Is Fish Oil All That Important Anyways?

It seems the new craze in health and nutrition for the past few years has been the obsession with fish oils and the Mediterranean type diet, which is high in fish. But is it really worth all the hype? The short answer is yes for multiple reasons. These include cardiovascular health and anti-inflammatory properties among others.

A meta-analysis published by the American Heart Association looked at fish oil and the role it plays in heart rate. Through their review of the current research, they found that fish oil supplementation had an effect on lowering participants heart rates, sometimes by as much as 2 beats per minute (Mozaffarian, 2005). The dosage of supplementation, ranging from .8 – 15 g/d, had no effect on the outcome either. Which means whether you take a little or take a lot, it’s going to have an effect. Another factor looked at in the study was length of treatment. This review found that the longer (>12 weeks) someone was taking fish oil, the greater the effect on heart rate (Mozaffarian, 2005). A second review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that Omega-3 fish oil supplementation can reduce the risk of all-cause mortality, cardiac events, and possibly stroke. Whether the Omega-3 oils came from fish or a fish oil supplement had little change on the outcome (Wang, 2006). So whether you are eating fish or taking a fish oil, get those Omega-3’s in!

Fish oils can also play a role in helping reduce inflammation in the body. This can help people suffering from arthritis, joint pain, or other inflammatory related ailments. The basis of most disease and pain is inflammation, which fish oil may be able to help with. This is due to the high amounts of Vitamin A and Vitamin D found in fish oil. Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant, helping to prevent damage caused by free radicals in the bloodstream. Vitamin D is a building block of prostaglandins, which help to regulate inflammation and your immune system. Vitamin D is also a vital component of proteoglycans, a protein found in joint cartilage (Fish Oil, 2013). While fish oil will not help regrow cartilage, it may help rehydrate and retain the cartilage you have left.

When paired with an exercise program, fish oils have also been shown to help improve weight loss. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found up to a 3% decrease in body fat when fish oil was combined with exercise, which is more than either fish oil or exercise alone. This study used a 3 day per week cardiovascular training program at 75% of estimated maximal heart rate (220-age) for 12 weeks (Hill, 2007). This study also showed a decrease in BMI, triglycerides, cholesterol, and other cardiovascular risk factors (Hill, 2007).

Convinced to take your fish oil yet? When looking for a supplement, make sure to do your research first. Make sure to choose a big name brand fish oil. Because there is no governing body in the world of supplements, what is on the label may not be what is in the bottle. Nature Made fish oil is one of the best, as is available at most grocery stores. Make sure that the supplement contains both EPA and DHA, with around 300mg of omega-3’s. To help avoid the fishy aftertaste, most people like to follow their fish oil with some form of food, to help cover up that after taste. Morning, noon, or evening, as long as you are getting the supplement in. I usually recommend half of your daily dosage in the morning, and the other half after your workouts with your post workout recovery shake. On days you do not workout, taking it in the morning with breakfast is what I recommend. As always if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask!

Fish Oil (2013). Arthritis Research UK. http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org

Hill, A. M., Buckley, J. D., Murphy, K. J., & Howe, P. R. (2007). Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(5), 1267-1274.

Mozaffarian, D., Geelen, A., Brouwer, I. A., Geleijnse, J. M., Zock, P. L., & Katan, M. B. (2005). Effect of Fish Oil on Heart Rate in Humans A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Circulation, 112(13), 1945-1952.

Wang, C., Harris, W. S., Chung, M., Lichtenstein, A. H., Balk, E. M., Kupelnick, B., … & Lau, J. (2006). n− 3 Fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements, but not α-linolenic acid, benefit cardiovascular disease outcomes in primary-and secondary-prevention studies: a systematic review. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 84(1), 5-17.

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