Supplements – Fish Oil

If there is one supplement that I would take for the rest of my life… that would be fish oil. And you should too. In a market where you pay a gazillion dollars for fat burners & tummy trimmers or whatever the hell it is that people pay for… this is one truly great dietary supplement with reams of data supporting all the claims.

Now we obviously cannot discuss fish oils without touching Omega-6 fatty acids, Omega-3 fatty acids and the relation between the two. Let’s have a quick look.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids:

These are a family of unsaturated fatty acids that have in common a final carbon–carbon double bond in the n−6 position. Click here for a list of Omega-6 fatty acids. Research suggests that excessive amount of Omega-6s relative to Omega-3s have detrimental effects on ones health [1, 2, 3]. The detrimental health effects are due to systemic inflammation caused by their conversion to n-6 eicosanoids. We get plenty of these from vegetable oils and our existing diets are pretty high in these. The Omega-6 Omega-3 ratio can be as high as 30:1 in some cases while the optimal ratio is 4:1 or lower[4,5]. Click here for detailed information on Omega 6 fatty acids.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

These are a family of unsaturated fatty acids that have in common a final carbon–carbon double bond in the n−6 position. Click here for a list of Omega-3 fatty acids. We need to get more of these Omega 3s in our diet in order to balance out the omega 6:omega 3 ratio we discussed previously (Click here for detailed information on Omega 3 fatty acids). In short, these Omega-3s help in reducing systemic inflammation which is the major cause of pretty much all bad things that can happen to you… from weight gain to diabetes.

Clearly, we are taking in more than required Omega-6s and not enough Omega-3s. Reason? Most vegetable oils & nuts contain Omega-6s and hardly any Omega-3s. So our goal should be to increase the amount of Omega-3s we eat. This is where the fish oil comes to play.

The oil derived from the tissues of oily fish like salmon, herring, tuna etc. contains the all powerful Omega-3 fatty acids (Alpha Lineolic Acid (ALA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), Docosahexaenic Acid (DHA)) in high concentrations and taking this as a supplement to our existing diet will reduce the Omega-6 Omega-3 ratio hence controlling inflammation.

Benefits of Fish Oil:

1. Several studies report cancer fighting properties of Omega-3s found in fish oil. Click here, here and here for publication.

2. Diets higher in fish and omega-3 LC-PUFA may reduce cardiovascular risk in diabetes by inhibiting platelet aggregation, improving lipid profiles, and reducing cardiovascular mortality. Click here for publication.

3. While the typical Western diet has a much greater ratio of n-6 PUFAs compared with n-3 PUFAs, research has shown that by increasing the ratio of n-3 to n-6 fatty acids in the diet, and consequently favoring the production of EPA in the body, or by increasing the dietary intake of EPA and DHA through consumption of fatty fish or fish-oil supplements, reductions may be achieved in the incidence of many chronic diseases that involve inflammatory processes; most notably, these include cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis, but psychiatric and neurodegenerative illnesses are other examples. Click here for publication.

4. Omega-3 supplementation from fish oil represents a reasonable therapeutic strategy in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes to decrease the risk of complications. Click here for publication.

5. Experts believe that taking fish oil (in any form) can help regulate cholesterol in the body, because fish oil has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Click here.

6. The American Heart Association recommends the consumption of 1g of fish oil daily, preferably by eating fish, for patients with coronary heart disease.Note that optimal dosage relates to body weight. Click here for article.

7. According to a study from Louisiana State University in September 2005, fish oil may help protect the brain from cognitive problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Click here for publication.

8. Omega-3 rich diet could counteract atherogenic oxidative stress. Click here for publication.

I can list more benefits but seriously if you can get all these benefits by taking a few pills a day why wouldn’t you do it? All these statements have legit studies backing them up. I very strongly urge every single one of you… whatever age, sex, build, nationality you are… to start supplementing your diet with fish oil. The only reason you don’t need fish oil if you are including wild caught fatty fish 4-5 times a week in your diet.

Go here to find out how much you need. Robb Wolf came up with this calculation based on your bodyweight and health status. (Robb Wolf is dope by the way. Read as many of his posts as possible. You will be thankful!).

Peace.

