Fish oils have been a popular supplement for decades, but what are they actually good for? Well, it turns out that these oils offer a wealth of benefits, from supporting heart health to boosting brain function. Not all fish oils are created equal, however, so it's important to understand what to look for when choosing a supplement.
In this article, we'll explore the science behind fish oils and their effects on the body. We'll cover the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, the role they play in heart health, and how they can improve brain function. We'll also look at the different types of fish oils available, and how to choose the right supplement for your needs.
Whether you're a health enthusiast or just curious about the benefits of fish oils, this article will provide you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. So, let's dive in!
What are fish oils?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that the body cannot produce on its own, so we have to get them from our diet1. There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid)1.
EPA and DHA are found in oily fish, while ALA is found in plant-based sources such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts1.
Fish oils are typically sold in supplement form, but they can also be obtained by eating oily fish1. However, it can be difficult to get enough omega-3s from diet alone, especially if you don’t eat fish regularly. This is why many people choose to take fish oil supplements to ensure they are getting enough of these important fatty acids1.
While generally safe, getting too much fish oil can increase your risk of bleeding and might affect your immune response. It’s not clear whether fish oil is safe for people who are allergic to seafood. Always take fish oil supplements under a doctor’s supervision1.
Types of fish oils
Fish oils are not all created equal. There are many different types of fish oils available, and the quality and purity of these oils can vary greatly depending on the source and processing methods2.
Some fish oils may contain contaminants such as mercury, PCBs, and dioxins, which can be harmful to health2. It’s important to choose a high-quality fish oil supplement that has been purified to remove these contaminants3.
Fish oil supplements can be extracted from various types of fish such as capelin, sand eel, anchovy, horse mackerel, cod liver, pilchard, and menhaden4. The various species range from lean to fatty, and their oil content in the tissues has been shown to vary from 0.7% to 15.5%2.
They also differ in their effects on organ lipids2.When choosing a fish oil supplement, one of the most important factors to consider is the concentration of EPA and DHA. Look for a supplement that contains at least 500mg of EPA and DHA per serving3.
Some supplements may also include other beneficial ingredients such as vitamin D or astaxanthin3.
Below, we'll talk about some of the many benefits of fish oil supplements.
Nutritional benefits of fish oils
Fish oils are packed with nutrients that are essential for good health.
In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, fish oils also contain vitamins A and D, as well as minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium5. These nutrients work together to support overall health and wellbeing6.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have a wide range of health benefits.
They also play a key role in brain function, and have been linked to improved mood, memory, and cognitive function8.
Heart health benefits of fish oils
Fish oils are known for their ability to support heart health.
In addition to their direct effects on heart health, omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce the risk of other chronic diseases that are linked to inflammation, such as arthritis and asthma811.
Brain function benefits of fish oils
Omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function, and have been linked to improved mood, memory, and cognitive function.
DHA, in particular, is important for brain development and function throughout life.
Studies have shown that omega-3 supplements can improve cognitive function in older adults12.
Omega-3s may also have a protective effect against neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease13.
People with higher levels of omega-3s in their blood have a lower risk of developing these conditions13.
Skin and hair benefits of fish oils
Fish oils are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which can have benefits for the skin and hair.
Omega-3s help to keep the skin hydrated and can improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. They also have anti-inflammatory properties that can help to reduce skin redness and irritation14.
In addition, omega-3s can help to promote healthy hair growth and prevent hair loss. They help to nourish the hair follicles and improve the overall health of the scalp15.
Pregnancy and child development benefits of fish oils
Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important for pregnant women and developing infants.
DHA is a key component of brain and eye development, and has been shown to improve cognitive function in infants16.
How to incorporate fish oils into your diet
The best way to get omega-3 fatty acids is by eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
Aim to eat at least two servings of oily fish per week to ensure you are getting enough omega-3s from your diet.
If you don't eat fish regularly, consider taking a fish oil supplement to ensure you are getting enough of these important fatty acids.
When choosing a fish oil supplement, look for one that has been purified to remove contaminants such as mercury and PCBs.
Choose a supplement that contains at least 500mg of EPA and DHA per serving, and consider a supplement that also includes other beneficial ingredients such as vitamin D or astaxanthin.
Risks and side effects of fish oils
Fish oil supplements are generally considered safe when taken as recommended1.
Taking high doses of fish oil supplements might increase the risk of bleeding and possibly increase the risk of stroke1.
Consuming fish oil in excess may cause side effects, including changes to your blood pressure and nosebleeds19.
The most common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, and abdominal pain20.
Choosing the right fish oil supplement
When choosing a fish oil supplement, it's important to choose a high-quality product that has been purified to remove contaminants.
Look for a supplement that contains at least 500mg of EPA and DHA per serving, and consider a supplement that also includes other beneficial ingredients such as vitamin D or astaxanthin.
It's also important to choose a supplement that is derived from a sustainable source of fish. Look for supplements that are certified by third-party organizations such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Friend of the Sea.
Fish oils are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which offer a wealth of health benefits.
From supporting heart health to boosting brain function, these oils are an important part of a healthy diet.
When choosing a fish oil supplement, look for a high-quality product that has been purified to remove contaminants, and consider a supplement that also includes other beneficial ingredients such as vitamin D or astaxanthin.
By incorporating fish oils into your diet, you can enjoy the many benefits of these important fatty acids and support your overall health and wellbeing.