Is Your Fish Oil Actually Working?
Fish oil is one of the most popular supplements on the market, and for good reason. Fish oil supplementation has been proven to be both anti-inflammatory and cardioproctective. I even recommend it as one of the four supplements that every person should be taking (Read about the other three here).
But here’s the catch (no pun intended); as with most supplements, not all fish oils are created equal. You only get the benefits if it’s a decent fish oil, if your body actually absorbs it, and if you take it correctly. Buying a junk fish oil because it’s cheaper won’t do you any good just as the most expensive fish oil isn’t necessarily the best one.
So really what we’re talking about here is the quality of the supplement, the bioavailability, and the dosage.
But first, what is fish oil and what’s the big deal with it?
Fatty fish are a potent source of the Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which are precursors for anti-inflammatory cells called eicosanoids. Ongoing research has linked these eicosanoids with lowered levels of triglyceride levels in the blood, reduced joint inflammation, reduced risk for heart attack, reduction of atherosclerosis, and even reduced symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. For those of us who don’t want to eat buckets of oily fish every week fish oil is a convenient alternative that contains the same EPA and DHA found in real fish.
If your fish oil doesn’t have EPA or DHA, it doesn’t work. Unfortunately a study a few years ago showed that over half of the top sixteen fish oil supplements didn’t meet the EPA and DHA values they advertised (3). Multiple studies have found top fish oil products that contain higher than the recommended value of oxidized lipids, a marker of decomposition in the same helpful fats you’re buying the supplement for (7).
What about bioavailability? Well most fish oils are condensed into an esterified form which allows it to be put into a pill. Although the research is inconclusive as to whether the esterified, triglyceride, or emulsified form is absorbed most effectively (1) (the emulsified and triglyceride forms are less processed and closer to what you’d find in an actual fish) it’s a good rule of thumb with all supplements to choose the ones that are closest to what your body would encounter in nature. Whether you’re taking liquid or pill fish oil it’s best absorbed when taken with a fatty meal.
Now you’ve found a fish oil that isn’t toxic, has the EPA and DHA it says it does and can be readily digested by your body. How much do you take?
Studies show benefits at around 2g combined EPA and DHA daily (2), which I recommend to all of my patients. Some individuals who have higher anti-inflammatory needs or special conditions could benefit from taking significantly more. Talk to your functional medicine doctor to see if you might benefit from a higher dose.
I wish I could say that the supplement world was an easy and honest world to maneuver. But unfortunately there is a staggering amount of misadvertised and poor quality product on the market, even for supplements like fish oil that have a rock solid research backing.
Fish oil supplementation has significant anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective benefits. But it only works if you’re taking a quality product.
Do your research before you invest in your fish oil or any other supplement. At Performance Health and Wellness we use NanoEPA emulsified fish oil from BioPharma because they make a clean, bioavailable, and honest product (plus it actually tastes good). There’s plenty of cheaper options out there, but if you save money on a supplement that doesn’t actually work are you really coming out ahead? Whatever product you end up buying just make sure you do your homework first.
Now go get yourself a decent fish oil and start reaping the benefits!
Movement is Health,
Dr. Christian Barney D.C., D.A.B.C.O., C.C.S.P., ART
How can Performance Health & Wellness help you?
- Active Release Technique (ART) to the soft tissue structures to restore normal function, decrease stress to the injured area, reduce scar tissue, and promote healing;
- Stretching and Exercises to prevent condition from returning;
- Chiropractic adjustments to restore proper motion;
- Cold laser to help reduce inflammation;
- Kinesio taping to allow an athlete to continue to particpate in his sport plus augments the treatment.
- Functional medicine with extensive nutritional based consultation, individualized nutrition programs.