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What is Fish Oil Good For? The Benefits of Fish Oil Supplements

Updated on January 27, 2014

What is Fish Oil?

When it comes to heart health, consuming fat-rich oils from animals isn't often considered a healthy choice. However, there are benefits in consuming certain types of fat such as fish oils. As the name suggests, fish oil is the fatty tissue derived from fish and can be obtained through specifically cooked fish or by taking supplements. Unlike other animal fats, fish oil is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid, and docosahexaenoic acid which are known to improve heart and vascular heath.

Not all fish oils are the same, however, as fish oil by itself doesn't contain these Omega-3 fatty acids. The concentration of Omega-3 is strongly dependent on the fish's diet. Fish obtain Omega-3 by ingesting microalgae or prey on smaller fish that feed on microalgae. These small plants are the real source of Omega-3 but because they are so small it is difficult to obtain naturally which is why fish oil is such a good source of this concentrated fatty acid. Fish that are found to be rich in Omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, tuna, anchovy and salmon, to name a few and are often used in fish oil supplements.

Benefits of Fish Oil

Fish oil supplements are typically used for treating heart conditions and problems with the blood system. It may be used to lower blood pressure and has been used for preventing heart disease or stroke. It is mostly known for reducing the risk of heart disease and has been proven through research that consuming fish oil will improve heart health. Individuals with heart disease may also benefit from fish oil supplements as it lowers the risk of dying from heart disease.

Fish oil is also known for reducing high levels of triglycerides in an individual:

“High triglycerides. High triglycerides are associated with heart disease and untreated diabetes. To reduce the risk of heart disease, doctors believe it is important to keep triglycerides below a certain level. Doctors usually recommend increasing physical activity and restricting dietary fat to lower triglycerides. Sometimes they also prescribe drugs such as gemfibrozil (Lopid) for use in addition to these lifestyle changes. Now researchers believe that fish oil, though not as effective as gemfibrozil, can reduce triglyceride levels by 20% to 50%. One particular fish oil supplement called Lovaza has been approved by the FDA to lower triglycerides. Lovaza contains 465 milligrams of EP and 375 milligrams of DHA in 1-gram capsules.” - (webMD)

Why Fish Oil is Good For You

Fish Oil Supplements

Obtaining fish oil directly from the fish itself can be tricky as deep frying or exposing the fish to flame will literally burn off the fat and the nutrients. However, a simpler way of obtaining fish oil is through supplementation. There are many brands to choose from and each have their specific perks but here are a few of the higher rated brands you should consider:

The Nutrigold brand has a fish oil supplement that delivers three times as much Omega-3 fatty acid compared to the standard fish oil supplement. Each bottle contains 180 softgels and each softgel capsule contains 1200mg of pharmaceutical-grade fish oil with 1060mg worth of Omega-3. The supplement is third party tested and is certified free of mercury, dioxins, pcbs, and other toxins. One bottle, if taken daily, will last you half a year.

Nutrigold Triple Strength Omega-3 Gold 1250mg

The Nutrigold brand has a fish oil supplement that delivers three times as much Omega-3 fatty acid compared to the standard fish oil supplement. Each bottle contains 180 softgels and each softgel capsule contains 1200mg of pharmaceutical-grade fish oil with 1060mg worth of Omega-3. The supplement is third party tested and is certified free of mercury, dioxins, pcbs, and other toxins.

Kirkland's Signature Omega-3 Fish Oil 1000mg

Kirkland's Signature Omege-3 Fish Oil 1000mg comes in the significantly larger 400-800 count bottles. At 300mg of Omega-3 per 1000mg capsule, it contains the standard amount of fish oil to help in maintaining heart and vascular health. Though it isn't as concentrated as the triple-strength supplements that Nutrigold offers, 300mg is still a healthy amount that, when taken daily, can last several months.

