80% of Australians are not consuming enough omega-3 long chain fatty acids in their diet. These omega-3 fats are vital for our health and wellbeing. 1
Essentially, if you are not eating oily fish at least two to three times per week, you are not getting enough omega-3 EPA and DHA. Some of the signs that you are not getting enough of these fats include dry scaly skin, slow wound healing, poor vision and infertility. 2
If you are someone who does not get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, you should seriously be thinking about how to increase your intake.
Fish oil is a very effective way of increasing your intake of bioavailable omega-3 EPA and DHA and it can help with a number of basic functions in the body.
Fish oil- what is it?
Fish oil is sourced from the tissues of oily cold-water fish and it contains important omega-3 fatty acids that are vital for our health. The main omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil are called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).3
The omega-3 fatty acids from fish should not to be confused with the omega-3 from plant foods like flaxseed or chia seed, named acid α-linolenic acid (ALA). Whilst ALA is an essential omega-3 fatty acid, it still needs to be converted into EPA and DHA within the body. Unfortunately, our body’s ability to convert ALA is not efficient, with about 5% of ALA converted to EPA, and less than 0.5% converted to DHA.3
Why do we need omega-3?
Omega-3 is an important component of the membranes surrounding all of the cells in our body.2 When DHA is incorporated into our cell membranes they become more fluid, making it easier for the cells to send and receive signals. This is integral to a well-functioning brain and nervous system.3
Brain and mood
DHA is concentrated in the grey matter of our brain, where it helps to regulate signalling between our brain cells. Interestingly, it is found in the area of the brain responsible for cognitive activities like planning, problem solving, and focused attention.4
Several studies have suggested that the consumption of omega-3 DHA may support brain function during aging, and may also help with age-related cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) .4
Fish oils, specifically EPA, have been shown to improve depressive symptoms in people suffering with depression. It may have the best effects in people already taking antidepressant medications.5
DHA is concentrated in the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eyes, where it plays an important role in the regeneration of rhodopsin. Without adequate DHA, the signalling between cells can slow down resulting in poor eyesight.6
It is crucial for pregnant women to consume optimal amounts of omega-3 EPA and DHA to support the development of the brain, eyes and nervous system of the growing foetus.
DHA accumulates in the foetal brain in the last trimester of pregnancy and continues to accumulate at very high rates up to the end of the second year of life.4,7
Supplementation with DHA during pregnancy may also support a healthy birth weight.4
One of the most common reasons people use fish oil is to manage inflammation and pain.
The EPA and DHA contained in fish produce special anti-inflammatory and inflammation resolving compounds that help to control the inflammation. This means that fish oil can potentially reduce inflammation from a variety of stimuli.8
Omega-3 EPA and DHA compete with the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid, named Arachidonic acid (AA). EPA and DHA can replace the AA within cell membranes and compete with it for the same enzymes it uses to produce inflammatory compounds, thereby reducing its inflammatory potential.8
If you were wondering what to do about the pain and stiffness in your joints, fish oil could be the answer you were looking for.
The current research suggests that fish oil is helpful for people with mild inflammatory arthritis, such as mild rheumatoid arthritis. Not only can it help to reduce painful joints and morning stiffness, but it has also been shown to decrease the reliance on anti-inflammatory medications, in some studies.9, 10
To get these pain relieving benefits the research says you need a minimum dose of 2.7 g/day EPA plus DHA per day. 9
EPA and DHA are used by our body to produce a variety of hormone-like compounds that are known to regulate our blood pressure, heart rate and blood clotting factors.11
Fish oils have been shown to help to reduce levels of fat (triglycerides) in our blood, with reductions seen at doses of just 2 g of combined EPA plus DHA per day.12
EPA and DHA have also been studied to have modest effect on lowering blood pressure and maintaining a healthy heart rate.13
How do I know if I am taking a quality fish oil?
