Have heard of fish oil pills, been asked what the health benefits are, or just saw them in the health store? When a PHW email subscriber asked us about the truth behind fish oil we decided to dig a bit deeper to find out the Fishy Facts. We found that fish oil was first recognized as beneficial to human health when studies revealed that Eskimos traditionally have lower rates of heart disease. Their health advantage was traced to their diets, which are typically high in fish. Since then a whole sector of the supplement market has taken up the promotion of fish oil as a method to extend the benefits of fish-centric diets to those who normally don’t eat a lot of fish.
There has been claims made by fish oil activists that the supplement is effective for managing everything from menstrual pain and depression to arthritis and blood pressure, but many of those claims are skeptical. Scientific evidence points to improved heart health and supports claims that fish oil can help people avoid heart attacks and strokes—conditions that usually affect men.
PhillyHealthWatch found one of the best ways to get fish oil into the body is by eating oily fish. Some of the more common oily fish are sardines, herring and salmon. These options provide important Omega 3 nutrients, such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that at least two three-ounce servings of oily fish a week should be included in most diets to maintain cardiovascular health. Those who can manage this requirement will ordinarily not need to take additional fish oil supplements. Those who can’t work that much fish into their diet will need to compensate by taking nutritional supplements that contain fish oil.
Fish oil supplements come in the form of traditional capsules, liquid formulations and tablets. There does not seem to be an agreement of which delivery method is best, so going by personal preference is probably the best way to choose. For example, some people who have trouble swallowing pills will probably want to try using fish oil supplements in a liquid form. However, the liquid form does not taste too great!
There has been debate over how much fish oil is necessary to receive potential benefits. Although the American Heart Associations says that three to four ounces of oily fish twice per week is sufficient, others suggest that eating salmon every day would not provide enough of the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for basic health maintenance. People using fish oil for wellness should follow the instructions found on the label of their supplement or follow instructions from a licensed health professional.
With all the fish oil facts, one thing is clear: there are no real guidelines for the use of fish oil supplements. There seems to be a lot of arrows pointing to the heart benefits and there is little evidence that supports the concerns about mercury and other toxins being found. But after all, you are ingesting a supplement into your body and you should be careful about how much you take. Studies also show that regular exercise is great for heart health! Just something to think about. PHW highly recommends Essene Market & Cafe, Philadelphia’s premier natural foods store, for all your fish oil needs!