Fish oil is believed to be one of the most widely used nutritional supplements. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, these powerhouse nutrients have been linked to a plethora of health benefits, making fish oil tablets an essential addition to many wellness regimens.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about the supplement to help you make a decision on whether fish oil is the right choice for you.
Fish Oil 101
Fish oil is derived only from specific types of fish — those with a high amount of oils in their soft tissues and around their gut (their coelomic cavity). Anchovies, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout are all classified as “oily fish,” and most are regularly found in fish oil tablets. The soft tissue from those oily fish is broken down, concentrated and purified to make the basis of the supplements that you find on the shelves today.
The primary component of fish oil that makes it so beneficial is its high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids — polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). There are two specific omega-3s that fish oil is primarily known for:
- EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) - more helpful for inflammatory response and the heart
- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) - more concentrated in the brain
As a whole, omega-3 fatty acids help to form the phospholipids that are crucial for forming cell membranes. They also serve as an effective source of energy, yielding support for various physiological processes including muscle activity, brain function and the maintenance of healthy cardiovascular system function.
Various forms of fish oil tablets are defined by their unique biochemical structures — ethyl ester, phospholipid and triglyceride. Each structure has a different benefit and impacts their biological availability, with triglycerides being the easiest to absorb and use.
When choosing a fish oil supplement, make sure that you look for one that has been ethically sourced. The Friend of the Sea certification is one way to know that, as it upholds that the product is made from wild-caught and sustainably sourced fish — lessening the environmental impact.
The Benefits of Taking Fish Oil Tablets
Fish oil is full of omega-3 fatty acids, like EPA and DHA, but how does that translate into health benefits?
Fish Oil Is Heart Healthy
Fish oil (and omega-3s) are often directly correlated to supporting heart health. With heart disease continuing to be one of the leading causes of death globally, supporting your heart by making healthy choices is crucial.
Fish oil has been attributed to supporting good cholesterol (HDL), managing bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides, and maintaining healthy blood pressure. While the supplement can’t prevent cardiovascular issues like heart attacks or strokes, it can help support your overall heart health.
Fish Oil Supports the Skin
Our skin is not only the most visible organ on the body, but also the largest. Providing your skin with omega-3 fatty acids by supplementing with fish oil can help keep it strong and moisturised.
As we age, our skin becomes less and less resilient to external aggressors. Factors like chronic sun exposure can speed up the process and age your skin much more quickly.
Fish Oil May Be Able To Support Mental Health
The brain is made up of multiple components, but the largest of those components is fat (at a whopping 60%, most of which is omega-3s). Because of that, omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for helping to maintain optimal brain function.
Lower levels of omega-3 may also contribute to developing or worsening depression, even in those without a pre-existing history. However, more research is needed to prove a link between the two conclusively.
EPA has shown potential for helping to soothe mental distress — just talk to your provider if you are already taking medication to make sure there are no interactions.
Fish Oil Can Help Maintain Cognitive Function
Along with our skin, our brain health declines as we age. The rate that this process happens will vary from person to person, but getting enough fish and fish oil in your diet may be able to support cognitive function.
While it’s natural for cognitive function to gradually decline as we age, fish oil offers a valuable solution to help preserve our brain’s agility and youthfulness for an extended period. By nurturing your minds and maintaining optimal mental performance through embracing fish oil in your wellness regimen, you can invest in long-term cognitive health and wellbeing. .
Fish Oil May Help Support Eye Health
Just as our brains thrive on omega-3 fatty acids, so do our eyes. While existing research has primarily examined the benefits of consuming fish directly for eye health, ongoing studies aim to uncover whether fish oil supplements hold the same promise.
Regular eye exams are also crucial for maintaining your eye health and monitoring for any issues.
Fish Oil May Help With Inflammation
Inflammation is the body’s way of treating injuries and fighting off infections, all thanks to our immune system. However, when that inflammation becomes a more chronic issue, it can contribute to the development of other health conditions.
This is where fish oil may come in handy. Among its many beneficial qualities, fish oil can help support the body’s natural fight against inflammation.
How Do I Take Fish Oil?
There are no official recommendations for the amount of fish oil you should take daily, so you may want to consult with your health practitioner if you have any specific questions or concerns. You should also follow the recommendations on the supplement bottle. Make sure that you are taking fish oil tablets whole — don’t puncture or open them.
Some people find it helpful to take their fish oil with food, as it may help to prevent any mild gastrointestinal side effects that could occur. This is especially true if you are taking an ethyl ester form of fish oil, which is less biologically available and needs more help to be absorbed.
Taking fish oil alongside foods that are also high in omega-3s, such as foods cooked in flaxseed oil or canola oil, chia seeds, certain fish (especially oily fish) and walnuts, can further enhance your body’s intake of these essential nutrients and promote overall wellbeing
Are There Any Side Effects Associated With Taking Fish Oil Tablets?
While most people tolerate fish oil with very little problem, a few more common complaints are associated with the supplement.
One of the most frequent issues people have with taking fish oil is the taste. However, if you take a high-quality fish oil supplement, it’s likely to have been flavoured with something designed to cover up the taste and smell (like vanilla).
Although rare, some other potential side effects of taking fish oil can include:
- Back pain
- Chest pain
- Mild skin rash
- Uneven heartbeat
If you experience any of those side effects or develop hives, swelling or trouble breathing, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Something to be aware of before starting on a fish oil supplement is its potential to impact platelet levels. People who are taking blood thinners or those who have a known history of bleeding or clotting disorders should consult with their health professional before deciding to incorporate fish oil into their wellness routines. However, it would likely take extremely high amounts of fish oil to be dangerous in this context.
Other medications that may potentially interact with fish oil tablets include certain oestrogens (like birth control pills or hormone replacement), beta-blockers (like atenolol, metoprolol and propranolol) and diuretics (like hydrochlorothiazide).
The benefits of fish oil tablets can impact you from head to toe — as the omega-3 fatty acids it contains are excellent for the brain and skin, as well as mental health and cognition.
Incorporating fish oil supplements into your daily regimen can boost your overall health and wellbeing for years to come. Fortunately, these tablets often come in flavoured varieties, ensuring a pleasant experience without the fishy taste (or lingering aftertaste!).
Consumption of Fish Oil Providing Amounts of Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid That Can Be Obtained from the Diet Reduces Blood Pressure in Adults with Systolic Hypertension: A Retrospective Analysis | PubMed