What does fish oil do for you and why you should take it?
Are there any fish oil benefits associated with supplementation?
Fish oil is one of those supplements that receive much love these days from everyone, ranging from the average Joe to big pharmaceutical companies, marketers, and basically anyone involved in the health and fitness niche.
The first mentions and interest in this supplement came when scientists observed cultures such as the Alaskan Inuits which are known for they low heart disease rate even if they always use high fat diets.
The question was: “why are these tribes so healthy even if they consume such high amounts of fats?
It is said to be the next “god’s mana” that does wonders for your blood and weight loss.
Fish Oil Benefits Include:
- Decrease fat storage
- Increased fat burning
- Decreased depression
- Decreased inflammation
- Decreased risk of blood clots
- Decreased risk of heart disease
Let’s Dive A Little Bit Into History
Many people remember the fat free 80’s where the dietary fat was the ultimate foe that had to be annihilated.
Supermarkets thrived with products that had the FAT FREE etiquette. They would be promoted like crazy and people would buy them, never looking at their nutritional values.
All because of the hype that television and marketers created.
Even if the total calories from fat decreased 11% from 1976-1991, the overweight prevalence increased by 31%. All of this because of the “fat free” products which promised weight loss.
One of the latest reports from BRFSS showed that fat intake decreased to 33% but obesity went from 11% to 22%.
This is a staggering 90% increase in obesity rates from 90’s to 2002. And this is just in United States.
This happened because saturated fats received the title of being the evil culprit conjuring images of arterial plague and also heart failure when compared to the godly unsaturated fats.
Saturated Or Unsaturated?
They are not created equal. Saturated fats have variable physiological effects on your body. They range from being detrimental to also having some positive effects.
It all depends on the type of saturated fats. A saturated fatty acid named stearic acid that is abundant in meat and milk, has been observed to reduce blood platelet aggregation (which is a good thing).
Transaturated fats found in fried and processed foods are the ones that negatively impact blood lipid levels by increasing the LDL cholesterol and lowering the HDL.
Diet experiments shows us that monounsaturated fats were the least oxidized while the most oxidized ones were transaturated fats
The tighter the control group got, the unsaturated fats started to lose ground for saturated fats when speaking of effects on body composition.
Also, when you are decreasing saturated fatty acids in your diet too much in favor of unsaturated fatty acids, you are also reducing your testosterone levels.
In reality, saturated fats have varying effects for your health depending on the individual response, population, and a simple comparison between unsaturated fatty acids and saturated acids is not enough.
There’s no good versus bad here. There’s only which one you like in higher quantities.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids In-Depth Explanation
The omega 3 fatty acids are necessary for normal development of your body.
They have a huge influence on physiological processes. ALA (aka alpha linoleic acid) which is one of the two EFA (essential fatty acids) that your body can’t produce and it is required from the diet, is also an omega 3 fatty acid.
These essential fatty acids are known as precursors of other important compounds known as eicosanoids which include: thromboxanes, prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) also known as omega 3-s, can be collected mainly from fish oil supplements.
Because of their hard availability from food, fish oil supplements are always a good thing. You can find them in pill form with varying amounts of active DHA/EPA and also liquid forms.
There isn’t any advantage of on form over the other but for those who don’t like the smell of fish oil, taking them in pill form would be a better choice.
You’ve probably heard about flaxseeds and also flaxseed oil to be a good alternative to fish oil. It is like that because they also have omega 3-s and also because of the fact that they have the parent fatty acid.
It should be noted that flaxseeds are NOT a good source of omega 3′s. The conversion into DHA/EPA is quite inefficient in most people with the exception of vegetarians (they already have low levels of omega 3-s because of their diet, and they should look for supplementation anyway).
What this means is that trying to get your omega 3 levels up by eating flaxseeds is not a good choice.
You really don’t get any considerable improvements because of low conversion. It’s very unlikely to get any fish oil benefits.
Also, the conversion from ALA to EPA is low and from EPA to DHA is almost inexistent.
If you want to make an impact on body levels of omega 3, supplement with regular fish oil pills.
The omega 6 fatty acids include LA (linoleic acid) which is a fatty acid that is found in different oils like vegetable oil and AA (arichnidonic acids).
They are created from the existing linoleic acid in your body.
As a side note, some questions arose over omega w-3 and omega w-6 intake because omega w-6 are thought to cause some problems such as inflammation. Also, in our century, the omega w-6 to w-3 ratio of fatty acids intake is approximately 20:1.
A healthy ratio is considered to be 4:1 or 1:1.
You shouldn’t stress on getting omega 6 fatty acids in your diet because if you consume a moderate fat diet, omega w-6 acids are already covered.
Get sufficient levels of DHA/EPA daily and avoid transaturated fats as much as you can.
Fish Oil Vs Fatty Fish
Even if many scientists are working for ways to increase the w-3 content of other food intems like eggs enhanced with w-3, fatty fish still remain the primary source of this miraculous compound.
The biggest concern when we are talking about fatty fish vs fish oil capsules is the mercury content that accumulates in the tissue of the fish.
The mercury exposure can offset all the benefits these fatty fish give you.
Pregnant women and/or women who want to become pregnant should minimize the mercury intake from fish in order to avoid possible birth defects that can come with high mercury exposure.
Top 15 Mercury Containing Fish
- Orange roughy – 0.54
- Marlin – 0.49
- Tuna(fresh) – 0.38
- Tuna(canned albacore) – 0.35
- Bluefish – 0.31
- Saltwater Bass – 0.27
- Halibut – 0.26
- Sable – 0.22
- Snapper – 0.19
- Monkfish – 0.18
- Mackerel – 0.18
- Perch – 0.14
- Canned tuna (light) – 0.12
- Cod – 0.11
- Pacific Mackerel – 0.09
Experts recommend a daily intake of 0.19 or less for for men and 0.14 or less for women.
Many bodybuilders consume way too much orange roughy, exceeding the acceptable levels of mercury.
Conclusion To Fish Oil Benefits
Now you should know what does fish oil do for you.
Regular fish or fish oils are good sources of omega 3-s.
In the case of regular fish consumption, watch out for mercury intake.
If you want to take fish oil in pill form, try to get 1-8 to 3 grams of EPA/DHA per day. This means 6-10 capsules per day (most fish oil capsules come with 120 mg EPA and 180 mg DHA).
You can also find higher concentrations of combined EPA/DHA but they are not so searched because of their premium price so you can simply stick to regular fish oil capsules. Take 6-10 per day.
Question: When should I take my fish oil ?
Answer: Anytime is good but I would take it with a meal.
Question: Any references about menstruation problems in women caused by fish oil?
Answer: None seen (hard dieting causes some problems with menstruation).
What are your thoughts regarding fish oil supplementation?
PS: Here are some of my preferred fish oil supplements.