For years, fish oils have been a fan favourite of the supplement world. While their name might not be so appealing, the benefits of fish oil are well worth it. Aiding both general health and sports performance.
Fish oils are a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, some of the most beneficial for optimal health. Fish oil supplements have become a popular alternative to eating oily fish since it can be difficult to get enough servings of fish into your diet regularly.
What is fish oil?
Fats come in many forms - you'll likely have heard the terms saturated and unsaturated fats.
Well, the most common forms of unsaturated fats are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, based on their chemical structure. Omega-3 fatty acids are the most beneficial for heart and brain health. Fatty or oily fish, and their derived fish oil supplements, are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids; specifically DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).
Many leading health organizations recommend having 1-2 servings of fatty fish per week to get beneficial levels of fatty acids.1But many of us fall short in incorporating fish like tuna, salmon, herring, anchovies and mackerel in our diet regularly. That’s where fish oil supplements come in.
Vegans also can't eat oily fish, but there are vegan omega 3s available to help supplement this.
If you're looking to increase your intake of fish, try our salmon pesto tray bake.
8 Fish Oil Benefits
Fat plays many roles in keeping our bodies healthy, but choosing heart-healthy fats is crucial. While low-fat diets can be popular for cutting calories, adequate levels of fats are necessary for the absorption of 4 crucial vitamins - A, D, E, and K. Now, let’s get into some of the benefits of fish oil.
Can improve cholesterol
Supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to improving total cholesterol and HDL (or “good” cholesterol) while reducing triglycerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.2 Optimizing your blood cholesterol values has been linked to preventing heart disease.2
May help reduce high blood pressure
Research has shown that the use of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to mild decreases in blood pressure.2 High blood pressure can lead to many heart-related health issues. Improving your cholesterol and reducing blood pressure both help keep a healthy heart.
May help prevent cardiac arrhythmias
Another important potential benefit of fish oils is related to healthy heart rhythms.
Cardiac arrhythmias, or changes from the normal beat pattern of the heart, can be harmful and even deadly. Several studies have shown that fish oils and omega-3 fatty acids can have a strong impact on preventing these issues.2
May decrease inflammation
There's so much research into the impact of fish oil on heart health that researchers have also uncovered a link between fish oil and inflammation.3 One study in particular showed that fish oil worked well to decrease signs of inflammation better than flaxseed oil, which is also high in omega 3 fatty acids.3
May support brain development and cognition
Fish oil (DHA specifically) is often included in prenatal supplements as it's been linked with healthy brain development during pregnancy.4 Other studies have investigated potential impacts of fish oil on brain health and the aging process. Although results are relatively inconclusive at the moment, the hope is to find an impact on things like dementia.
May support skin health
A recent study was done on the impact of fish oil supplementation to prevent skin damage done by air pollution. Fish oil supports absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D and A (both linked with skin health). This combined with it's anti-inflammatory properties makes skin health a promising area for more research.5
May support mood and mental health
The Mediterranean diet is known for its heart-healthy oils from fish and other food sources.6 One study showed an improvement in mood when following the Mediterranean style diet, which has led to other research into fish oil and depression. While additional studies have not shown a direct correlation, the research is promising for the future.
May support eye health
Similar to brain development, healthy eye development in infants has been linked to maternal intake of omega-3 fatty acids.7 This benefit has not been proven for supporting ongoing health of the eyes as adults. However, our eyes have large concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids that may be supported by supplementation.
Fish Oil Dosage
While the World Health Organization recommends between 200-500mg of fish oil supplementation daily, it’s important to make sure that at least 300 mg comes from DHA.
It’s important to discuss dosage with your doctor or pharmacist as fish oil can interact with other medications.
Take Home Message
The wide range of health benefits linked to fish oil makes it a powerful supplement for anyone. Whether you want to prevent disease or support general health, the benefits of fish oil supplements can certainly help you achieve your health goals.
Enjoyed this article?
READ THESE NEXT:
Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
- Tacon, A. G., Lemos, D., & Metian, M. (2020). Fish for health: improved nutritional quality of cultured fish for human consumption. Reviews in Fisheries Science & Aquaculture, 28(4), 449-458.
- Sidhu, K. S. (2003). Health benefits and potential risks related to consumption of fish or fish oil. Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology, 38(3), 336-344.
- Duda, M. K., O’Shea, K. M., Tintinu, A., Xu, W., Khairallah, R. J., Barrows, B. R., … & Stanley, W. C. (2009). Fish oil, but not flaxseed oil, decreases inflammation and prevents pressure overload-induced cardiac dysfunction. Cardiovascular research, 81(2), 319-327.
- Lauritzen, L., Brambilla, P., Mazzocchi, A., Harsløf, L., Ciappolino, V., & Agostoni, C. (2016). DHA effects in brain development and function. Nutrients, 8(1), 6.
- Lin, Z., Niu, Y., Jiang, Y., Chen, B., Peng, L., Mi, T., … & Kan, H. (2021). Protective effects of dietary fish‐oil supplementation on skin inflammatory and oxidative stress biomarkers induced by fine particulate air pollution: a pilot randomized, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled trial. British Journal of Dermatology, 184(2), 261-269.
- Parletta, N., Zarnowiecki, D., Cho, J., Wilson, A., Bogomolova, S., Villani, A., … & O’Dea, A. (2018). A Mediterranean-style dietary intervention supplemented with fish oil improves diet quality and mental health in people with depression: A randomised controlled trial (HELFIMED). Journal of the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, 37(1), 6-18.
- Hodge, W., Barnes, D., Schachter, H. M., Pan, Y., Lowcock, E. C., Zhang, L., … & Lewin, G. (2005). Effects of Omega-3 fatty acids on eye health: Summary. In AHRQ Evidence Report Summaries. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US).
- Fish oil supplements. World Health Organization. 2018. https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/5_population_nutrient/en/index13.html
Claire is a Registered Dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a board-certified Health and Wellness Coach through the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.
Talking and writing about food and fitness is at the heart of Claire’s ethos as she loves to use her experience to help others meet their health and wellness goals.
Claire is also a certified indoor cycling instructor and loves the mental and physical boost she gets from regular runs and yoga classes. When she’s not keeping fit herself, she’s cheering on her hometown’s sports teams in Pittsburgh, or cooking for her family in the kitchen.
Find out more about Claire’s experience here.