What Is Omega 3 Fish Oil? And What Is Omega 3 Good For?

 

 

 

Omega-3 Fish Oils

 

There are so many different supplements that are available today, and some of them make impressive claims. The problem is that the supplement industry is largely unregulated, and a lot of these claims are unsubstantiated. Omega-3 fish oils are one of the more popular supplements, and at HealthySpines.org we only recommend supplements that are proven to be effective. So what is Omega-3 fish oil, and what is Omega-3 good for? Lets have a look at the evidence.

 

What Is Omega-3 Fish Oil?

Fishy OilOmega-3 fish oil is a kind of fat that is found in some plants, and marine animals such as fish, phytoplankton and marine algae. The ‘Omega-3’ part describes the kind of fat. In this case a polyunsaturated fatty acid with a double bond at the third carbon atom from the end of the carbon chain.

There 3 kinds of Omega-3 fatty acids:

  • ALA, found in plants (nuts and seeds).
  • EPA, found in marine animals.
  • DHA, also found in marine animals.

 

Omega-3 fish oil can be described as an essential nutrient. This means that our bodies (in fact all mammals) cannot make Omega-3, and without it, we die. Therefore, we must consume it in our diets, although research shows that humans should consume Omega-3s (EPA and DHA) directly from wild game meat or fish, and not the ALA from plants.

There is another essential fatty acid you may have heard of, and that is Omega 6, which is also found in the same foods and is also an essential nutrient. However, there can be a problem when the balance of Omega-6 to Omega-3 is not correct.  Many scientists believe that having too much Omega-6 is a major reason for the high incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, premature ageing, and some forms of cancer in modern, ‘industrialised’ man. 

 

What Is The Correct Ratio Of Omega-6 To Omega-3?

It is estimated that 85{95f364b8aea3ba4afb976a81c1dcc2e8147daac1866ef443968911255633a999} or more of people in the Western world are deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids and most get far too much of the Omega-6 fatty acids. Vegetarian diets, for example, tend to be very high in Omega-6. Although we need both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, it is becoming increasingly clear that an excess of omega-6 fatty acids can have dire consequences.

Our ancestors diet provided an Omega-6 To Omega-3 ratio of 1:1. This is widely accepted to be the correct ratio, although some studies indicate that a ratio of up to 4:1 is still within the healthy range.

Here is the reason why there is so much fuss about Omega oils: The problem is that the typical Western diet provides a ratio of between 10:1 and 30:1 (i.e., dramatically higher levels of Omega-6 than Omega-3). 

Having a diet that is toxic with Omega-6 or deficient in Omega-3 creates a pro-inflammatory state within the body. This is significant because inflammation is at the root of virtually all of the common chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression as well as the autoimmune and atopic diseases such as arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, irritable bowel, psoriasis, eczema, allergies, fibromyalgia, lupus, and multiple sclerosis. Inflammation is also a major factor in headaches, back and neck pain. It is known that high levels of Omega-3 has an anti-inflammatory effect, the opposite of high Omega-6 levels.

Any natural food substance that can reduce inflammation is going to have positive health benefits. Medical research is showing that the Asia wonder spice turmeric  is also a very powerful anti-inflammatory. Read about this amazing scientific evidence here.

 

What Is Omega-3 Good For?

Put simply, Omega-3 is good for your health! Because it is an essential nutrient, and we are not getting enough from our diet, it makes perfect sense that taking an Omega-3 supplement will help your body to function better. This happens because having the correct amount of essential nutrients improves cellular function.

 

Specifically, taking an Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) supplement has been shown to:

  • Prevent and may help to ameliorate or reverse atherosclerosis, angina, heart attack, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. Omega-3 oils help maintain the elasticity of artery walls, prevent blood clotting, reduce blood pressure and stabilize heart rhythm. Being deficient in this vital nutrient makes your blood vessels more prone to inflammation, negatively alters your cholesterol balance, makes your blood clot excessively and even disturbs the rhythm of your heart.
  • EPA and DHA deficiency are linked with cognitive impairments and learning and behaviour disabilities such as ADHD, with depression, and with decreased cognitive ability and increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia in the elderly. EPA and DHA deficiency is also highly correlated with increased risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer.
  • Omega-3’s anti-inflammatroy effects are known to help conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and ulcerative colitis.
  • Significant benefits due to EPA supplementation were seen when treating depressive symptoms, but not manic symptoms, suggesting a link between Omega-3 and depressive mood.
  • In those with advanced cancer and cachexia, omega-3 fatty acids supplements may be of benefit, improving appetite, weight, and quality of life. There is tentative evidence that marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce the risk of breast cancer but this is not conclusive.

