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What’s so great about fish oil, anyway?

The name alone is revolting, “fish oil.” Yet, like all things healthy, it’s not the taste, it’s the benefits: heart health, reducing inflammation and even warding off depression. But what really is fish oil, and with our raging, polluted oceans and so much talk of mercury content in our fish, is fish oil really that beneficial? 

What's So Great About Fish Oil, Anyway
“Fish oil can be so fragile that some cultures prefer to buy live fish to avoid dangerous rancidity,” wrote Shane Smith of Young Living Essential Oils. “This rancidity can invite millions of harmful free radicals into your system… so, consider the freshness of the fish oil as one of the most important factors,” he said.

But what about mercury? How do we know how much is in there — if any at all? “Just make sure the fish oil is pharmaceutical grade and says so on the label,” advises Susan Schenck, author of The Live Food Factor and Beyond Broccoli. But be warned, “Even fish oil with a “mercury free” label could contain trace amounts,” she said.

I asked Dr. Doug Bibus, scientific advisor and nationally-recognized leader in omega-3 research of Coromega. Here is what he told me:

What is fish oil?

It is a concentrated source of long chain omega-3, EPA, DPA and DHA that are critical for our health and well-being.  A few grams of fish oil is equivalent to a serving of salmon.

Which fish does the oil come from?

Fish oil comes from a variety of fish. The fish that are sourced for Coromega come from anchovies and sardines caught off the coast of Chile.  Not only are these fish from a sustainable fish stock, they are a short-lived species that tend to have lower exposure to environmental toxin.

Should we be concerned with mercury?

Yes and no.  If you are taking a high quality fish oil to get your daily omega-3, you really don’t need to worry about it.  Most quality fish oils contain no mercury.  If you are consuming fish for your dietary source of omega-3, it can be a different story. The mercury content of all fish is not the same. In general, surface feeders (bill fish like sword fish and marlin) have very high levels of mercury per serving, as do long-lived fish (large tuna).  Heavy metal toxicity (mercury included) is not safe at any age but younger people may be at increased risk from exposure.

This being said, the ~16,000 subject ALSPAC study in the UK published by Hibbeln et al, found that mothers with the lowest fish consumption were more likely to have children with poorer IQ scores and a greater incidence of dissociative aberrant behavior challenging the lifelong recommendations for pregnant women to avoid fish.

Does fish oil help with muscle building?

Muscle building is generally muscle hypertrophy or the expansion of the ‘machinery’ inside the muscle cell, like mitochondria, which make energy for the cell. Mitochondria are packed with omega-3s. So if you want to get bigger muscles, support muscle cell growth with omega-3, as well as muscle cell function. A recent study reported that diets high in omega-3 also help us keep our muscle mass, preventing age-related sarcopenia (muscle loss).

What is the recommended dosage of fish oil?

Most normal healthy people should strive for 650mg of omega-3 (EPA, DPA and DHA) per day.  If you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease (elevated LDL cholesterol, blood pressure or obesity) you should be consuming at least 1000 mg of EPA, DPA and DHA per day (2 packs of Coromega). Lowering triglycerides requires a higher dose, generally 2000-4000mg of EPA, DPA and DHA omega-3.  If you are a big person, very active or have a chronic disease you may need more. Persons wishing to modify disease pathology generally require a higher dose of omega-3 (2000-4000mg of EPA, DPA and DHA/day).

Is fish oil better than flax-seed oil?

From a nutritional stand point, yes. Fish oil provides preformed long chain omega-3, where flax oil provides the short chain 18-carbon form that must be elongated into EPA and DHA, a process starkly inhibited by a diet high in omega-6 (like most Americans).  Flax seed oil can raise blood levels of EPA and DHA but generally requires tablespoon quantities. If you want to add some kind of flax to your diet, consider a ground flax product which provides a significant dose of dietary fiber and antioxidants. If you are only going to pick one for its omega-3 content, reach for the fish oil.

Coromega® Omega3 Squeeze Supplements Each convenient daily-dose pouch contains 2,000mg of fish oil, including 650mg omega-3s, with 350 mg EPA and 230 mg DHA.

Coromega®Omega3 + Vitamin D3 A delicious tropical orange-flavored squeeze supplement that provides a daily dose of omega-3s with added vitamin D3. Coromega Omega3 + D3 promotes calcium absorption and bone health with 1000 IU of vitamin D, while still providing all the benefits and essential nutrients of fish oil with 230 mg of DHA and 350 mg of EPA in each delicious squeeze pouch.

  • Stefan, have you heard of krill oil? it is made from shrimp.

    Adam Kastoria

    2:27 am
    27/06/2011

  • I gotta try that brand

    Leah Segedie

    11:19 pm
    18/06/2011

  • Thanks for another great and informative article, Stefan!

    Wendi

    9:06 pm
    18/06/2011

  • Stefan, what brand of fish oil do you take? I saw in one of your Facebook photos but you don’t mention the brand.

    Adam Kastoria

    6:06 pm
    17/06/2011

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