Fish Oil as a Supplement
If I could take only one supplement, it would be fish oil. From what I’ve seen in my own case and in those of my family members, fish oil can provide many benefits to the body, and those of us over the age of 50 can certainly reap these benefits.
Fish oil is especially noteworthy for being a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). In the modern Western diet, there tends to be a poor ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats, and the use of fish oil can help to restore a healthier balance. Omega-3 fats belong to the class of Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s), which are healthy fats. Whereas a 2:1 ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats is thought to be desirable, in actual practice many Western diets produce closer to a 1:15 or 1:20 ratio—way out of proportion! Fish with the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids include herring, sardines, mackerel, and salmon.
Fish oil has been shown in scientific studies to help prevent heart disease and strokes. Other health conditions for which fish oil can be beneficial (as listed on www.webmd.com) include depression, psychosis, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer’s disease, dry eyes, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), pregnancy issues, diabetes, asthma, developmental coordination disorders, movement disorders, dyslexia, obesity, kidney disease, weak bones (osteoporosis), and the list goes on. Fish oil may even help in the prevention of cancer, but further research is called for. Because fish oil has a blood-thinning effect, anyone who is taking blood-thinning medication should consult their doctor on the use of fish oil, as should anyone taking a blood-clotting medication.
Fish oil is anti-inflammatory, and that property is a big part of the benefits that were listed above. Before I started taking fish oil regularly I would suffer from awful spring allergies. One of the unexpected benefits I’ve received from fish oil supplementation is that I no longer get those spring allergies. I also find that my joints are happier when I’m taking fish oil, and I feel that fish oil has strengthened my immunity against colds.
Why Fish Oil Instead of Fish
Why not just eat more fish rather than supplement with fish oil? The problem with most fish is that pollution has reared its ugly head, and the concentrations of pollutants such as mercury, dioxin, and PCBs are too high for safe mass consumption. If you get a high-quality fish oil, it will be purified to remove contaminants such as mercury. (Molecular distillation is one common method used for purification.) Also, some people don’t like to eat fish, so the use of fish oil provides an easy way to still reap the benefits that would come from eating fish. Fish oil usually contains small amounts of vitamin E in order to combat spoilage.
Krill oil offers similar benefits to fish oil, and some authorities such as Dr. Joseph Mercola seem to prefer it over fish oil. However, I’ve been very happy with the results from using fish oil instead. Flaxseed oil also provides omega-3 benefits, but the human body is able to process omega-3 fats from fish oil more directly.
Fish oil is considered to be safe for most people up to a dosage of 3 grams per day. I have seen some recommendations for higher doses if you lead a very athletic life, but of course in those cases you should consult with your doctor. (Personally, I do often take more than 3 grams per day, but again, consult with your physician.)
Years ago I used to hear people complain about “fishy” burps when they took fish oil, but as long as you’re taking a good quality of fish oil I don’t believe this is normally a problem.
Personally, I get a lot of the supplements I use (including fish oil) from Swanson, at
www.swansonvitamins.com. This is not an affiliate link—I just like their selection, pricing, quality, and excellent service. I happen to use their Lemon Flavor Omega-3 Fish Oil. Most of the customer reviews state that there is no negative after-taste. In scanning through the customer reviews, the following items were listed as benefits from using the product:
- Less dryness of skin
- Keeps eyes lubricated
- Quicker muscle recovery after training
- Helps a little with joints
I would agree with all of those points. Whenever a friend or family member complains about allergies or joint stiffness, the first thing I ask is whether they take fish oil supplements. I would encourage anyone to give it a try (after proper consultation with a personal physician).
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