Fish Oil

Fish Oil: Health Benefits, Risks, Side Effects?

Table of Contents

What is Fish oil?

Fish oil is derived from various types of fish and is packed with two vital omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA). Fish oil mainly stems from its omega-3 fatty acid content. Fish rich in these oils include mackerel, herring, tuna, and salmon. Since the body doesn’t produce many omega-3 fatty acids on its own, consuming them found from external sources is important. Omega-3 fatty acids help alleviate pain and swelling and they also prevent blood from clotting too easily.

Nutritional Profile

Fish oil is taken from oily fish like herring, anchovies, and mackerel. It has omega-3 fatty acids, which are very good for your health. Fish oil is about 30% omega-3s and also has vitamins A and D. It gives better health benefits than plant-based omega-3 sources. The main types of omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In plants the main type is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It’s important to get enough omega-3s because the typical Western diet often replaces them with other facts which can cause health problems. If you can’t eat enough fish, taking supplements can help. 

What are the Health Benefits of Fish Oil?

May Support Heart Health

Research shows that people who eat a lot of fish have much lower rates of heart disease. Eating fish or taking fish oil can reduce several risk factors for heart disease. Fish oil benefits heart health by helping to: 

  • Lower cholesterol 
  • Lower triglycerides   
  • Reduced blood pressure 
  • Prevent plaques that harden arteries

There is good evidence that omega-3 may help reduce the severity of and deaths from heart disease. More research is needed to find out if omega-3 helps prevent strokes or reduce deaths from strokes. 

May Help Treat Certain Mental Health Conditions

If you measure the brains without any fluid, about 20% of it is made up of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3. This makes omega-3s essential for normal brain function. Research suggests that people with certain mental health conditions have lower omega-3 levels in their blood. Having more omega-3s might help prevent or improve symptoms of some mental health conditions, like depression. 

May Support Eye Health

Evidence shows that people who don’t get enough omega-3s have a higher risk of eye disease, except for dry eye disease. Additionally, eye health often declines with age, which can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Eating fish is linked to a lower risk of AMD, but the results from taking fish oil supplements are less clear.

May Reduce Inflammation

Because fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties, it may help treat chronic inflammatory conditions. For instance, increased weight or stress can sometimes lead to higher levels of inflammation. However, the role of omega-3 in treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is still not fully understood. Fish oil supplements can help reduce joint pain, stiffness, and the need for medication in people with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition that causes joint pain. 

May Support Healthy Skin

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and contains a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil supplements may be beneficial for various skin disorders, including psoriasis and dermatitis. 

May Support Pregnancy and Early Life

Omega-3s are important for early growth, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy and beyond. Taking fish oil supplements while pregnant or nursing may help improve the child’s cognitive development, though more research is needed to confirm this. Additionally, taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy and nursing may improve the infant’s visual development and help reduce the risk of allergies. 

May Reduce Liver Fat:

Your liver processes most of the fat in your body and can affect weight gain. Fish oil supplements can improve liver function and reduce inflammation, which may help alleviate symptoms of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and reduce the amount of fat in your liver. 

May Improve Attention and Hyperactivity in Children

Severe neurodevelopmental conditions in children, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), involve hyperactivity and inattention. Fish oil supplements might help improve hyperactivity, inattention, impulsiveness, and aggression in children. This could be beneficial for early learning. However, more research is necessary. 

May Help Prevent Symptoms of Mental Decline

People who consume more fish often have a slower decline in brain function as they age. A meta-analysis of 48 studies conducted in 2023 found that omega-3 supplements may reduce the risk of dementia and age-related cognitive decline by up to 20%. 

May Improve Asthma Symptoms and Allergy Risk

Asthma, a condition characterized by lung inflammation and difficulty breathing is becoming more prevalent. Research indicates that omega-3 may assist in reducing inflammation associated with asthma, alleviating symptoms, severity and potentially decreasing the need for asthma medications. However, further research is required to validate this effect.

May Improve Bone Health

Calcium and vitamin D are crucial for bone health particularly as we age, but some studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids can also be helpful. Individuals with higher omega-3 intakes and blood levels might have better bone mineral density (BMD). However, it’s uncertain whether fish oil supplements enhance. BMD. Any potential benefit may hinge on the type of fish oil used in supplements and how it’s produced. 

