There is a lot of talk about fish oil these days and rightly so. What is the big craze over fish oil? If you ask most people who take fish oil daily why they do, they will almost always tell you they take it to keep their heart smooth functioning, healthy and vibrant. That is very true. So many scientific studies continue to prove the huge benefits for humans and animals taking fish oil daily. Omega-3 fatty acid will decrease inflammation, help in weight loss, reduce incidences of heart attack, improve brain function and many others. Fish oil is a very good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Now what on earth are Omega-3 fatty acids?
WHAT ARE OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS AND WHERE CAN YOU FIND THEM?
Over the years, the word “FAT” has almost become a bad a very very bad word. Regardless of what context you use it in, people might give you a strange look when you use that word loudly in public. The good news is that, not all fat is bad. Not all fat is created equal. Let us talk about the good fat. Have you ever heard of the Omega fatty acids? Well Omega fatty acids are a kind of fat. A good kind of fat. Although they are very vital to your health, the body cannot make Omega 3 fatty acids on its own but needs it.
Two of the most important Omega-3s worthy of note are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). So make sure you look for these on your fish oil labels. Fish oil supplements have a lot of EPA and DHA but not a lot of Vitamin A or D. While a source like cod liver oil has more vitamin A and D and less EPA and DHA. That is why historically, cod liver oil has been given to infants especially to improve brain function and boost their immune system. You get these in fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines. It is very important to supplement your Omega-3s by eating foods packed with Omega-3s and also using supplements. That is why you must get them from fish like mackerel and salmon, anchovies, sardines . You can get some Omega-3s from vegetables like watercress, spinach and kale. Wild caught fish are way better that farm raised fish on so many levels.
In general, it is believed that Omega-3 foods are anti-inflammatory and thus help with lowering your risk for heart disease. Also improved immununity, brain function, digestive disorders, nerve function, allergies, joint and muscle pain and mood regulation, are some of the benefits one might get from consuming adequate amounts of Omega-3s daily.
As far as the benefits of taking fish oil to improve heart health goes, the jury is still out. Scientists are still debating on this particular benefit. If you ask me, I would say in the mean time, there is very strong research out there to support the importance of fish oil to general heart health. Some people might not be able to tolerate fish oil due to its taste or maybe because of the inability of the gall bladder/liver system to break down the fatty acids for proper absorption. There are other options.
WHAT IS ALA and why is it important?
One more long word for you to read and forget about how to pronounce. ALA (Alpha-linolenic cid) is another type of omega-3 fatty acid. This kind is found in plants or plant products like leafy green vegetables, flax seeds, walnuts, canola oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, etc. They can be converted by the human body to EPA and DHA when taken. That is good news right? Not so fast. Remember this is science we are dealing with and it advances by the second. So recent scientific publications have suggested that maybe as we become older, it becomes more difficult for our bodies to convert ALA to EPA and DHA which are the more active forms of Omega-3 fatty acids. Hmmmm. I told you not to get happy to fast. Wait, there is more.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CONCERNS PEOPLE HAVE WITH FISH OIL?
I am sure you have heard of the high risk of mercury toxicity in humans when they eat big fish like tuna or sword fish. This is one reason why doctors tell pregnant moms and young children to limit the amount of fish they eat to avoid mercury toxicity. These bigger fish ingest this mercury from the air and also from the water they live in. So the more you eat the bigger fish like tuna or king mackerel who live longer than sardines and anchovies, the higher your chances are to suffer from mercury toxicity. Since these bigger fish consume other small fish, chances of them ingesting more mercury is higher. Most quality fish oil is extracted from smaller fish like sardines and salmons. So make sure you buy your fish oil from a high quality standard company and not just from any drug store.
One more thing that scares people away from fish oil is the capsule size and the fishy taste. They are usually big and hard to swallow. Sometimes the fishy taste it leaves in your mouth, discourages people from taking it daily.
If you are worried about efficient absorption, mercury toxicity or the horror of swallowing a big giant pill in the name of health, then another option to supplement your omega-3s would be to take KRILL OIL instead. This is taken from little shrimp known as Krills. They exist way down at the bottom of the food chain, so the chances of mercury intoxication are very highly unlikely. The Krill oil capsules are usually way smaller in size than the fish oil and so easy to swallow. Science has also shown that the human body tends to absorb Krill oil faster and more efficiently. Krill oil is a little bit more expensive than fish oil if you were to look at the prices. General caution is that if your fish oil or krill oil is on the cheap side, the quality is probably on the cheap side also.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT EAT FISH?
As noted above, omega-3 fatty acids are very important for optimal health. Since there is some risk of mercury toxicity from taking fish oil and since Krill are almost “endangered species”, where else can one get the so much needed EPA and DHA aka Omega-3 fatty acids? The very interesting thing is that, your DHA and EPA originally come from algae and phytoplankton which the sea creatures eat. The small creatures eat it and then then medium sea creatures, and then the big ones. That is why scientists have come up with a source for people like vegetarians. Krill are little shrimp that feed on algae and a lot of marine animals feed on Krill. Enviromental activitists have not and are not very happy with krill oil because of risk of krill extinction. Another source of omega-3 fatty acid can be obtained by fermenting algae. By doing it this way, we don’t kill any fish or krill. Scientists have found out that both EPA and DHA can be obtained from all algae. That is how algae sourced omega-3s are harvested.
WHAT IS THE APPROPRIATE DOSAGE?
So you can obtain your omega-3s from either fish oil, krill oil, algae-sourced omega-3s or/and by eating plants and fish that are great sources of omega-3s. A great way to get your Omega-3s is to eat fatty fish about 2-3 times a week. Algae-sourced Omega-3 seems to me the best way to get your Omega-3 because you are getting it from the original source. So what are the appropriate dosages for each? Recommended doses by health organizations vary so much that it makes no sense to try to mention any here. General recommendations range from 1000mg up to 4,000mg daily of Omega-3 fatty acids. Please consult your medical professional on the appropriate daily dosage of your fish oil or krill oil.
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