inflammation. Singapore Health Services recommends fish oil for soothing menstrual pain, and suggests that it may also assist with promoting a positive mood while experiencing PMS.
Fish oil may also assist with heart health in women.
Interestingly, signs of heart disease in women often occur more while women are sleeping, according to the Mayo Clinic, and many women who receive health care or emergency services for heart disease already show signs of damage by the time they seek out an examination. That seems like a good reason for women to increase fatty fish consumption, or consider a fish oil supplement!
Check out our article on the best vitamins and supplements for women, for more women's health recommendations.
Fish oil and weight loss
Oil may not sound like the ideal thing to add to your diet if you’re trying to lose weight, but there are some promising clinical trials that suggest fish oil may have weight loss benefits.
In one 2015 research study, fish oil’s impact on weight loss was inconclusive, but it was documented that the waist-to-hip ratio improved while supplementing with fish oil and improving lifestyle factors. Another study done on women revealed that participants taking a three gram dose of fish oil lost more weight than participants taking a placebo.
While fish oil may not be an effective supplement to spark weight loss, there is evidence that it may help with body composition goals and improving weight overall when combined with a healthy diet and exercise routine.
Fish oil and pregnancy
Upon learning you’re pregnant, it is only natural to reconsider your supplements. Is what’s best for you best for your baby as well?
DHA is an essential building block for the brain and nervous system, and studies show women who supplemented with DHA during pregnancy birthed infants with healthier immune systems.
Which is why many of the prenatal supplements you’ll see in the vitamin aisle highlight the omega-3 fatty acids right on the label.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also uniquely important for pregnant women because they contribute to healthy breast milk production. According to the American Pregnancy Association, both EPA and DHA may lower risk of preeclampsia and helps reduce the risk of preterm labor.
What are the benefits of fish oil for men?
Unfortunately, men are twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to women — and why a high-quality fish oil supplement is particularly important for males.
Men seeking medical advice about fish oil should speak to their doctor to learn more, especially if there is a family history of heart disease.
Check out our article on the best supplements for men here.
How does fish oil benefit muscles?
One of the best ways to support strong muscles is to maintain healthy joints. Without joint comfort and mobility, we can’t pump our muscles as much as we would like. Joint pain and discomfort leads to an interference in the quality of our workouts, which might result in muscle loss or not feeling as fit as we once used to be.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center notes that just one to three grams of fish oil per day can reduce symptoms like stiffness and increase blood flow during exercise, a necessity when trying to build muscle. EPA and DHA in fish oil may also help deliver essential nutrients to muscles and support muscle recovery after a tough workout, allowing for a faster turnaround time when you want to hit the gym!
How does fish oil affect testosterone?
Testosterone is an important sex hormone that plays a large role in men’s health.
It is involved with many health factors, including sexual function and the libido, bone and muscle mass, fat distribution, and even sperm development. With age, lifestyle factors, and health challenges, hormone levels in the body may change, and that includes testosterone levels. Preliminary animal studies suggest that fish oil has a positive impact on testosterone levels in the body. One such study from 2016 found that in male dogs who supplemented with fish oil, testosterone levels improved in addition to their semen quality. Studies on mice reported similar effects; however, for now the results on humans are unclear.
It seems that for now, the other health benefits of fish oil, including its impact on the heart and cardiovascular system, naturally trickle to positively influencing hormones as well. Testosterone and the fish oil relationship are still being examined by researchers.
Which fish oil should I take?
Finding the right fish oil supplement can be challenging.
Things you should look out for include:
Where the fish oil is sourced from
How many mg of omega-3 per serving
How many servings the bottle contains
Purity of the ingredients
If it contains other ingredients than are advertised
Care/of fish oil is derived from the pristine and pure waters of the North Pacific, sourced from wild Alaskan salmon.
Our cold-press extraction method ensures that you are receiving a purified product without pollutants and with the highest-possible preservation of the beneficial nutrients fish oil contains. Our production process is similar to how extra virgin olive oil is produced in order to deliver superior potency.
Our fish oil not only delivers essential fatty acids, but it also contains essential vitamins A and D. Care/of Fish Oil is a non-GMO and gluten-free supplement that contains 2000 mg of wild Alaskan salmon oil and 600 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.
How long do I have to use fish oil for to feel the benefits?
We get it. You’re excited to start your fish oil routine, right? And when we get excited, we might feel impatient when waiting to see results. Like most supplements and any healthy lifestyle addition, it takes time to feel the improvements you may experience from fish oil. Most supplements take awhile to synergize with your body for optimal results. Expect to use fish oil for two to three months before noticing positive results.
How much fish oil should I take?
Like other supplements, the amount of fish oil a person should supplement with depends on their individual health goals and needs, which is something to discuss with a physician. You can also follow the Recommended Dietary Allowance and Adequate Intake amounts as set by the National Institutes of Health.
What time of day should I take fish oil?
Taking fish oil before a meal and with a liquid can help minimize these side effects. Shoot to take fish oil before breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or with a snack any time of the day.