May Improve Bone Health

Calcium and vitamin D are crucial for bone health particularly as we age, but some studies indicate that omega-3 fatty acids can also be helpful. Individuals with higher omega-3 intakes and blood levels might have better bone mineral density (BMD). However, it’s uncertain whether fish oil supplements enhance. BMD. Any potential benefit may hinge on the type of fish oil used in supplements and how it’s produced. 

How to Supplements

If you don’t consume 1-2 servings of oily fish each week, you might want to think about taking a fish oil supplement. Here are some factors to consider when taking a fish oil supplement: 

Form

Fish oil supplements come in various forms, such as ethyl esters, triglycerides, reformed, triglycerides, free fatty acids, and phospholipids. Ethyl esters aren’t absorbed as well as other forms. 

Concentration

Look for a supplement with at least 500 milligrams (mg) of EPA and DHA per 1000 mg of fish oil.

Purity

Choose a supplement that’s third party tested or has a seal of purity from the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED) to ensure the listed ingredients.

Freshness

Omega-3 fatty acids can oxidize, causing them to go rancid. Select a supplement with an antioxidant like vitamin E to prevent this. Avoid using supplements that smell rancid or are past their expiration date.  

Food Sources

In general, it’s usually best to get nutrients from food rather than supplements, unless advised otherwise by a doctor. Animal based sources of omega-3 include: 

  • Oily fish like sardines, tuna, and salmon 
  • Other seafood such as oysters and shrimp
  • Eggs, particularly those fortified with omega-3 
  • Fish liver oils such as cod liver oil 

 

Vegetable-based alternatives to fish oil for omega-3 include: 

  • Flaxseed oil 
  • Chia seeds 
  • Canola oil 
  • Soybean oil 
  • Walnuts 
  • Kidney beans 

Risks of Using Fish Oil?

  1. For most people who maintain a healthy and balanced diet, supplements are usually unnecessary. However, omega-3 supplements typically don’t cause severe adverse effects according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Still, it’s wise to consult with a doctor before using them as there may be risk involved.
  2. Omega-3 supplements might affect blood clotting and interfere with medications like warfarin (Coumadin) that target blood clotting conditions. 
  3. This can sometimes lead to minor gastrointestinal issues such as belching, indigestion, or diarrhea. 
  4. Individuals allergic to fish or shellfish should be cautious with fish oil supplements. 
  5. It is important to ensure that supplement is from a reliable source, as some fish products may contain pollutants from the ocean. 
  6. Certain fish oil supplements, like cod liver oil, are high in vitamin A, which can be toxic in large doses. 
  7. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the quality or purity of supplements, so it’s crucial to purchase them from reputable sources. 

Side Effects of Fish Oil?

Seek emergency medical assistance if you experience any signs of an allergic reaction to fish oil, such as hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat. Stop using fish oil and contact your doctor immediately if you encounter any serious side effects, including: 

  • Fever 
  • Chills 
  • Body aches 
  • Flu 
  • Chest pain 
  • Irregular heartbeats 
  • Less severe side effects of fish oil may include: 
  • Back pain 
  • Unusual or unpleasant taste in the mouth 
  • Upset stomach or belching 
  • Mild skin rash 

FAQ's

How to apply fish oil on your face?

It’s preferable to use it on dry areas, advise Dr. Jaliman. She suggests dabbing it near the eyes or around the edges of the face onto small rough patches. Alternatively, you can use it on dry areas of your body like elbows and knees.

Can I take fish oil in summer?

However, the main substance that fish oils meet the needs of our body is omega-3 fatty acid. Therefore, consumption of fish oil is necessary in summer and winter.

Can I drink water with fish oil?

Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids come together in a capsule to lower unhealthy cholesterol and fats in your blood. This helps in treating high levels of triglycerides in your blood. You can take this capsule by mouth with a glass of water, following the directions at the same time each day.

Is fish oil hot and cold?

Fish oil helps reduce Ama because of its Ushna (hot) nature and controls high cholesterol levels in blood.

Is fish oil a fat burner?

Omega-3 fish oil can assist in boosting muscle mass and reducing fat, even without changes in overall weight. Studies have demonstrated this effect. For instance, research involving 44 individuals who consumed 4g of fish oil daily revealed no notable weight loss. However, compared to the placebo group they experienced an increase of 0.5kg in muscle mass and a reduction of 0.5kg in fat.

Which fish oil is the best?

Nordic Naturals, a reputable brand of fish oil supplements that provides a variety of dosage options. Taking one soft gel provides sufficient DHA and EPA to supplement any deficiencies in regular fatty fish consumption.

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