Are fish oil supplements worth it?

Claire Small's picture
Authored by Claire Small
Posted Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 8:05am

While collagen powder is currently taking the holistic world by storm, fish oil supplements have always been big in the market of supplements, but do they really work all the wonders they claim to work or is most of it just a hoax. Let’s delve a little more into this and find out for ourselves. 

While fish oil supplements contain many vitamins, the two main nutrients are Omega-3 fatty acids also known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega-3 fatty acids are important in managing heart disease. Findings show that it helps in lowering blood pressure, reduce triglycerides (a type of fat that circulates in the blood). It slows the development of plaque in the arteries, reduces the risk of abnormal heart rhythm. It reduces the likelihood of strokes and heart attack and cardiac death in people with prior heart disease.

While these two nutrients are very important, like most vitamins our body gets sufficient amounts from our diet. These fatty acids are found in a number of fish and that’s why it is recommended to eat oily fish at least twice a week.  Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines are rich in Omega-3. But if you are vegetarian or a vegan, fret not there are some plants that are rich in another type of Omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid which the body then can convert into EPA and DHA. Flaxseeds, walnuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and canola oil are good sources of this kind of fatty acid. 

Omega 3 fatty acids are vital in brain function, normal growth and development and inflammation. While deficiencies in these fatty acids have been linked to cardiovascular disease, cancers, mood disorders and many others, it does not mean that taking high doses of their supplements can restore good health. 

While earlier studies have shown that fish oil has helped the heart, more recent studies have not proven the same results. One of the reasons could be that there are so many medications that are now being used to treat high-risk patients and these medications could be coming in the way of the dietary supplement doing its job. Another reason could be that a change in the dietary habits has people eating more fish than they used to and hence an inclusion of the fish oil supplement does not show any changes. Though there are some studies that point to the benefit of fish oil supplements to people at the risk of heart problems, the benefit of this to people with healthy hearts is questionable as high levels of Omega-3 intake has been associated with a risk of stroke, it may also interfere with certain blood thinner medication. 

Again with the immune system, the studies that show the benefits of fish oil supplements has been contradictory. Researchers have also studied the effects of fish oil on many other conditions but the benefits have been only in a few of them. While fish oil may lessen the need for pain medication in rheumatoid arthritis, research shows that the effect is very little.

While fish oil is no magic cure, there is evidence that points to it being an important nutrient in some areas. If you are already taking an over-the-counter fish oil supplement and you are doing fine then there’s no need to stop it but at the same time there’s not enough evidence to point to its usefulness. If you are not taking any fish oil, try including it in your diet first. If you want to start taking supplements, it is always to better to consult with your doctor first.