The idea that fish oil and omega-3s are good for your heart has been nutrition orthodoxy for decades. A few dissonant voices have argued that this particular emperor has no clothes. But they have largely been drowned out by the crowd. The American Heart Association recommends a fish oil supplement for those who don’t eat the recommended two 0r more servings of fish per week. And that’s basically everyone.
Fish oil supplements are now the third most popular nutritional supplement. There have been concerns about possible contaminants in commercial fish oil supplements, as well as the negative effects of over-fishing in order to produce enough fish oil to meet the demand. But the presumed benefits have largely overshadowed these concerns. But just how firm is the evidence to support their use?
What’s the Evidence on Fish Oil?
Epidemiological studies have found that people who eat more fish and/or take in more omega-3s have lower rates of death from cardiovascular and other diseases. Randomized trials have established that fish oil supplements reduce inflammation and lower triglycerides. But as recently as 2010, authors of a scholarly article on “Fish oil for the Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease” conceded that “The role of omega-3 fatty acids in reducing mortality, sudden death, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, and heart failure has not yet been established.”
»Continue reading “Are the Benefits of Fish Oil Overrated?” on
How Much Fish Oil Should I Take?
Fish oil is included in the daily supplement regimen for many people. Why? The evidence-based benefits! Luckily, this supplement has received a lot of attention over the past decade. This attention has triggered more research and, ultimately, revealed more benefits related to fish oil use. If you're interested in fish oil it's important to make sure you're taking the right amount to get all the benefits.
How long do I have to use fish oil to feel the benefits?
It is important to state that you likely won’t feel the benefits associated with fish oil. For example, it is not really possible to feel improvements in heart health. That doesn’t mean it is not working though. The length of time it takes to see benefits from fish oil will differ from one person to the next. This time is also impacted by the benefit that is desired. Generally, fish oil does not produce results very quickly. Most people will start to see benefits after taking fish oil daily for a time between four weeks and three months. It is unlikely, however, that you will discontinue fish oil after this duration of time, even if you do start to see benefits. Most people will take fish oil for many months or years to maintain the desired effect. Your physician can help you determine how long to stay on fish oil.
Ready to start your personalized routine? Build your daily pack Take the quiz
Why should I take fish oil?
The primary reason for taking fish oil is because fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are linked to a wide breadth of benefits like joint, brain, heart, and eye health and can only be obtained through your diet from foods like fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed, and canola, or from supplementing. Let’s dive into some of the benefits of fish oil a little more:
Heart: One of the primary reasons that people consider taking a fish oil supplement is for the heart health benefits. Studies have shown that fish oil may help people reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, improve their blood pressure, or decrease their cholesterol levels.
Joints: Fish oil has shown promising results for joint health. One 12 month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that patients taking 2,600mg of omega-3 per day experienced less joint pain than those taking a placebo.
Brain: Fish oil may also provide cognitive benefits. In a 2005 clinical study, omega-3 supplementation was associated with an improvement in attention and mood for the omega-3 group versus the placebo group. A population-based study performed a year earlier found that people who consumed more fish in their diet performed better on cognitive battery tests.
Eyes: Fish oil may provide benefits for those suffering from dry eyes. 518 patients with dry eye symptoms were enrolled in a 2013 study. 65% of patients in the omega-3 group and 33% of patients in placebo group had significant improvement in symptoms at 3 months.
How does fish oil compare to other omega-3 supplements?
Although there are several types of foods and supplements that can provide you with omega-3s (e.g. algae sources for vegans), fish oil may be the superior source. This has to do with the different types of omega-3s that exist. Fish oil contains two types of omega-3s: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Most major benefits linked to omega-3s have been to EPA and DHA. Alternative sources often contain an omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). At this time, it does not appear that ALA can confer the benefits that EPA and DHA can. Therefore, if you are selecting a source alternative to fish oil (e.g. vegan option), it is important to make sure it contains EPA and DHA.
How much fish oil should I take daily?
Given the large number of possible benefits, there is not a specific dose of fish oil that each person should aim for. Rather, the dose often depends on the desired benefit. For example, physicians often recommend much higher doses for individuals that are taking fish oil for heart benefits (e.g. cholesterol changes). Your physician can help you determine the ideal dose. Many people are instructed to take a dose between 1,000 mg and 2,000 mg of fish oil. This dose normally provides between 250 mg and 600 mg of EPA and DHA (the most important omega-3s).
Omega-3s are essential for every person, not just those people that are seeking a health benefit. While we are able to get omega-3s from some food sources (e.g. flax seed), our diet is often inadequate when it comes to omega-3s. Therefore, supplementing with fish oil can help you achieve a proper amount of omega-3s each day. By taking fish oil, you may improve your chances of avoiding some health concerns.
Pregnancy is a very important time to consider how much EPA and DHA you are getting each day. These omega-3 fatty acids are essential for fetal development and cannot be overlooked. Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA from Fish Oil (or a vegan source like Veggie Omega) are essential nutrients that help maintain your cognitive health while also supporting your baby's nervous system and brain health. Many people cut back on fish, a source of omega-3s, during pregnancy and breastfeeding to avoid mercury, so Fish Oil may be a great way to get these healthy omegas.
