If you want more omega-3 in your diet and don’t like fish, you won’t be the first to consider a more convenient option: fish oil supplements. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 80% (approximately 19 million Americans) take some kind of over-the-counter (OTC) fish oil supplement.
In addition to being more convenient, research has shown that fish oil supplements are less likely to contain contaminants than fish due to the purification that occurs during the manufacturing process. Over-the-counter fish oil contains EPA and DHA, the two omega-3s found in fish.
Over-the-counter fish oil supplements are different from supplements prescribed for people with very high triglycerides, including Lovaza (omega-3 ethyl ester), Vascepa (eicosapentaenoic acid ethyl ester), and Epanova (omega-3-carboxylic acid) ).
Studies have shown that fish oil may have the following benefits.
Arthritis and autoimmune diseases
It has been found that fish oil can effectively treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) symptoms by reducing morning stiffness, joint tenderness, and the number of swollen joints and regulating the immune response. Fish oil can also help control cardiovascular risk factors, which is important because RA patients have an increased risk of heart attack.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, fish oil can also be used to:
- Knee osteoarthritis
- Raynaud’s Syndrome
Although fish oil cannot prevent heart attacks or strokes, studies have shown that it can reduce some of the risk factors associated with these two conditions, including:
- Increase “good” HDL cholesterol
- Lower triglycerides
- Slightly lower blood pressure
- Slow down the progression of atherosclerosis (atherosclerosis)
- Reduce abnormal heart rhythms or arrhythmias
If you are taking fish oil because you have high triglycerides, a fat associated with an increased risk of heart disease, your doctor may prescribe a fish oil, such as Lovaza. Prescription fish oil capsules contain highly purified fish oil, which has a higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids than most over-the-counter fish oil capsules.
Studies have shown that fish oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA may help treat depression. Epidemiological studies have shown that the lack of omega-3 fatty acids or the imbalance of the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids may be related to the increased incidence of depression. In addition, a few well-designed small studies support the use of fish oil as a supplement to antidepressant treatment.
Although more research is needed to determine its effectiveness, fish oil has also been studied for the treatment of the following mental illnesses:
Possible side effects
The side effects of fish oil occur most often when people take supplements in high doses (more than 3 grams per day). In other words, the more you take, the greater the chance of side effects, which is why it is important to consult your healthcare provider before taking fish oil supplements.
The most common side effects include:
- stomach ache
- Spit out a fish-like aftertaste (“fish meat”)
If you are already taking anticoagulants (“blood thinners”) such as coumarin (warfarin) or Plavix (clopidogrel), the high doses of omega-3 fats in fish oil supplements will slow blood clotting and increase Risk of bleeding or bruising. It can also lower the body’s immune system or its ability to resist infection.
Dosage and preparation
How much fish oil you take depends on your age, gender, and specific health conditions, so it is best to consult your healthcare provider before taking these supplements. Fish oil should be taken whole, taken with food and water, and must not be broken and sprinkled into food or liquid.
The US Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than 3 grams (3,000 mg) of EPA and DHA per day, including dietary supplements of up to 2 grams (2,000 mg) per day. Higher doses are usually used to lower triglycerides, but you can only do so under the guidance of your healthcare professional.
High doses of fish oil can cause bleeding problems, especially when you are taking coumarin (warfarin) or other anticoagulant drugs and immune function problems.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Comprehensive Medicine, it is not yet clear whether people who are allergic to seafood can safely consume fish oil.
What to look for
Although fish oil is easily available in health food and pharmacies, it is important to consult your doctor before you start taking it. When buying fish oil supplements, the best way to tell if the product is reputable is to read the label. Avoid any products that claim to “cure depression” or “reduce the risk of heart disease.”
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is illegal to “sell dietary supplement products as products that treat or cure specific diseases or relieve symptoms of diseases”.
Look carefully at the added ingredients, such as fillers, binders, and flavoring agents. The National Institutes of Health pointed out that fish oil supplements should also contain a seal of approval from a third-party testing agency to certify the level of purity. The three giants include the United States Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com and NSF International. Although this seal of approval does not guarantee that fish oil is safe or will work, it does guarantee that there are no harmful levels of contaminants and that the product contains the ingredients listed on the label.
Another way to identify high-quality fish oil is through its smell and taste.Fish oil shouldn’t Smell or taste the “fishy smell.” If this is the case, it indicates that the fish oil is beginning to degrade and deteriorate. A strong smell may also indicate that artificial flavors have been added to the product.
Of course, the best source of omega-3 fatty acids comes from fish, especially wild fish that eat a lot of omega-3 algae. Smaller cold-water fish, such as herring, mackerel, salmon, and sardines, are your best choice. Larger fish and farmed fish may accumulate toxins in their tissues. Mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and pesticide residues are the toxins of most concern. However, for most people at this time, the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks.
Other good dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Nuts and seeds (flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts)
- Vegetable oil (linseed oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil)
- Fortified foods (eggs, milk, cereals and orange juice)