Fish can accumulate heavy metals and contaminants such as industrial chemicals and pesticides from the water they swim in and the food they eat. The quality of the oil can also be affected if exposed to high temperatures, oxygen and light.
Fish oils in Australia have to meet Australian TGA standards for the maximum allowable levels of heavy metals and contaminants. Good fish oils will always meet this standard and in many cases have even lower levels of contaminants. These quality oils generally undergo molecular distillation to remove any remaining impurities.
Omega-3 fatty acids are very vulnerable to oxidative damage. The oxidation of omega 3 fatty acids affects the stability of the oil and leads to a foul smell and bitter taste.
Things which can affect the oxidation of fish oils include temperature, exposure to light and oxygen.
Be sure to look for the concentration of EPA and DHA in the fish oil, as the higher the amount of these fatty acids, the less doses you will need to take.
All you need is a daily dose of 3000 - 4000mg of EPA + DHA to provide the majority of the benefits of fish oil.
Get hooked on omega-3 fish oil
If you are one of the 80% of people who doesn't eat enough fish and you want to scale to new heights with your health, you need to get hooked on fish oil.
Boosting your intake of these omega-3 fatty acids strengthens all of the cells in the body and is vital during times of rapid growth such as pregnancy.
If you are sick and tired of pain and inflammation and want to say goodbye to sore joints, try adding a therapeutic dose of fish oil into your daily regime.
Fish oil is safe and effective for most people including pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, if you are taking any medications, it is best to speak to your healthcare practitioner who can determine if fish oil is right for you.
This article does not represent a product description, nor a summary of therapeutic indications of any of Medlab’s products. If you are interested in a Medlab product, please read the product label or the product information published in the product section shop.medlab.co prior to purchase. If you are unsure whether a product is right for you, please talk to a healthcare professional.
- Meyer, B. J. (2016). Australians are not Meeting the Recommended Intakes for Omega-3 Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Results of an Analysis from the 2011-2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey. Nutrients, 8(3), 1-12.
- Zimmermann, M. (2000). Burgerstein’s handbook of nutrition: Micronutrients in the prevention and therapy of disease (9th ed.). Theime. 91.
- Surette, M. E. (2008). The science behind dietary omega-3 fatty acids. CMAJ, 178(2), 177–180.
- Weiser, M. J., Butt C. M., Mohajeri M. H. (2016). Docosahexaenoic Acid and Cognition throughout the Lifespan. Nutrients, 8(2), 99, 1-40.
- Martins JG. EPA but not DHA appears to be responsible for the efficacy of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Oct;28(5):525-42.
- Querques, G., Forte, R., Souied, E. H. (2011). Retina and omega-3. J Nutr Metab, 2011,1-12.
- Hibbeln, J. R.(2002). Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mothers’ milk and prevalence rates of postpartum depression: a cross-national, ecological analysis. J A ect Disord, 69(1-3),15-29.
- Calder, P. C. (2010). Omega-3 fatty acids and inflammatory processes. Nutrients, 2(3), 355–374.
- Lee, Y. H., Bae, S. C., Song, G. G. (2012). Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and the Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Meta-analysis. Archives of Medical Research, 43(5), 356–362.
- Akbar, U., Yang, M., Kurian, D., & Mohan, C. (2017). Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Rheumatic Diseases. JCR: Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 23(6), 330–339.
- Calder, P. C. (2012). Mechanisms of Action of (n-3) Fatty Acids, The Journal of Nutrition, 142 (3), 592S–599S.
- Balk, E. M., Lichtenstein, A. H., Chung, M., Kupelnick, B., Chew, P., Lau, J. (2006). Effects of omega-3 fatty acids on serum markers of cardiovascular disease risk: a systematic review. Atherosclerosis, 189(1), 19-30.
- Geleijnse, J. M., et al. (2002). Blood pressure response to fish oil supplementation: metaregression analysis of randomized trials. J Hypertens, 20(8), 1493–1499.