• Do Fish Oil Supplements Work?

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    Fish oil can be obtained from eating fish or by taking supplements. Fish that are especially rich in the beneficial oils known as omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, tuna, salmon, sturgeon, mullet, bluefish, anchovy, sardines, herring, trout, and menhaden. They provide about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids in about 3.5 ounces of fish.

    Fish oil supplements are usually made from mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cod liver, whale blubber, or seal blubber. Fish oil supplements often contain small amounts of vitamin E to prevent spoilage. They might also be combined with calcium, iron, or vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, or D.

    Fish oil is used for a wide range of conditions. It is most often used for conditions related to the heart and blood system. Some people use fish oil to lower blood pressure or triglyceride levels (fats related to cholesterol). Fish oil has also been tried for preventing heart disease or stroke. The scientific evidence suggests that fish oil really does lower high triglycerides, and it also seems to help prevent heart disease and stroke when taken in the recommended amounts. Ironically, taking too much fish oil can actually increase the risk of stroke.

    So what’s the deal regarding fish oil capsules? Are they effective at improving health outcomes? Do they do the same thing as eating fish?

    Well, in theory, fish oil supplements containing the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA in a concentrated form should really be able to accomplish the same things from a physiological perspective as eating the whole fish.

    There is no doubt that eating fish has an important role in human health. However, the advantage of taking a concentrated supplement of omega-3 fats cannot be discounted. Previous reports have indicated that fish oil supplements can reduce triglycerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. They can also improve blood sugar and reduce the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals that can damage arteries.

    Fish oil supplements can also decrease the production of blood clots and can make the blood less sticky, which can be a good thing if you want to reduce your risk of developing atherosclerosis.

    Although …

    If you are taking them on your own because you believe they are good for you, it’s time to rethink that strategy. If you don’t eat fish or other seafood, you can get omega-3s from ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, canola oil, and soy oil. One to two servings per day can help you avoid a deficiency of omega-3s.

    Experts will surely remain divided on their opinions about fish oil supplements for the general population. And don’t expect any clarity about what to do any time soon. I expect other studies with flip-flopping results in the future.

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