The general recommendation is that an expecting mother should get 300 mg of EPA and DHA. Some resources expand further on this requirement and say that at least 200 mg of that 300 mg should be DHA. This is because DHA is critical for development during the third trimester. You should speak with your physician to determine what source and dose of EPA and DHA are ideal for you.
What time of day should I take fish oil?
There is not a certain time of day that you need to take your fish oil supplement. There are certain strategies, however, that can improve your experience and the results you see. Fish oil supplements are known for causing issues such as reflux, belching (fishy burps), and indigestion. These concerns can often be alleviated by taking your fish oil supplement with a meal. Some people also like to store their fish oil capsules in the fridge to reduce the likelihood of them causing belching. In addition, a meal with fat content may be most ideal. Omega-3 fatty acids may be absorbed best when you take them with a fat-containing meal. You don’t need to add fatty products to your meal just for this reason though.
Ready to start your personalized routine? Build your daily pack Take the quiz
Are there any risks of taking too much fish oil?
Although standard doses are safe for most people, there are concerns with taking high doses for some. For example, fish oil may alter your blood sugar levels, clotting ability, and blood pressure. As mentioned above, fish oil often also causes digestive issues for many people (e.g. indigestion, diarrhea, and reflux). Some people find that these mild digestive effects are eliminated when taking a veggie omega (plant-based).
Which fish oil supplement should I take?
When selecting a fish oil supplement, it is important to purchase from a company that sources their ingredients responsibly. For example, sustainable fishing practices or fish-raising practices are very important to consider for fish oil. Ideally, your supplement of choice will also break down the source of omega-3s and list the amount of EPA and DHA in each dose. “EPA” and “DHA” should be listed on separate lines on the product’s label itself. Fish oil is available from a large number of sources, but you want to select a product from a reputable brand to ensure you are getting a high quality product.
Do we need to eat fish to live longer lives? Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, on a regular basis, may actually extend your life, a new research study suggests. A study using more than 2,600 older adults recently found participants with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids live more than two years longer on average—when compared to their lower level counterparts. Living longer may be one of the benefits of fish oil vitamins.
Study on the Benefits of Fish Oil Vitamins
'The study itself wasn't conducted for fish oil supplements of blood omega-3 levels related to one's diet,' as said by researcher Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, currently serving as an associate professor of epidemiology at Boston's Harvard School of Public Health.
The Annals of Internal Medicine published the study on April 1st, where it was revealed that the study doesn't exactly prove that eating omega-3 fish oils benefits one's life span, instead suggesting a connection between the two. 'Omega-3 blood levels are related to having a lower risk of death, especially cardiovascular-related deaths,' Mozaffarian continued.
He found that people harboring the highest omega-3 levels reduced their overall risk of death, from any cause, by up to 27 percent. They also had a 35 percent lower risk of death by heart disease. The effect on other death causes, however, hasn't been too clear, Mozaffarian commented. Instead of using results from self-reported intakes like other researchers, his team measured actual blood levels of the fatty acids.
During the start of the study, researches analyzed blood samples, asked about participants' lifestyles and did physical exams. No participants, who were aged 74 years on average, took omega-3 supplements at the time of the initial study.
Throughout the 16 year follow-up, 1,625 people died, which included 570 dying of cardiovascular causes. The study found that participants with higher omega-3 blood levels lowered their risk of death during the follow-up.
Alice Lichtenstein, a director and senior scientist at the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory of Boston's Tufts University, stressed that although researchers found an association, it didn't exactly set-up a cause-and-effect relationship.
'The study's results supports a relation between higher fish intakes and lower total mortality risks, particularly stemming from coronary heart disease,' Lichtenstein said, although not a part of the study.
'The researchers can't determine whether the omega-3 levels had a direct impact on the participant's reduced risk of death or acting as a way to encourage a healthier lifestyle.'
'As an example, people with the highest omega-3 levels also ate more vegetables and fruit than those in lower level groups, suggesting simply taking a fish oil supplement may not reproduce the same effects.'
But—if you're not a fish eater, don't worry. 'Going from little to some omega-3 intake seems to be how people get the most benefit for their blood levels,' Mozaffarian commented.
Considering research carried out at Harvard University indicates deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids to be one of the top ten causes of death in the U.S., the need for supplementation with a high quality fish oil seems obvious. A balance between the two types of fish oil vitamins is necessary for the most benefit. An optimum ratio of 2:1, omega 6 to omega 3, is considered best. In the U.S., the ratio is roughly 20:1. This leaves the population at risk for increased inflammation that can lead to more heart health problems. Research shows an increased survival rate for heart attack victims with the use of omega 3 fatty acids. This research focused on reduced inflammation, also.
The Benefits of Fish Oil Vitamins for AFS Sufferers
When adrenal fatigue sets in under conditions of continuing stress, the body begins breaking down. In the presence of low cortisol levels, inflammation can increase, often resulting in the onset of chronic diseases, including heart disease. One of the benefits of fish oil vitamins, especially omega 3, is a lower risk of death from heart disease. A proper balance of omega 3 to omega 6 is necessary. With too much omega 6, there is the risk of increased inflammation.
Physicians adhering to the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) model of stress response will be open to and aware of the need for a balance of omega 3 and omega 6. Many if not most traditionally trained physicians won’t even consider the importance of fish oil vitamins in the treatment of heart disease in the presence of stress. Treatment of heart disease could be more comprehensive and likely more effective with consideration of the interactivity of organ systems and the NEM model.