Do I really need to take fish oil all the time? What kind should I purchase and where should I buy from? I hear these questions all the time. My clients don’t know if they should take fish oil. They don’t know what kind to take, which company has the best oil and where to buy them from.
As a child my mom would force liquid fish oil down our throats. She did not have to do a research to find out which fish oil she should get. There was only one kind and that made her job easy. But now we have hundreds of companies that make fish oil, some are good, some are made with mixture of other oils yet there are others that are the best quality. I will answer those questions here.
Do you get enough omega-3s?
If you eat a typical western diet, the answer is probably not. Omega-3s are important fatty acids that perform a range of functions in the body, from keeping the heart healthy to brain development in young children. Omega-3s are found naturally in our diets, but they typically come from oily fish such as salmon or pollock. You need to eat fish at least 7 ounces of a week in order to support your body’s needs.
The lack of omega-3s in our diet are further complicated by a diet high in omega-6s. Omega-6s are a different fatty acid that comes from whole grains. Our body evolved to require a 1:1 ratio between these fats for optimum health, but the western diet is skewed heavily in favor of grains, with an average of 15-1 or even more in our diets.
The good news is that as your omega-3s and omega-6s become more balanced, your body becomes healthier. A ratio of 2.5 omega-6 fatty acids to 1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer.
More balanced omega 6s and 3s were also associated with a decreased risk for breast cancer in women, and a ratio of 2-3 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. A ration of 5/1 helped people with asthma breathe better, but 10/1 tended to make their asthma worse.
Although these ratios may be difficult to keep track of, the clear takeaway is that we want our omega 3s and 6s to be as close to even as possible, in order to get the most benefit from it. Chances are however, if you eat more grain than you do fish, your omega-3s are out of balance and you could benefit from a supplement such as fish oil.
Benefits of fish oil
A number of studies have been conducted on fish oil and how a healthy ratio can benefit the body. It turns out that fish oil has an impact on a large number of different functions and can help ease a variety of chronic illnesses—or prevent them from occurring in the first place. These include:
Improved insulin sensitivity
Insulin resistance happens when your body becomes less sensitive to the hormone insulin. Although insulin resistance can become type 2 diabetes if left untreated, insulin resistance itself is not diabetes. Omega-3s can make your body more sensitive to insulin, helping to prevent diabetes from occurring, as well as to reduce symptoms in diabetic patients.
Reduction of hirsutism
Hirsutism is the unwanted growth of facial hair on women. It’s typically a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormonal disorder that causes women to have more male hormones than is typically normal. This can make it harder to become pregnant, makes periods irregular, and causes hirsutism.
In a 2013 study, researchers found that 1,500mg of fish oil a day successfully reduced hirsutism in women with PCOS, and may help treat other symptoms too, such as helping irregular menstrual cycles.
Reduction in liver fat content
Fat is not normally found in the liver and can cause problems when it does develop there. In some cases, fat in the liver can cause inflammation and cell damage. There are currently no medications to treat fatty liver, but diet change has been shown to help. Researchers have found that diet can help reduce fat content in the liver, and taking omega-3s can reduce the likelihood of developed diseases associated with fatty livers.
For women with hormonal issues, it may help with:
• Lowering testosterone
• Reducing fatty liver, cholesterol, triglycerides and lowering blood pressure
• Managing mood, improving depression and heightening brain function
• Improving insulin levels, hair and skin quality, and ovulation
• Inhibiting inflammation
Reduction of inflammation
The unique ability of omega-3s to reduce inflammation is perhaps one of its most well-known features. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study using healthy adults, fish oil helped white blood cells understand when threats such as bacteria were over, in order to stop inflammation as soon as possible. They do this through breaking down SPMs in the body, which can only be done using omega-3 fatty acids.
Inflammation is a result of your body’s immune response, so it is important that it exists, or the body would be unable to protect itself against disease. Fine tuning the immune system so it doesn’t overreact therefore is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation while still keeping the body healthy.
Decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease
Omega-3s are also essential for healthy heart function. They can make platelets less sticky and therefore blood clots less likely, assist in maintaining a healthy heart rhythm, and protects against sudden death due to heart conditions.
More research is still ongoing, as there have been a few conflicting studies. This is why the Heart Health Foundation currently has a neutral position on fish oil supplements.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids have 3 main dietary types:
Alpha Linolenic Acids (ALA)- Found in Plant Foods
Eicosatetraenoic Acid (EPA) – Found in Fish and Seafood
Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA)- Found in Fish and Seafood
Where to get supplements
It’s important to get omega-3s from a trusted source. You can get enough omega-3s through your diet by eating oily fish such as salmon, tuna, or pollock twice a week—but there is a catch to it. While our ancestors got this essential oil from eating fish and other seafood as part of their diets, the fish from millennia ago did not have dangerous amounts of mercury in them.
Pollution in our oceans have caused heavy metals to build up in fish, and as you go higher up the food chain, more heavy metals build up. Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish are high on the food chain, which means a potentially dangerous amount of heavy metals can build up.
That’s why choosing a high quality supplement is the best option. A quality supplement has been purified to remove these toxins, helping you get a dose of omega-3s without a dose of pollution to go with it.
I recommend Thorne, and Standard Process, Nordic Naturals’ professional line fish oil, since their manufacturing process allows for top quality fish oil supplements. It’s also important to keep your fish oil in the refrigerator, to help preserve the volatile oils for as long as possible.
Not sure if you need omega-3s?
It’s possible if you have a healthy diet that includes fish you don’t need supplemental oils. If you want to make sure, Lipidlab.com is a laboratory that offers blood spot Omega 3 testing. They evaluate the amount of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in RBC membranes. If you’ve been on a diet and want to see if it’s working, the test can also be used to follow the changes in essential fats to see if supplementation is working.
The bottom line
Fish oil is a great supplement that can help both keep you healthy. If you’re concerned about your health and want to make a small change that will benefit almost every part of your body, fish oil is a great place to start.