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What do you need to know about Fish Oil? Do you really need it? – 10 minutes-read

Should I take it?
How to choose the best fish oil?
What is the benefits of fish oil?
This is the all-time question we get from fish oil. I bet you have heard a lot about fish oil on all over the places. Whether is your health care professional or even from your neighbour. Therefore, it always keeps us wonder that is fish oil supplement really worth it or it is just an all-time hype in the health supplement world?

Let’s back to basics, what is fish oil? Fish oil is the fat or oil that is extracted from the fish tissue, usually comes from fatty fish such as tuna, anchovies and mackerel. Therefore, by all means – Fish Oil. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating 1-2 portions of fish per week. However, if you didn’t get to eat 1-2 servings of fish per week, fish oil supplements can help you get enough omega-3s.

Why do we need fish oil?

Fish oil is one of the most commonly consumed dietary supplements. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important for our health as it is one of the essential fatty acid that we cannot synthesize by our own. Therefore, we must obtain from diet or supplement.

The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is mainly found in plant oils and nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, chia-seed, soybean and canola. ALA also known as plant source DHA as part of it can undergo conversion to become DHA and that is the main reason why vegetarian take a lot of ALA. DHA and EPA are only found in fish and other seafood. Among all the fishes, mackerel, salmon and sardines contain the highest omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3s are important components of cell membranes. DHA levels are especially high in retina (eyes), brain and sperm cells. Omega-3s also provide calories to give your body energy and have many functions in our heart, blood vessels, lungs, immune system as well as endocrine system. Various researches have shown the benefits of Fish Oil for different part of our body.

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Studies show that getting more EPA and DHA from foods or dietary supplements as part of a healthy eating patterns helps keep our heart healthy and keeps us away from some heart problems. This is due to multiple risk factors for heart disease appear to be reduced by fish oil including:

  • Cholesterol levels: It can increase the levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol)
  • Triglycerides: it can lower triglycerides by about 15-30%.
  • Blood Pressure: it helps to reduce blood pressure in people with elevated blood pressure.
  • Plaque: it may prevent the plaques that cause the hardening of arteries and stabilized atherosclerotic lesions.

Infant Health and Development

Omega-3s are essential for early growth and development. Therefore, it is crucial for mothers to get enough omega-3s during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Studies showed that fish oil supplements in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers may improve hand-eye coordination in infants as well as improve infant visual development and reduce risk of allergies such as asthma.

Brain Health and Mental Disorders

Our brain is made up of approximately 60% of fats where big part of it from omega-3 fatty acids. Therefore, omega-3s are essential for normal brain function and cognitive abilities. There are studies that linked fish oil supplement with memory improvement in healthy older adults that reduce the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Other than that, some studies have linked certain mental disorders with lower omega-3 blood levels. Research suggests that fish oil supplements can prevent onset or improve the symptoms of some mental disorders such as psychotic disorder, depression and bipolar disorder for those who are at risk.

Inflammation

Inflammation occurs when our immune system is fighting infection and treating injuries. However, chronic inflammation is associated with serious illness such as obesity, diabetes, depression and heart disease. Therefore, reducing inflammation can help treat and alleviate symptoms of these serious illness. The anti-inflammatory properties of fish oil can help to treat conditions involved chronic inflammation. For example, fish oil can reduce the production and gene expression of inflammatory molecule (cytokines) in stressed and obese individuals.

In addition, omega-3s can help to balance the high intake of omega-6s in our diet. While omega 6s are beneficial, it is also pro-inflammatory that would contribute to inflammation in high amount. Low omega-3s to omega-6s ratio will contribute to overall inflammation. The golden ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s is 1:1.

Joint Health

Inflammation also impacts on joint health that causing joint pain, stiffness, swelling and loss of function of joint. Due to its anti-inflammation properties, fish oil can help to reduce joint pain, stiffness and swelling for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. Other than that, RA patient who take omega-3 supplements may need less pain-relief medication.

Eye’s health

Just like our brain, our eyes rely on omega-3s as well. Studies showed low level of omega-3s in diet have greater risk for eye diseases. Furthermore, eye health begins to decline in old age and the commonly used of electronic devices further impact on our eyes health and lead to Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Studies suggest people who get higher amount of dietary omega-3 may have lower risk for developing AMD, but does not slow down the progression of AMD for someone who already has AMD.

Overall, fish oil is important as it provide a lot of benefits to us from head to toes. So, just in case we are unable to achieve 2 servings of fish per week, we shall opt for fish oil supplement. Which leads to the next question: how do we choose the best fish oil or the one that is suitable for us and doesn’t break the bank?

1. Check for the Omega content

2. Fish Oil Ratio

3. How many mg omega-3s we need?

ISSFAL: International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids

4. Quality of Fish Oil

During the process, the crude fish oil is placed under vacuum and boiled well under its boiling point render its separation based on molecular weight due to different boiling point. Molecules of mercury and dioxins have different molecular weight and different boiling point; therefore, they will be separated out. Eventually, the fish oil is purified molecule by molecule. The process of molecular distillation is way faster than conventional steam distillation. This is important as to protect the delicate Omega-3 Fatty acids from breaking down and going rancid. Most importantly, it is free from any contaminants, heavy metals and toxins.

Form of Fish Oil

Fish Oil supplements come in different forms including ethyl esters (EE), triglycerides (TG), reformed triglycerides (rTG), free fatty acids (FFA) and phospholipid (PL). The debates go on and on the absorption of omega-3 fatty acids for EE and TG fish oil.

TG form consists of a three-carbon molecule that forms a backbone for the fatty acid to latch on to while EE is in ester form that without the glycerol backbones. EE has higher boiling point that made it easier to process and render high purity. Therefore, majority of high purity fish oil is in EE form. However, EE can be re-esterified to triglyceride namely rTG but the process is costly.

Most of the research show that no different between EE and TG form when participants consumed the fish oil with their meals. However, the difference between them are TG tastes better than EE, therefore it is recommended if you plan to drink liquid fish oil. Other than that, TG is the natural form of omega-3s that were found in fish and slightly more resistant towards rancidity. Overall, although there are studies showed that TG was better in terms of absorption, but there are more studies stated TG and EE has no different in its clinical efficacy.

Take Away from Nutritionist

Various researched showed the benefits of fish oil for our health. You should obtain omega-3s from fish oil supplement if you can’t get it enough in your diet. In addition, you should opt for high purity fish oil that has been molecularly distilled regardless it is in TG or EE form. There you go, now you know better about fish oil, you can figure if you would need a fish oil supplement and you can choose the best fish oil supplement for yourself and by yourself!

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Updated on 19/5/2021