Fish oil: Everything you need to know about the nutrient



About everyone take an omega-3 supplement like fish oil regularly, according to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, and it’s easy to understand why.

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil — a substance naturally found in certain types of fish — are essential to normal growth and development as well as reducing inflammation in the body and maintaining brain function.

They can also help treat and prevent a variety of health issues. But this doesn’t mean that you should start loading up on fish oil supplements, especially if you’re already a regular eater of oily fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring.

If you think that changing your diet or that taking a fish oil supplement could be good for your health, then make sure you talk to your doctor to work out a regimen.

But before you even consider taking fish oil, there are some important things to know.

History of fish oil

Your heart rate can tell you a lot about your health, but so can your diet. More than 50 years ago, scientists found that the diets of people who ate lots of fatty fish — notably Greenland’s native Inuit population — led them to have lower rates of mortality from coronary heart disease when compared with Danish and American people.

Health benefits of fish oil

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can help prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease and other ailments. Research has shown that additional benefits of omega-3 in fish oil include the prevention of eye ailments like macular degeneration and even protection against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Below are some other benefits of fish oil:

1. Can treat high triglyceride levels

One of the main benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil is treating high blood triglyceride levels. If you have high triglyceride levels, that essentially means that you have too much fat in your blood, which can lead to stroke and other ailments.

2. Can lower risk of heart disease

Working out can have a positive effect on your heart health, but so can adding more fish to your diet. Eating fish just twice per week can lead to lowered risk of developing heart disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.

3. May help ease rheumatoid arthritis

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help reduce inflammation, and many people take fish oil supplements to help with symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Some studies show that fish oil may aid in joint stiffness, pain and tenderness for those with rheumatoid arthritis.

4. Could be beneficial in a prenatal diet

There are many foods pregnant women should add to their diet. The fatty acids found in fish, for example, are important for a developing baby’s brain both before and after birth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends eating two servings of fish per week before birth and while breastfeeding. Note that there are certain fish that should be avoided during pregnancy because of higher levels of mercury.

Be conscious of mercury contamination

If you’re concerned about mercury poisoning from consuming fish or a fish oil supplement, the FDA recommends sticking to options like canned light tuna, salmon or shrimp and avoiding orange roughy, swordfish and bigeye tuna.

Consult with your doctor

If you have symptoms that sound like they can be eased by taking a fish oil supplement, you should always ask your doctor first before starting a new supplement. Your doctor will be able to determine what your dosage should be or whether or not you need a prescription omega-3 medication.

There are two types of omega-3s in fish oil

There are two primary types of fatty acids found in fish: EPA and DHA. Both of these fatty acids may prevent cognitive decline and may improve cardiovascular function and fetal development. You can get them from a variety of other sources.

One dosage doesn’t fit all

For patients with no signs of an unhealthy heart, the American Heart Association recommends eating oily fish at least twice a week and adding foods such as flaxseeds and walnuts to your regular diet. Anyone with documented coronary heart disease should consume about 1 gram of EPA and DHA per day from oily fish and should talk with a physician about taking supplements. Meanwhile, patients with high triglyceride levels should be getting 2 to 4 grams of EPA and DHA through capsules every day.