Member's Mark Omega-3 Fish Oil 1400mg

The Member's Mark brand also has a fish oil supplement that comes in bottles containing 150 softgels each. These 1400mg capsules contain 900mg of Omega-3 fatty acids which is three times the amount of Kirkland's supplements. This purified supplement is also has an enteric coating on each softgel to prevent the fishy aftertaste some may experience when taking other softgels. Though it may not have as much concentrated Omega-3 as Nutrigold's supplements, it is more affordable.

Side-Effects of Fish Oil

Despite how Omega-3 promotes good heart health, there are some risks involved when taking the supplement on a daily basis:

According to webMD, fish oil is “LIKELY SAFE for most people, including pregnant and breast-feeding women, when taken in low doses (3 grams or less per day). However, there are some safety concerns when fish oil is taken in high doses: taking more than 3 grams per day might make it difficult for blood to clot, increasing the chances of bleeding.”

High doses may also reduce your immune system, reducing its ability to fight off infections which is especially important to consider when taking alongside medication that already reduce the immune system's activity (i.e. those who had recent organ transplants).

Other side effects include belching, bad breath, heartburn, nausea, loose stools, rash, and nosebleeds. Individuals with fish or seafood allergy should not take this supplement as they might be allergic to the oils. Individuals with Diabetes might find difficulty in controlling blood sugar if the supplement is taken in high doses. Individuals with high blood pressure can take this for the vascular benefits but too much might cause the pressure to drop too low. Individuals suffering from HIV or AIDS may increase the risk of infection. And those with an implanted defibrillator might want to avoid this supplement completely as it may cause irregular heartbeats which may disrupt defibrillator functionality.

It is important to note that fish oil taken from non-purified sources like directly from a fish may result in mercury poisoning as fish caught in the wild may carry traces of mercury absorbed by microalgae. Always look for purified fish oil supplements when adding Omega-3 to your diet.

For a complete list of side-effects, visit webMD's page on fish oil supplements.

Recommended Fish Oil Dosage

As stated above, the recommended dosage that is considered safe would be below 3g of Omega-3 per day, equivalent to 3000mg. There are specific instructions that exceed the 3g recommendation but it should be taken only under medical supervision. Typical supplements are taken orally and come in 300mg servings of Omega-3 which are well within the safe dosage recommendations. Some come in concentrations as high as 900mg though 300mg is a healthy daily amount that can be adjusted based on your health needs.

Conclusion

Fish oil is scientifically proven to benefit heart health for healthy individuals as well as those suffering from heart and vascular problems. When taken as a supplement, it guarantees a controlled intake of Omega-3 which can be adjusted based on your body's needs. Supplements are available in small doses under 1g and can be taken once a day safely on a daily basis or as instructed by your doctor.

© 2014 TotalHealth

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    • TotalHealth profile imageAUTHOR

      TotalHealth 

      4 years ago from Hermosa Beach, CA

      Rasta1, thanks and hemp seeds are part of my regular diet too. Irish Moss, however, I honestly haven't tried but now that you mention it I will give it go.

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 

      4 years ago from Jamaica

      Personally, fish oil is hard for me to digest. Even as a vegan, I have tried it in the best interest of my health but it didn't work out. I know try to get omega 3's from hemp seeds and occasionally Irish Moss.

    • TotalHealth profile imageAUTHOR

      TotalHealth 

      4 years ago from Hermosa Beach, CA

      Hi FlourishAnyway, yeah I often get complacent with regard to maintaining my supplements routine as well. And I agree that some pills are quite large, thus making them difficult to swallow. However, as we know most of us do not get the proper amount of vitamins and minerals in our daily food intake and therefore should consume supplements for this reason. Personally, I sleep better and have more energy throughout the day when I adhere to a strict supplements regimen. But again, the really big pills - whether soft gel or hard pressed - are intimidating. - Thanks again for sharing. ...TotalHealth

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      4 years ago from USA

      You've reminded me I need to start taking these again. Oh, boy, the pills are so big but I just need to do it, as you've outlined here the clear health importance. February is healthy heart month after all. Thanks for the boost.

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