What is Fish Oil for and Do You Really Need It?

 

Other Tips

 

If you take fish oil capsules, take them with a meal to improve absorption. Also, store them in a dark, cool place to protect them from rancidity.

 

The other concern is contamination with toxins like heavy metals and substances called PCBs, linked with cancer. Fortunately, most fish oil supplements, because they come from smaller fish and the way they’re processed, don’t contain heavy metals or toxins.

 

Plant-Based Omega-3s

 

Wondering whether eating fish is the only way to get your omega-3s? Flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and sesame seeds, and some types of algae have omega-3s that differ from those in fish oil. The omega-3s in fish oil are called long-chain fatty acids while those from plant-based sources have short chains.

 

The problem with short-chain omega-3s is your body has to convert them to the long-chain form to get the proposed benefits. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t make this conversion efficiently. In fact, less than 5% of the short-chain omega-3s you get from plant sources, like flax and chia, makes it into the long-chain form.

 

Not that short-chain omega-3s DON’T have health benefits, it’s just that the benefits are unproven. Still, chia seeds and flaxseeds have other health advantages. Chia is high in fiber and protein and flaxseed is rich in fiber and lignans. Enjoy them in your diet but don’t count on them as a dependable source of omega-3s.

 

The Bottom Line

 

If you can, get your omega-3s by eating wild-caught salmon. Eating it twice a week is enough to give you benefits. I’m hit or miss about eating salmon, so I take two 1,000 milligram fish oil capsules a day.

 

Dr. A gets his omega-3s by eating Mahi or salmon for lunch but also takes 1,000 milligrams of fish oil daily. 

 

If you take a fish oil supplement, here are some we recommend. We tried to choose ones that are reasonable in cost too:

 

 

References:

 

Health and Fitness Experts. “ Fish oil history and benefits”
JAMA. 2015;314(8):791-801. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.9677.
JAMA. 2012;308(10):1024-1033. doi:10.1001/2012.jama.11374.
J Nutr. 2014 Jun;144(6):861-7. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.189548. Epub 2014 Apr 17.
Ann Rheum Dis doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2013-203338.
Breast Cancer Res. 2015; 17(1): 62.
American Cancer Society. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids Linked to Increase in Prostate Cancer Risk” July 17, 2013.
Today’s Dietitian. Vol. 14 No. 1 P. 22. January 2012.
NewHope 360 “Omegas May Keep Older Bods Buff” January 27, 2016.
Consumer Lab.

Kristie Leong M.D.

Dr. Kristie Leong and Dr. Apollo Leong are physicians helping you to lead a healthy lifestyle by sharing nutrition and fitness tips and keeping you abreast of the latest health news.