Additional References:

  1. Lands, William E.M. (December 2005). “Dietary fat and health: the evidence and the politics of prevention: careful use of dietary fats can improve life and prevent disease”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences(Blackwell) 1055: 179–192. doi:10.1196/annals.1323.028. PMID 16387724.
  2. Hibbeln, Joseph R.; N; B; R; L (June 1, 2006). “Healthy intakes of n−3 and n−6 fatty acids: estimations considering worldwide diversity”. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (American Society for Nutrition) 83 (6, supplement): 1483S–1493S. PMID 16841858.
  3. Okuyama, Hirohmi; Ichikawa, Yuko; Sun, Yueji; Hamazaki, Tomohito; Lands, William E.M. (2007). “ω3 fatty acids effectively prevent coronary heart disease and other late-onset diseases: the excessive linoleic acid syndrome”. World Review of Nutritional Dietetics (Karger) 96 (Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease): 83–103. doi:10.1159/000097809. ISBN 3805581793. PMID 17167282.
  4. Daley, C.A.; Abbott, A.; Doyle, P.; Nader, G.; and Larson, S. (2004). A literature review of the value-added nutrients found in grass-fed beef products. California State University, Chico (College of Agriculture). Retrieved 2008-03-23.
  5. Simopoulos, Artemis P. (October 2002). “The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids”. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy 56 (8): 365–379. doi:10.1016/S0753-3322(02)00253-6.PMID 12442909.
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19 responses to “Supplements – Fish Oil

  1. mahesh June 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Nice post. Highlights the importance of consuming omega-3 and omega 6 and most importantly the ratio. I know you dont endorse any product, but a brief description of what are all the available and ” trust worthy” products, will be very helpful particularly when you see whole host of products in the market. Usually I get confused which one to go for.

  2. Tarun June 28, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Is there a veggie alternative? I can think of flaxseed, avocado and nuts.

    I believe the regular oil too have it. Not to say that a pakora fried in peanut oil is a source of omega-3 but it would be a gap in my diet that is the easiest to fill.

    • RG June 29, 2010 at 11:01 am

      Tarun,
      Flaxseed is high in omega-3 acid but only in ALA and does not contain EPA & DHA which are the most important of the omega 3s. The body is very inefficient at converting the ALA to EPA & DHA and hence consumption of only ALA will not give you the benefits listed.

      As far as nuts & regular vegetable oils are concerned the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is ridiculously high and over consumption of those oils will hurt you more than help you. And pakora fried in peanut oil will fill no gaps except for clogging arteries 🙂

      Your best option for vegetarian source of omega 3 is microalgae supplements. As a matter of fact fish gather their omega 3s from microalgae on the ocean floor. There are a few companies selling microalgae supplements for omega 3 and other benefits… but they are pretty rare and hence expensive.

      Goodluck.

      • Tarun July 7, 2010 at 10:11 pm

        I went to a bumble bee kind of store. Veggie options for omega 3 according to them:

        1> Flax seed – Not advisable for men as this is supposed to cause impotence in men. Thank you. I controlled my laughter.
        2> Marine Phytoplankton – like the one available on sunfoods.com. Check out the article at http://www.rense.com/general74/wholefood.htm on commonly used language that enable companies to pass off something a little more than grapefruit juice as containing everything that the human body needs.
        3> Chia seeds – if you want wholesome nutrition slowly at a lower price best way is to grind whole chia seeds in a coffee grinder and spread them over food and shakes. Other option is the Chia extract capsules – 3 per day.

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  7. Bons January 10, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Raj,
    I need some names of fish oil supplements that you recommend? Can you help me out please?

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  9. SMK March 3, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Raj

    Have been supplementing the above mentioned Carlsons one…any idea if this is the triglyceride form one or the ethyle esther form one?A lot of discussion on this is up @ Dr.Michael Davis’s blog.

    Thanks to the jugalbandis ..found your blog today!

  10. Sangeetha May 3, 2011 at 4:50 am

    Hi Raj,this is a nice piece of information.Is it true that pregnant women should not consume cod liver oils?Can lactating women consume cod liver oil?please advise.

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  12. Fish oil mood March 9, 2012 at 9:07 am

    Learn more about how fish oil for cats can benefit the skin and fur of your feline friend. Fish oil for cats have long been used by top breeders to help improve the…fish oil

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