Everyone knows that fish oil is good for you
- What is the optimal amount?
- Can you overdo it?
- What is the best kind?
- Do some fish oils contain toxins like mercury?
I have been taking fish oil daily for about ten years now in the range of three to ten grams a day (this is three to ten fish oil 1000mg capsules). It first got my attention as a significant part of the Zone diet by Dr Barry Sears. The Zone diet is a more of a lifestyle diet than a weight loss diet in the sense that although you will naturally lose weight, you will also want to follow this eating plan for life because you will be healthier and feel better without being hungry. In fact he says, both heart disease and diabetes are inflammatory conditions that can be significantly improved by fish oil.
Dr Sears usually recommends a minimum of four to six grams of fish oil per day. High dose fish oil he regards as being between 10 and 20 grams per day. This level will supply between 3 and 6 grams of long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids. Research by Harvard Medical School on the effects of fish oil treatment of depression used the equivalent of 30 grams of fish oil per day. This translates to about 10 grams of long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids.
For example when treating depression with fish oil the amount he recommends is around 10 grams. However this needs to be pharmaceutical grade he says because at this dose, the impurities within standard grades become more of an issue.
The reason doctors and natural health practitioners recommend fish oil is because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which are precursors to eicosanoids that reduce inflammation within the body.
The US National Institutes of Health lists possible safety concerns: “Intake of 3 grams per day or greater of omega-3 fatty acids may increase the risk of bleeding, although there is little evidence of significant bleeding risk at lower doses. The American Heart Association recommends the consumption of 1g of fish oil daily.
Deficiencies in omega 3 fats have been linked to declines in brain and heart health which can be reversed with sufficient supplementation.
Omega 3 supplementation can also help reduce or prevent heart rhythm abnormalities by strengthening the heart. The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids also acts as a preventative of heart disease.
Some sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis gain significant relief through the use of fish oil supplements. Again this is believed to be a result of the anti-inflamatory action.
Unfortunately there are no real specifications for pharmaceutical grade fish oil. Fish oil needs to be refined to remove heavy metals such as mercury and high quality fish oil is molecularly distilled to remove PCB’s which are also found in free living fish. It can be argued that taking refined fish oil is a safer way to boost your levels of omega 3 fats because the fish that you eat has not had the mercury and impurities removed.
My normal test as to whether you should include a supplement as part of your eating plan is that you should feel a noticeable difference to your health, energy or appearance within a week or so. The main reason for this is that otherwise I would be taking much more than the twenty or so supplements that I take daily. Fish oil 1000mg is an exception because of the depth of research and my respect for Dr Sears advice. The fact is that I am in near perfect health and have been taking fish oil daily for ten years makes me think that fish oil has contributed to some degree at least even though there is no direct noticeable effect for me.