I knew that fish oil was important, and that most of us don’t get enough of the right kind. But I wasn’t sure off the top of my head what “enough of the right kind” meant. So I did a little research to decided to share. Because maybe some of you are like me and need accessible, down-to-earth explanations!
Quick Facts on Fish Oil
Fish Oils are Essential fatty acids (EFAs), dietary fats your body cannot produce independently. We need both omega-6 and omega-3 fish oil EFAs to remain healthy. But the omega-6 fats are very easy to obtain through diet–too easy, in fact. They are in seeds and grains, which livestock eat; large amounts of omega-6 fats get passed on this way. For anybody not on a low-fat diet, we are consuming much, much more omega-6 than needed. For people eating low carb/high fat, the difference will be even more notable.
So who cares if we get more omega-6 than we actually need? The problem is that while both these EFAs are required for cell membranes to function, there is competition for absorption into the cells. Therefore, the ratio matters. Ideally, we’re looking at a 1 to 1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 EFAs for the best health. But we don’t live in an ideal world.
Most modern Western diets have a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fish oil of about 16:1!
How do Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fish Oil Ratios Impact Health?
Too much omega-6 (inflamatory) in relationship to omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) is associated with many, many chronic health problems. Incorporating more Omega-3s can help sometimes prevent, improve or reverse those health problems.
Maladies helpfully impacted by adequate omega-3 intake make up a long list.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive decline with aging
- High cholesterol
- Plus a lot more!
Omega-3 Fish Oil and Weight Loss
Omega-3 fish oil is believed to aid in fat burning, improve glucose sensitivity, lower insulin resistance and speed fat oxidation.When your body is burning fat for energy, it burns off EFAs as well, but the omega-3s get burned off faster than the omega-6s do. So it’s even more important to be aware of omega-3s while losing weight. In addition to a high quality multivitamin, omega-3s are the only supplement recommended across the board for the Atkins plan.
Better Omega-3 Fish Oil Ratios through Diet
We can certainly make conscious choices to help improve the omega-3 fish oil ratio.
Improve your omega-6 to omega-3 fish oil ratios:
- Limit corn oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, and other oils that are high in omega-6.
- Use more olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, and other plant-derived oils.
- Eat cold water ocean fish. (Tuna, salmon, sardines and anchovies are good sources of omega-3).
- Eat grass-fed animals over conventionally fed animals when possible.
- Eat walnuts and flaxseeds, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, winter squash, summer squash and kale, all sources of omega-3 EFAs.
For almost all of us, though, dietary management is just not enough. So it’s prudent to consider supplementation.
How Much Omega-3 Fish Oil Should I take?
Recommendations vary on how much omega-3 fish oil is enough, but most range from about 1-3 total grams a day. To further complicate matters, omega-3s are made up of fats called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are the active compounds and are processed a little differently in your body. A fair range to start might be about 1200-1600mg EPA and 600-800mg DHA daily, putting you somewhere in the middle of that 1-3 grams recommendation. For the many supplements, that would mean taking them twice a day.
Side effects for Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements
The most common side effects are indigestion, upset stomach, gas, or a “fishy” aftertaste/belching. Unpleasant side effects are much more likely if you have just started taking fish oil, or have just made an especially large increase in how much you are getting. Most side effects disappear over time so if you’ve been taking supplements for a while and are still having issues, you could be taking more than necessary.
Minimizing Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement Side Effects
- Start with a lower dosage and work your way up over time.
- Take with meals; this both helps absorption and minimizes gastrointestinal reactions.
- Look for coated supplements; these do not dissolve until later in the digestion process, eliminating many problems with gastrointestinal impact, reflux, etc.
- Look for “Pharmaceutical Grade” or highly refined fish oils. The more refined, the more concentrated the Omega-3s and the fewer the impurities. The more refined capsules have less of a fishy taste and smell, and the capsules will be smaller, too. Bonus!
Cautions for Taking Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements
Because omega-3 can impact blood clotting, be cautious if you’re taking anticoagulant drugs, have any clotting related issues or are scheduled for surgery. Also check for potential allergens if you have fish allergies. If you have other medical concerns or are on medications, of course it’s best to consult with your doctor.
What to look for in an Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplement?
I learned not all omega-3 fish oil supplements are created equal. Fortunately, there are many signs you have a high quality omega-3 supplement. You want as many of these qualities as you can find:
- Meets the GOED industry standard, guaranteed by independent labs or 3rd-party testing. (GOED is the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s.)
- Pharmaceutical grade or highly concentrated/refined fish oil; these have more concentrated Omega-3s and fewer fillers and impurities.
- Molecularly distilled, again for the least amount of impurities.
- Enteric coating, to improve absorption and minimize stomach upset.
- Smaller capsules, with a less noticeable fishy smell, an indication of potency and purity.
- Labeling indicates the sourcing of the fish, to assure quality.
Omega-3 Supreme by Life & Food
I received a review bottle of Omega-3 Supreme 1400mg Fish Oil Concentrate by Life & Food.* I was surprised how different this was from the omega-3 fish oil supplements I had been taking so I set about to understand the difference. Hence, the research binge!
Size – The first thing I noticed was they were so much smaller than what I had been taking! I’ve always disliked taking fish oil because of the humongous capsules. At first, I thought it was a lower dosage, but after checking, I realized it’s not. The Life & Food Omega-3 Supremes actually have more of what I want in them; they are just a lot more concentrated.
Smell – Comparing the smell of the two on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being not fishy smelling and 10 being extremely fishy smelling), the old capsules I would rate about a 5 on the fish-smell factor: tolerable but you don’t really want to sniff ’em. The Supremes would score a 1. They had a very slight fish odor, but if I didn’t already know it was fish oil, I am not sure I’d be able to identify it.
Side Effects – I have experienced upset stomach and fishy-tasting reflux with supplements before, leading me to cut down on the amount I took. These ones, I doubled the dosage from what I had been taking, with absolutely zero side effects.
Quality – The Life & Food supplements met every quality standard I found suggested in my research.
Do you take Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements?
- A New Atkins for a New You (book)
- GB Healthwatch
- World’s Healthiest Foods
- Dr Oz: Daily Dose, Omega-3
- Reducing Inflammation
- Everyday Health