You’ve probably heard of fish oil, but chances are, you’re not sure why it’s so popular and if it’s right for you! To understand fish oil, we need to breakdown the two main types of fats our bodies need to function:
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
These are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Sounds appetizing, right? You can simply remember that omega-6 fatty acids provide energy for the body and they are the more common fatty acid found in a traditional Western diet.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These are also polyunsaturated fatty acids, however, omega-3s cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through food or supplements. Since the human body can’t produce omega-3s, these fats are referred to as “essential fats.” Omega-3s are also touted as anti-inflammatory powerhouses, making them the preferred choice. There are three types of omega-3s: EPA, DHA, and ALA.
What This Has to do with Fish Oil
Now, back to the reason you’re reading this: what’s the deal with fish oil, and should I take it? Fish have high amounts of omega-3s, specifically EPA and DHA! And since many people eat too many omega-6 rich foods, including refined vegetable oils and foods cooked in them, they need omega-3 sources to help correct the fatty acid imbalance.
This is where fish oil really takes the spotlight. The best way to get the essential vitamins, fats, minerals, and good-for-you things is always going to be real, whole foods. However, that isn’t always possible and some people may need an additional boost! Fish oil can be a safe, effective supplement when taken under the supervision of your physician, and always be sure to speak with your pharmacist about any contraindications (i.e., anything prescriptions you’re taking that might be negatively impacted).
What Can Fish Oil Help With
According to the Mayo Clinic, research on the use of fish oil for specific conditions shows:
- Heart disease. While research shows that people who eat dietary sources of fish oil at least twice a week have a lower risk of dying of heart disease, taking fish oil supplements seems to have little to no benefits to heart health.
- High blood pressure. Multiple studies report modest reductions in blood pressure in people who take fish oil supplements. There’s some evidence that the beneficial effects of fish oil might be greater for people with moderate to severe high blood pressure than for those with mild blood pressure elevation.
- High triglycerides and cholesterol. There’s strong evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can significantly reduce blood triglyceride levels. There also appears to be a slight improvement in high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol, although an increase in levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol also was observed.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Studies suggest fish oil supplements might help reduce pain, improve morning stiffness and relieve joint tenderness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. While relief is often modest, it might be enough to reduce the need for anti-inflammatory medications.
It’s important to note that fish oil is not a cure for any of these diagnoses, but rather, has proven to be an effective aid in the treatment and management of these diseases due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Remember: always consult with your physician before introducing new supplements and always be sure to speak with your pharmacist about any contraindications (i.e., anything prescriptions you’re taking that might be negatively impacted).