Fish oils are the oils derived from the tissues of fish. They contain an important type of polyunsaturated fat known as omega-3. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are three types of omega-3 fats.
These can be found naturally in foods or supplements. These fats are essential fatty acids that come from your diet are not naturally produced by the body. There are many important benefits of fish oil supplements that we'll cover in this article.
What are the benefits of fish oil?
There are several benefits of fish oil. These include:
Heart health: Studies indicated that diets high in ALA might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They also increase HDL (good) cholesterol, improve high blood pressure and have anti-inflammatory effects (1,2,3,4).
Rheumatoid Arthritis: Three months of fish oil supplementation has been shown to provide symptom relief for patients suffering RA (1).
Mental health: People who regularly consume a source of omega-3 are less likely to be depressed (5,6). Additionally, when individuals with depression or anxiety commence supplementation of omega-3s, they report an improvement of symptoms (7,8,9).
Alzheimer's disease and dementia: Emerging research suggests that low DHA levels may play a role in the development and progression of Alzheimer's (10). One study indicated that patients with the highest levels of DHA had a lower risk of developing any dementia (11).
Where do you find Omega-3?
Omega-3 fatty acids must be consumed through diet as the body cannot synthesize them on its own. ALA is primarily found in plant-based food such as flaxseeds, legumes, canola oil, walnuts and leafy green vegetables (12). EPA and DHA is found in fatty fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, tuna and shellfish.
How much do you need?
According to the latest National Nutrition Survey, only 20% of Australians are meeting the recommended omega-3 intake each day (13). So a good rule of thumb when choosing fish is to remember that the oilier the fish is, the richer it is in these essential fatty acids.
Children aged 1-8 are recommended to have 40 - 55mg of omega-3 daily (12). This increases for 9 to 13-year-olds to 70mg, and by 14-18, boys and girls should be consuming 125mg and 85mg each day, respectively (12).
The Heart Foundation recommends adults have 250 - 500mg of omega-3 from fish each day to reduce their risk of heart disease (14). This can be achieved by consuming two to three 150g serves of oily fish each week.
In addition to these marine-derived fats, The Heart Foundation recommends having 1g of omega-3 fats from plant sources each day (14). Due to the mercury content in fish, pregnant and breastfeeding women must be mindful when consuming large amounts of fish.
Alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids
Vegetarians need to consume a source of ALA daily to provide an adequate amount of essential fatty acids. The body must first convert ALA to EPA and then to DHA before using it.
Unfortunately, this process's conversion rate is low (15). Research has also indicated that some types of marine algae are a viable source of DHA. This would be a preferential source of omega-3s for vegetarians (16).
A deficiency of either omega-3 or -6 fatty acids can cause rough, scaly skin, and dermatitis(NRV). However, not enough studies have been conducted to identify the cut-off levels where visual, immune or neural impairments are seen.
Studies have regularly indicated that higher omega-3 levels are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease. This suggests that many Australians could benefit from a higher intake of this important fat.
What about mercury?
The current evidence indicates that the health benefits of eating fish far outweigh any risks (HF). Therefore, food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) recommends 2-3 serves of any fish each week. This excludes orange roughy, catfish, shark or marlin, which should be eaten infrequently (14).
What type of fish oil supplement should I choose?
If you eat two to three fish each week, you will get enough Omega-3 fatty acid and won't need to rely on a supplement.
However, people at high risk of heart attacks, have high triglyceride levels or have heart failure may benefit from supplementation. If you do not eat fish or seafood, supplements may also be an option to meet your omega-3 fatty acid requirements.
When choosing a supplement, it's important to choose one that sources quality ingredients, such as Vitable's fish oil supplement. The Fish Oil is a concentrated blend of naturally derived omega-3-fatty acids that support heart health, brain health and cognitive function.
Find out more about other areas that the above supplements can help you with:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
- Tur, J., Bibiloni, M., Sureda, A. and Pons, A. (2012). Dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids: public health risks and benefits. British Journal of Nutrition, 107(S2), pp.S23-S52.
- Vannice, G. and Rasmussen, H. (2014). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Dietary Fatty Acids for Healthy Adults. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(1), pp.136-153.
- Barceló-Coblijn, G., Murphy, E., Othman, R., Moghadasian, M., Kashour, T. and Friel, J. (2008). Flaxseed oil and fish-oil capsule consumption alters human red blood cell n–3 fatty acid composition: a multiple-dosing trial comparing 2 sources of n–3 fatty acid. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 88(3), pp.801-809.
- Rajaram, S. (2014). Health benefits of plant-derived α-linolenic acid. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(suppl_1), pp.443S-448S.
- Grosso, G., Galvano, F., Marventano, S., Malaguarnera, M., Bucolo, C., Drago, F. and Caraci, F. (2014). Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Depression: Scientific Evidence and Biological Mechanisms. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2014, pp.1-16.
- Lin, P. and Su, K. (2007). A Meta-Analytic Review of Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trials of Antidepressant Efficacy of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 68(07), pp.1056-1061.
- Ginty, A. and Conklin, S. (2015). Short-term supplementation of acute long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may alter depression status and decrease symptomology among young adults with depression: A preliminary randomized and placebo controlled trial. Psychiatry Research, 229(1-2), pp.485-489.
- Kiecolt-Glaser, J., Belury, M., Andridge, R., Malarkey, W. and Glaser, R. (2011). Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 25(8), pp.1725-1734.
- Su, K., Huang, S., Chiu, C. and Shen, W. (2003). Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 13(4), pp.267-271.
- Lin, P., Chiu, C., Huang, S. and Su, K. (2012). A Meta-Analytic Review of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Compositions in Dementia. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 73(09), pp.1245-1254.
- Schaefer, E., Bongard, V., Beiser, A., Lamon-Fava, S., Robins, S., Au, R., Tucker, K., Kyle, D., Wilson, P. and Wolf, P. (2006). Plasma Phosphatidylcholine Docosahexaenoic Acid Content and Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer Disease. Archives of Neurology, 63(11), p.1545.
- Nrv.gov.au. (2019). Fats: Total fat & fatty acids | Nutrient Reference Values. Published on: https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/fats-total-fat-fatty-acids [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].
- Meyer, B. (2016). Australians are not Meeting the Recommended Intakes for Omega-3 Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Results of an Analysis from the 2011–2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Nutrients, 8(3), p.111.
- Foundation, T. (2019). Home. The Heart Foundation. Published on: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/ [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].
- Ods.od.nih.gov. (2019). Office of Dietary Supplements - Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Published on: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/ [Accessed 21 Jun. 2019].
- Eufic.org. (2019). Algal oil as a possible source of omega-3 fatty acid DHA to improve blood lipids in people without heart disease: (EUFIC). Published on: https://www.eufic.org/en/whats-in-food/article/algal-oil-as-a-possible-source-of-omega-3-fatty-acid-dha-to-improve-blood-l.