So basically, Omega-3 supplements have been shown to benefit those who are suffering with cardiovascular and heart disease, some cancers, arthritis, depression and Alzheimer’s.

Whilst not a treatment for specific diseases as such (it is an essential nutrient that your body NEEDS for normal cellular function and health), it stands to reason that if you are deficient in ANY essential nutrient, you will be more prone to developing disease.

Omega-3 plays a role in virtually every human function including growth and development, digestion, brain and nerve function, immune function, hormone production and regulation, maintenance of skin and bones, regulation of healing and inflammation, heart function, vision, cholesterol levels, and even emotions and behaviour.

 

How Much Omega-3 Should I Take?

On September 8, 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave “qualified health claim” status to EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids, stating, “supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA [omega-3] fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease”. 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has recognized the importance of DHA omega-3 and permits the following claim for DHA: “DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, supports the normal physical development of the brain, eyes and nerves primarily in children under two year of age.”

The recommended daily intake of EPA plus DHA is about 650 mg rising to 1000 mg/day during pregnancy and lactation. Clinical trials have used anywhere from 1 g/day to 10 g/day, but little additional benefit has been observed at levels above 5 g/day of EPA and DHA combined.

Check with your healthcare professional since EFAs can normalize (thin) blood viscosity. Those who are using pharmaceutical blood thinners may be required to change their medication levels or may be contraindicated entirely – people taking blood thinners should always consult with their medical physician before taking fish oil. Also, those taking high doses of aspirin or anticipating surgery should also consult the advice of a healthcare professional.

 

Choosing a Good Omega-3 Oil Supplement.

This can be quite difficult, as there is a huge difference in quality with all supplements, particularly fish oils. Firstly, you should not try to get adequate levels of Omega-3 from cod liver oil. It contains Vitamins A and D, and you would probably exceed the recommended daily intake of vitamins A and D if you were to try to obtain therapeutic amounts of Omega-3 from cod liver oil.

Many Omega-3 supplements come in capsule form. For some this makes it easier to swallow, but others use this to cover the rancid taste of oxidising fats. This is not a good thing, and may actually be more harmful than beneficial. If you have capsules, open them up and taste or smell the oil. If it is overly fishy and unpleasant, discard immediately.

You want to find an Omega-3 supplement that is available in a straight oil form. This way you know that the oil is not oxidised. Often the same brand will be available in capsule form if you prefer, as long as they are also available as a bottled oil (it will be the same oil).

Krill oil, despite the marketing hype, is not more concentrated. It is also an environmental disaster as krill are the base of the oceans food chain. We ethically cannot advise krill oil (fish harvested for oil is very tightly regulated). Plus there is very little good scientific evidence regarding the benefits of krill oil.

HealthySpines.org uses and recommends Innate Choice Omega Sufficiency. It is the purest, naturally occurring (not derived, which is not the same and is inferior) Omega-3 Oil we have found available from Norway. It is not artificially concentrated and uses superior purification and oxidation protection. It is also 3rd party tested for purity, potency and freshness. Innate Choice Omega Sufficiency’s unsurpassed quality is the result of a dedication to the highest standards for the source, extraction, purity and bottling of natural Omega-3 oil. You can click right on the picture to purchase either the oil or capsule form (North America only). UK/Europe click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TBPS banner1

 

 

 

 

  

Oil

Innate Choice Omega Sufficiency

 

Capsule

Omega oil capsules

 

    

 

If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.

Also, if you have found this article helpful, please share it so we can help even more people! Thankyou.

