The Skinny on Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish oils and omega-3s are all the rage these days. They are one of the most common supplements out there. Many people take them because they have heard that there are many health benefits but few people truly know what those benefits are or how to take fish oils effectively. So to make your life easier here is a breakdown on what to take and why to take it.

What are Omega-3 fatty acids?

Fish oils come from fatty or oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. It is the tissue of the fatty fish that contains the Omega-3 fatty acid. The two key ingredients in the Omega-3 fatty acids are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Fish do not actually produce EPA. They obtain it from the algae they eat. EPA is more beneficial for adults while DHA is more important for children and youngsters.

What are the health benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids?

There are many health benefits to Omega-3 fatty acids. Although studies have been mixed there is a general trend towards improvements in HDL (good cholesterol) and triglycerides, reduced risk for prostate cancer, decreased symptoms of post-natal (postpartum) depression, reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, improved memory and other mental health benefits including help with behavioral problems such as ADHD. Omega-3 fatty acids are also referred to as a natural anti-inflammatory. They can be credited with helping to ease joint pain and cope with soreness from intense or strenuous workouts. These benefits are more antidote and vary from person to person.

How much is enough?

To ensure you are taking enough you should aim for at least 2000mg/day of combined EPA and DHA. You want your fish oil supplement to be slightly higher in EPA than DHA due to it being more beneficial to adults. This usually means taking more than one capsule per day. You need to be taking four capsules daily (two in the morning and two in evening).

The Excuse List:

I eat plenty of fish in my diet. I should be good, right?

Wrong. The majority of fatty or oily fish are farm raised these days. The amount and type of Omega-3 fatty acids in wild fish is dependent on the algae in the fish’s diet. Farm raised fish are fed an unnatural diet of plants, grains, and fish meal which can leave them deficient in fatty acids. Farm raised fish are usually crammed into small living quarters where disease can easily spread requiring fish farms to rely heavily on antibiotics.

What about fish burps?

True, some fish oils can leave you with nasty tasting and smelling fish burps for several hours after taking them. Some brands have made an effort to combat this by combining a small amount of peppermint oil (or other minty oil). Plus, good quality fish oil generally won’t make you burp.

What is a good brand/type of fish oil to take?

When it comes to fish oils there are hundreds on the market today. Keep in mind that the FDA does not regulate the supplement industry. Many manufacturers attempting to make a quick buck off this health trend offer sub-par products that can be lacking the active ingredients you are looking for. Many studies have been done showing that the majority of brands on the market do not contain the levels of EPA and DHA they claim on the package labeling. To protect yourself and ensure you are getting the benefits you should take a high quality product that is made by a reputable company. Researching each individual product can be exhausting and time consuming. Rather than researching each product you should research the company making the product. If you find that a company is reputable then you can generally trust all the products that they make. I personally turn to companies such as Thorne and Douglas Labs for all my supplements. These are both companies that offer “pharmaceutical grade” supplements.

Be prepared to invest in your health.

Taking a higher quality supplement will no doubt be more expensive than taking a lesser product. But you will be getting just that: a lesser product. Do not give in to the temptation to save a buck because you will actually be wasting money in the long run by taking something that doesn’t actually benefit you. Spend your money where it counts and invest in your health.

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