Fish oils that are made into supplements are taken from the fatty tissues of fish and they contain Omega-3 fatty acids as well as DHA (docosahexaenoic acids) which both aid in decreasing inflammation and are thought to have numerous other health benefits. They are currently being studied in the effects of Alzheimer’s, clinical depression, anxiety disorders, high blood pressure, and cancer.
Why not just eat a lot of fish?
The fish with the highest amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids and DHA unfortunately are also fish that are at the top of the food chain and at highest risk for high levels of mercury and other toxins. The fish with the higest amounts are Tuna, Shark, and Swordfish, so the FDA recommends limiting their intake BUT you can take a supplement that will give you the same amount as if you ate one of those fish without the risk of the toxins.
What are the benefits?
Well, it is known that fish oil supplements help to decrease inflammation, so that would be beneficial for athletes and runners.
There were some preliminary studies in Cancer Epidemiology and The European Journal of Cancer Prevention looking at the association between Omega 3 fatty acid intake and cancer reduction for prostate, colorectal, and breast cancers. One of the studies showed a reduction in the rate with mice, and another showed a decreased risk of breast cancer, but it was a preliminary study with many flaws; even the authors noted that further research was ncessary.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests that people take between 1g-3g of Omega 3’s per day to reduce risks associated with coronary artery disease (CAD) and high blood pressure.
A study in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that higher levels of Omega 3’s were associated with lower levels of assaults among prisoners. As well, it has been shown to have a positive effect with those suffering from depression and decreasing suicide rates.
More research is needed but high Omega 3 supplementation seems to have positive effects with Alzheimer patients in allowing for maintained memory status and with Parkinson’s patients to delay the cognitive and physical issues that occur.
Are there side effects?
There is an increased risk of bleeding with high amounts of fish oils, possible toxin intake (if taking cod liver oil), and fish burps!! And, with any supplementation, unless you take one that is FDA approved, you don’t fully know what you are ingesting so be sure that you talk to your HCP about the brand and type you are taking.
I suggest talking to your HCP about how much supplement you should take specific to your needs. I suggest taking the odor free fish oil pills from Whole Foods; they are the best fish oils supplement that don’t give you fish burps! As well, the FDA has just approved Lovaza which is an Omega 3 supplement that is prescription only, so you know you are getting a pure form with low risk of toxin ingestion. Also, it is best to actually eat fish as part of your diet, but if you are someone who doesn’t like fish or eat very much, then talk to your HCP about taking a fish oil supplement….I take mine every day!! I know the research is preliminary, but as far as I see it, the benefits way outweigh the risks!!
Yours in Good Health