 

References:

Mozaffarian, D. et al.Plasma Phospholipid Long-Chain n-3 Fatty Acids and Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Older Adults.Annal Intern Med. 2013; 158:515-525

Hibbeln JR, Nieminen LR, Blasbalg TL, Riggs JA, Lands WE (2006). “Healthy intakes of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids: Estimations considering worldwide diversity”. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 83 (6 Suppl): 1483S–1493S. PMID 16841858.

Wall R, Ross RP, Fitzgerald GF, Stanton C (2010). “Fatty acids from fish: the anti-inflammatory potential of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids”. Nutr Rev 68 (5): 280–9. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00287.x. PMID 20500789.

Hegarty B, Parker G (January 2013). “Fish oil as a management component for mood disorders – an evolving signal”. Current Opinion in Psychiatry 26 (1): 33–40. doi:10.1097/YCO.0b013e32835ab4a7. PMID 23108232.

Simopoulos, Artemis. Omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 54, 1991, pp. 438-63

Pepping, Joseph. Omega-3 essential fatty acids. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, Vol. 56, April 15, 1999, pp. 719-24

Uauy-Dagach, Ricardo and Valenzuela, Alfonso. Marine oils: the health benefits of n-3 fatty acids. Nutrition Reviews, Vol. 54, November 1996, pp. S102-S108

Connor, William E. Importance of n-3 fatty acids in health and disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71 (suppl), January 2000, pp. 171S-75S

Daviglus, Martha L., et al. Fish consumption and the 30-year risk of fatal myocardial infarction. New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 336, April 10, 1997, pp. 1046-53

Christensen, Jeppe Hagstrup, et al. Effect of fish oil on heart rate variability in survivors of myocardial infarction. British Medical Journal, Vol. 312, March 16, 1996, pp. 677-78

Simon, Joel A., et al. Serum fatty acids and the risk of coronary heart disease. American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 142, No. 5, September 1, 1995, pp. 469-76

Flaten, Hugo, et al. Fish-oil concentrate: effects of variables related to cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 52, 1990, pp. 300-06

Connor, Am J Clin Nutr, Vol 71, 2000, 171S-175S

Montgomery P, Richardson AJ (2008-04-16). Montgomery, Paul, ed. “Omega-3 fatty acids for bipolar disorder”. Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (2): CD005169. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005169.pub2. PMID 18425912.

Bloch, Michael H.; Qawasmi, Ahmad. “Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation for the Treatment of Children With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Symptomatology: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 50 (10): 991–1000. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2011.06.008. PMC: 3625948. PMID 21961774.

Colomer R, Moreno-Nogueira JM, García-Luna PP, García-Peris P, García-de-Lorenzo A, Zarazaga A, Quecedo L, del Llano J, Usán L, Casimiro C (May 2007). “N-3 fatty acids, cancer and cachexia: a systematic review of the literature”. Br. J. Nutr. 97 (5): 823–31. doi:10.1017/S000711450765795X. PMID 17408522.

Zheng JS, Hu XJ, Zhao YM, Yang J, Li D (27 June 2013). “Intake of fish and marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of breast cancer: meta-analysis of data from 21 independent prospective cohort studies”. BMJ 346 (jun27 5): f3706–f3706.

Yehuda, S., et al. Essential fatty acids preparation (SR-3) improves Alzheimer’s patients quality of life. International Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 87(3-4), November 1996, pp. 141-9

 

 

   

13 Comments

  1. I had no idea that Omega 3 had any connection to cognition or brain function. I had only heard about it being heart-healthy in the past. Thanks for all the great info. I am going to talk to my doctor regarding adding this daily supplement to my regime.

    I also had no idea about the environmental effects of krill oil. I will definitely NOT be taking that!

    • Hi Sue,

      Our brains are mostly made up of fat, and there is a lot of information on the effects of Omega-3 on cognitive abilities so it makes perfect sense really.

      I was just reading today about the decline in the world’s krill levels which is leading to the deaths of penguins in the Antarctic. It is very concerning considering there is still a strong marketing push that krill oil is better than fish oil. It is not, the scientific evidence is conclusive. As simple as that.

      Have an amazing day!

      Dr Brad

  2. Thank you very much for this article on omega 3 and your recommendation for the Innate Choice Omega Sufficiency. It can be very difficult trying to determine what is a reputable and safe company that does not have a contaminated product.

