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The Low Down on Fish Oils

The Low Down on Fish Oils

Touted as having numerous health benefits, fish oils, are all the rage in the supplement industry.

Fish oils are derived from the oil of cold water fish tissue. The best sources include: tuna, wild salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies.

These fish provide the omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Our bodies do not produce omega-3 fatty acids, therefore ingesting them either through supplements or food is recommended.  This is especially the case for most North Americans who consume a great deal of omega-6 fatty acids through processed foods.  In fact, most Americans have a 10:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats which may be one indicator of chronic inflammation.

A healthy ratio amongst the fats is recommended for optimal health.

Benefits of Fish Oils

Omega-3 fatty acids have been demonstrated to have beneficial effects for:

-Prevention and management of cardiovascular disease

-Brain development


-Eye problems

-Elevated mood

-Bone health

-Skin conditions

-Immune boosting potential

-Diabetes management

-Many other conditions

How Much and What Kind Does an Adult Need?

One way to boost your intake, is to simply consume oily fish 2-3 times/week. Although there are no specific guidelines for recommended supplement intake, 3 grams or less/day is generally recognized as safe.   Going well above this amount is discouraged as the long-term effects of overdosing omega-3s are not well established.

When deciding on a supplement, look for one derived from molecularly distilled fish oils-these are naturally high in EPA and DHA and low in contaminants. Also, choose one that has been independently tested and guaranteed to be free of heavy metals such as mercury and lead, and other environmental toxins including PCBs.

Taking krill oil is a popular option as it contains phospholipids, which may increase omega-3 absorption as well as astaxanthin, which is an antioxidant that stabilizes the oil and prevents rancidity.

Side Effects

Belching, bad breath, heartburn, nausea, loose stools, rash, and nosebleeds are all potential side effects. Once again, stay within the recommended range to keep side effects in check.

Also, if you have a fish or seafood allergy you may not be able to take fish oils. Ask your health care provider if these supplements are safe for you.