In recent years, the mention of fish oils, omega 3s or EFAs (essential fatty acids) are met with head nods, praise and acceptance, but truth be told, many people are still unsure as to their use and potential benefits.
What is fish oil?
Fish oil is comprised of both the omega 3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA). Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) which are accumulated by fish, through the consumption of microalgae or other fish that already have high levels of omega 3. The plant based equivalent would be flaxseed oil, but this contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is converted by the body into DHA and EPA and less is known as to the physiological benefit of converting ALA into DHA & EPA versus the potential benefits of fish oils.
What science has to say
The British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2010 reviewed the proposed benefits of fish oils to include: cardiac function, a reduction in exercise induced delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and improved lung function in exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Fish Oils have also been linked to weight loss, healthy blood cholesterol, bone health, reduction in inflammation, joint care, mood state, immune function and preventing muscle wastage in the injured or older population.
Quite an extensive list and raises the question, if you aren’t already taken some, then why not? However, from a product claim perspective, as regulated by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) the only authorised health claims linked to fish oils and omega 3’s are:
1- the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations
2- the maintenance of cardiac function.
Which begs the question, why then are so many sold and taken every day?
How much should I take?
Looking into the research this seems to vary dramatically depending upon why omega 3 is being prescribed. From an athletic / weight management perspective, we would recommend that supplementation should be consumed at 3-6 grams of omega 3 per day with a 2:1 ratio of EPA to DHA. Walking into your local health store or supermarket can be very over whelming with the volume of supplements. Platform Nutrition would suggest that your omega 3 supplement should contain approximately 500mg of EPA, per daily serving.
As with anything, individuals may have a particular ingredient deficiency which raises the need for more, but it is also true that more isn’t necessarily better for the general population. Over consumption of fish oil could lead to health complications and a doctor should also be consulted if you are unsure. Omega 3 consumption needs to be daily for a minimum of 6 weeks before any potential noticeable effect occurs. Try to spit your consumption throughout the day to promote maximal dietary absorption. If you aren’t yet ready to take a supplement, start by including at least 1 piece of oil fish per week into your diet. Don’t let fish oil be the one that gets away!