Focus On: Fish Oil

Fish oil is known to many as the magic source of omega-3 fatty acids. But what is an omega-3 fatty acid? Amongst others, it includes (eicosapentaenoic acids or EPAs) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Neither acid is produced by our bodies, so they need to be consumed through diet or supplementation. Our brain can make DHA by combining other acids, but that process is often disrupted by stress, excess sugar, nutrient deficiencies, and alcohol intake. 
 

[ Children ]
Younger than 18 years old: Fish oil supplements are not recommended for children unless prescribed by a physician, and fish consumption should be monitored for children due to possible environmental contaminates.
 
[ Natural Sources ]
Fish like albacore tuna, anchovies, mackerel, herring, lake trout, and salmon have the highest numbers of omega-3s. The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of fish at least twice per week, making sure each serving is about 3.5 ounces cooked, or about 3/4 cup flaked. Omega-3s can also be found in certain plant and nuts oils such as flaxseed and walnut oils.
 
[ Benefits ]
In general, omega-3 fatty acids help promote brain function (the brain is mostly fat, with DHA being the most prevalent), and cell membrane growth. DHA and EPA also help cardiovascular function by lowering triglycerides, reducing the risk of death, heart attack, dangerous abnormal heart rhythms, and strokes in people with known cardiovascular disease. They have been shown to prevent hardening of the arteries, and some studies also indicate fish oil can help with depression, anxiety, and tender joints related to rheumatoid arthritis.
 
[ Recommended Dosages ]
Healthy Adults: 300 to 500 milligrams of daily EPA and DHA. Consult a doctor and pharmacist for dosages to treat specific conditions.
 
[ Warnings ]
People with fish allergies or sensitivities should stay away from fish oil supplements, and choose a vegetarian option instead. Also, certain types of fish may be at higher risk of mercury poisoning, so stay away from eating large predatory fish such as swordfish, king mackerel, and shark. Consuming high doses of fish oil may have harmful effects, such as an increased risk of increased bleeding. Source: The World Health Organization
 
[ Supplementation ]
Taking fish oil supplements over a long period of time may cause a Vitamin E deficiency; so many supplements include extra amounts of the vitamin. Also, be sure to choose a supplement NOT made from liver. The fish’s liver is the “filter” of the body and may include higher levels of PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls), a toxic chemical known to cause hormone disruptions. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, there are DHA supplements
derived from algae instead of fish, and it’s recommended you pair it with flaxseed oil to get EPA and ALA (a-Linolenic acid, another omega-3 fatty acid), too.
 

PICKS: Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega, 60 soft gels, $28, nordicnaturals.com // Rainbow Light Everyone’s Omega, 60 softgels, $24, rainbowlight.com // Deva Vegan Omega-3 DHA Softgels (Gelatin-free), 90 capsuels, $40, devanutrition.com; Spectrum Organics Flaxseed Oil, with DHA, 16 oz. liquid, $32, spectrumorganics.com.