Do you research the vitamins and supplements you consume before you put them into your body? Protein powders, multivitamins, concentrated vitamins, fish oil… all supplements largely consumed by people who know little or nothing about them.
One common supplement people take is fish oil. Fish oil capsules contain fatty oils that come from the tissues of certain fish. These fatty oils contain Omega-3’s, which are necessary and beneficial to our health. Since our bodies don’t make Omega-3’s, we have to consume them in our food in order to obtain them.
We need Omega-3’s for a normal metabolism, normal development, healthy brain function, and they’re great for reducing inflammation. If someone’s diet has a serious deficit of Omega-3’s, this can cause real health issues, like cardiovascular disease, cancers of various types, and more.
Omega-3’s are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and can be found in a variety of fish (salmon, mackerel and more) as well as in other sources. Eating walnuts, pumpkin seeds, or flax seed provides these Omega-3’s as well, but not in as concentrated a dose as a fish oil supplement found at any pharmacy or vitamin store.
There’s been a lot of confusion over what health benefits and risks fish oil actually poses. While I’ve done some research and have formulated my own opinion, I still encourage you to look into this yourself!
The Pros: Supposed Benefits
High levels of triglycerides in the body are linked to coronary heart disease and strokes. Since Omega-3 PUFAs work to lower the amount of triglycerides the body produces, it’s been suggested that taking supplements containing Omega-3 (like fish oil) can reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.
Some research studies that have been conducted over time have claimed that taking fish oil supplements have helped reduce the risk of some cancers, like prostate cancer.
There is little to no published research on this, however, it should be noted that some studies have been done regarding fish oil and mood disorders such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression. Benefits from these studies haven’t been scientifically proven as of yet, but are still underway and look promising.
The Cons: Supposed & Potential Risks
It’s still unclear as to whether or not fish oil is safe to take while pregnant. A nursing mother could potentially pass some of this substance to her child while breastfeeding, however there hasn’t been enough research to say if this actually happens, or if it is detrimental to the baby if it does indeed happen.
Various studies on fish oil and Omega-3’s have suggested that diets high in fish oil/fatty fish can actually lead to an increased chance of developing cancer. The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that subjects in their testing who took fish oil supplements or maintained a diet high in fatty fish had a 40+% chance for developing prostate cancer.
Other studies show absolutely no link between fatty fish diets or fish oil and cancers or heart disease.
Clearly, the jury is still out on this. We’ve gone back and forth with certain studies showing one finding and another study years later contradicting those results. So, only time will really tell.
Regardless, some things hold true:
Firstly, look to your diet when a change needs to be made. The wealth of nutrients and vitamins found in plants and animals cannot be duplicated. If you aren’t getting enough Omega-3’s, try consuming them naturally by eating fish once or twice a week. If you don’t like fish, adjust your diet by adding nuts and seeds to your breakfast meals, like yogurt and oatmeal. Always try going the natural route first before turning to a concentrated, over the counter supplement. Of course, if your doctor has prescribed a fish oil supplement for you to take, listen to his or her expertise on usage frequency and dosage.
Secondly, any time you decide to take a supplement that you think you need, do yourself a favor and look into it or ask your doctor before you put it in your body. You want to know how it interacts with any medications you take, what the possible side effects are, and if it’s really worth the “benefits” it claims to give you. Most of the time, you really don’t need supplements if you are maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet, so if you want to make a change, start there.