    I also really like your advice to open up omega 3 capsules and sniff them to see if they are no longer safe to consume, it is a recommendation that I have not heard of before. I personally take omega 3 supplementation via capsule, but because I have been using the same company for many years I automatically assume the oil in the capsule is safe and is not rancid.

    I may switch to oil instead so that I will know right away if the oil has gone rancid. Thanks!

    • Hi Maggie,

      I recommend you test one of your current Omega-3 capsules. Just slice it open with a knife and squeeze some oil out to taste or smell. You will know if it is any good or not!

      If it is overly fishy smelling/tasting, throw them out and find a better quality brand.

      Kind Regards,

      Dr Brad

  3. Great explanation of omega-3 and its benefits. I too did not know about krill oil.

    Going to read your post on turmeric now as I have ongoing back pain and have had surgery on my spine recently. Bookmarking your site.

    Thanks for all the great info!

  4. Dr. Brad,

    Enlightening post! I learned how essential nutrients are REQUIRED by my body, but not produced by it, and so must be consumed.

    I was not aware of the Omega-6 vs. Omega-3 ratios. And how important having the correct ratio is to my health.

    So consuming Omega-3 oil is certainly a very healthy decision. I also was not aware of the ethical issues of consuming krill, which you explain so clearly.

    One question: how long will the oil, in capsule form, keep? Do I need to worry about freshness? So should I buy a small quantity frequently, or can I get a large amount and keep it safely?

    Thanks for the educational article!

    Roger

    • HI Roger,

      A good quality oil will last for many months kept in your refrigerator. Always check the ‘Best Before’ date on the bottle to give you a general idea of when to use it up by, although I have used Innate Choice oil up to 5-6 months after the Best Before date and it was still fine. (Not that I recommend doing that!) Because Innate Choice is of the highest quality it stays fresh for a long time.

      You will know if the oil is past it’s used by date by the smell and/or taste. Just test it if you are not sure.

      Have an amazing day!

      Dr Brad

  5. Hi Dr Brad,
    Thank you very much for your informative article. I love fish and I know the importance of Omega 3 and 6 but unfortunately my younger daughter never eats fish.She was born premature and I always tried to feed her essential nutrients.So I started to give her fish oil when she was an infant. Because I know that Omega 3 and 6 are very important to brain development.We had some breaks and then started again. If she liked fish, that wouldn’t be necessary but I want to continue using it.I have a question now. Should I go on using oil form or capsule form? I am not sure about this.She is almost nine years old.

    • Hi Halide,

      You can use either the oil or the capsule form. You just need to be sure that whatever form you are using is of the highest quality. The problem with capsules is that the oil they contain is often of poor quality or even turning rancid through oxidation BEFORE it was even processed. Because they are encapsulated it is hard to tell unless you open it up and test it.

      My suggestion is to buy a known high quality oil such as Innate Choice in whichever form (oil or capsule) your daughter is happy to take. Kids can be fussy with oil, on the other hand they can find swallowing capsules hard too, so it can be tricky finding what will work best for them.

      Hope you and your daughter are all well.

      Kind Regards,

      Dr Brad

  6. This is a great read on Omega 3 fish oil. Being born and raised in Sweden, we eat a lot of fish… We have fish at least ones a week sometimes more… Do you think it’s still necessary to add a supplement of the omega 3 in to our diet?
    Another question would be how do you know if you lack omega 3, what would be the symptoms?

    Thank you,

    Vicky

    • HI Vicky,

      There are no real obvious symptoms of an Omega-3 deficiency, but most people are going to be somewhat deficient depending on their diet.

      Eating fish only once a week is not going to give you the amount of Omega-3 that you need, unless you are getting it from other sources such as grass fed meat and seeds. It certainly is possible to be getting adequate amounts from your diet, but the majority of people simply do not eat well enough.

      All the best,
      Dr Brad

  7. Thank you very much for your advice Dr Brad. We are always so lucky that my daughter never resists while taking medication.We have chosen high quality fish oil either lemon or strawberry flavored and she liked it.Maybe we choose together next time. I am not sure if she wants oil or capsule form.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.