The benefits of fish oil have been touted by researchers and by those working in the medical field. Yet many people are still confused about what fish oil is, why they should take it, and how to choose the best fish oil for them.
Fish oil supplements can be a great way to reach a therapeutic level of omega-3s in your diet, but be aware that not all supplements are created equally. Whether you’re interested in taking fish oil for shiny hair or to lose weight, it can sometimes be confusing when trying to find the the best fish oil supplement.
Here we have outlined what fish oil is, what it can do for you and how to make sure you are getting the best possible supplement for your health.
What Is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is derived from the fatty tissue of fish such as sardines, mackerel and salmon to name just a few. Fish oil is an excellent source of the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
There is a grouping of three fats commonly referred to as omega-3 fatty acids. These three groups of fats are known as ALA (found in plants), EPA and DHA (found in animal sources). Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal metabolism in most animals, including humans.
Some sources of omega-3s include flax seed oil, walnuts, avocados, and fatty fish. In order to reach a therapeutic level of omega-3s, many medical practitioners recommend taking a supplement in addition to following a healthy diet.
Why Should We Supplement?
Our bodies are capable of doing amazing things. Conversely there are some things our bodies just cannot do, such as synthesizing essential omega-3 fatty acids. It is because of this that we as humans need to include sources of omega-3 fatty acids in our diets.
However, simply consuming fish does not provide sufficient amounts needed to reap the benefits of fish oil. And that’s where supplements come in play.
Benefits of Taking Fish Oil Supplements
Research studies have shown that there are numerous benefits to taking a fish oil supplement. These benefits range from improved physical appearance to potentially life saving benefits. Here are the most important ones:
- Fights inflammation – Inflammation is a normal process that occurs in the body when it is injured, and it is a signal to the body to send white blood cells to the afflicted area to begin repairing the tissues. As we get older our bodies become less adept at dispatching these inflammatory responses, and as a result our body acts as if it’s always under constant attack. When the body feels as though it’s under attack for an extended period of time, it has difficulty fighting off other illnesses, ranging from the common cold to cancer. DHA and EPA omega 3s are very strong anti-inflammatories and are effective in cutting your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Lowers high triglycerides – High levels of triglycerides can leave fatty deposits in your internal organs and skin which can damage the pancreas and liver. These deposits of fat can also block blood flow to the brain and heart, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Having high levels of triglycerides is a symptom of having metabolic syndrome, a precursor to type 2 diabetes. When used in a program involving lifestyle and dietary changes, fish oil pills have been shown to help lower high levels of triglycerides.
- Improve appearance of skin and hair – Skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and psoriasis are inflammatory skin conditions. As previously mentioned, fish oil can be used as an anti-inflammatory and can therefore help reduce the inflammation associated with these skin conditions. In addition to helping reduce inflammation, it has been found that consumption of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA can help to reduce the formation of wrinkles, and can also prevent signs of chronological aging such as thinning of the skin.
- Promotes weight loss – In addition to the previously mentioned benefits you can take fish oil for weight loss. In studies regarding fish oil pills and weight loss it has been found that taking fish oil pills can minimize fat storage in the body, reduce your appetite, as well as promote fat loss and muscle building. When combined with a diet and weight loss program, fish oil pills have been found to increase the effects significantly.
Because of its many advantages, this kind of supplement is well-suited for practically everyone, especially for people that are following extreme diets (for example the ketogenic diet).
Choosing The Best Fish Oil Supplement For You
When choosing the best fish oil supplement for you, there are a few things to look for in order to make sure you are getting a safe high quality fish oil.
Certificate of analysis (COA)
There has been much written about the high levels of chemical pollutants in certain species of fish. Manufacturers of fish oil have addressed this issue by using a process of Molecular Distillation which is capable of reducing the toxins found in fish oil down to a safe and acceptable level. Some manufacturers may claim that their product contains safe levels of these toxins when in fact their product does not.
This is why it is important to ask the manufacturer for a Certificate of Analysis (COA) performed by an independent laboratory. Providing a COA is a standard practice in the supplement industry. If a manufacturer is hesitant to provide a COA it may be in your best interest to find a manufacturer who does.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are highly susceptible to oxidation which can be caused by exposure to light. Oxidation can turn an otherwise fine high quality fish oil pill rancid quicker than you would think. Consuming a fish oil pill that has oxidized may actually promote further oxidation and inflammation in your body’s tissues. By checking the COA for the peroxide value, you can find out how much oxidation have occurred as a result of storage. Ideally the peroxide value should be under 5 meq/kg.
You can check the freshness of your fish oil pills by opening one up. Fresh fish oil should not smell “fishy”, but have a scent reminiscent of the ocean. A strong citrus smell may be a sign that the manufacturer is trying to mask the rancidity of it.
Choosing a fish oil pill that is concentrated will ensure that you are getting a high enough dose of the omega-3s EPA and DHA to receive benefits.
Like all natural resources it is important that the fish used in the manufacturing of fish oil are caught in a sustainable way. Fish that are endangered or considered to be under threat should be avoided.
Where Can I Find Fish Oil Pills?
When researching different fish oil supplements it is best not to rush. A little time and effort spent comparing various brands can only help your health in the long run. No matter what your reason is for wanting to supplement – be it for better looking skin, to lose weight, or prevent stroke – your wellness is a priority. For a full list of all the best products to research and choose from, click here.