The Fishy Answer to our Wellbeing and Health

I don’t believe that any single living person from a developed country would not have heard about essential fatty acids, omega 3 fatty acids, or fish oil; and how beneficial they are for not only inflammatory conditions but also general wellbeing. It is most likely to be the biggest selling supplement in the health food stores, pharmacies, and online stores. So what are fish oils and what are their therapeutic values to us? There are such a variety of them on the shelves, I am sure that trying to pick one from such a wide selection will give us a headache! At the end of this article, I will include what one must look for when purchasing fish oil supplements.

Fish oils are also synonymous to Marine Lipids, Marine Omega -3 Fatty acids. The term “Fish Oil” is most commonly used as a collective name for Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA). Fish Oils are known as essential fatty acids – our body cannot produce these fatty acids, and therefore we must rely on our diet to supplement this. The highest amounts of fish oil are found in salmon, tuna and sardines. However, in order to obtain the required amounts of EPA and DHA, we would have to consume lots of it! From a practical and compliance point of view, it would be great to find a good quality supplement to take every day. Nevertheless, that is not to say we should not be enjoying nice and healthy meal containing fish often!

Fish oils are most commonly derived from tissues and livers of fishes. Just like us, fishes don’t produce these fatty acids, but obtain them from the food like micro algae. It is important to know the source of where your fish oil comes from, as getting it from the fish liver means that there will be also vitamin A present. A point to note: don’t confuse Cod Liver Oil and Fish Oil – Cod Liver Oil contains approximately 33mg of EPA and 30mg of DHA per ml. Cod liver oil is derived from liver, and contains high levels of Vitamin A and D. Although these vitamins are great for our immune system and respiratory conditions, fish oil have been proved to be more beneficial to our health as they have a wider use in our body systems.

Most of the health benefits are attributed to EPA and DHA components of fish oil. Only recently studies were done which revealed the difference between EPA and DHA on their therapeutic action in the body. EPA component are said to have anti-inflammatory properties and therefore is beneficial in Auto-immune diseases, Arthritis, Psoriasis, Eczema, Asthma, Allergies, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Stress, Depression and can also help reduce high levels of cortisol (a hormone that our adrenal glands produce during the times of stress). DHA component are believed to be most beneficial and protective of cardiovascular system as well as it is neuroprotective essential fatty acid. DHA supplementation may reduce risk of Angina, Hypertension, Atherosclerosis, elevated cholesterol and LDL/HDL ratio, Arrhythmia’s, Brain Development in young children who suffer learning difficulties and also assists in memory improvement. DHA plays a very important role in our nervous system, protecting our neurons from being damaged, and in turn, improves neuronal signalling. In summary, EPA is responsible for the anti-inflammatory action in our body whilst DHA is mostly responsible for neuroprotective and cardioprotective actions in our body.

So where do you start when you are choosing fish oil supplements? Throughout shops, pharmacies and online stores, there are an abundance of fish oil available to choose from. You may notice that some will have “1000mg fish oil” in big letters on the bottle, but what does that mean? We have to be aware that the total weight listed on that packaging of fish oil capsules does not equal the total amount of EPA and DHA. A 1000mg Fish Oil capsule consists of about 180mg of EPA and 120mg of DHA per capsule – this is the most basic concentration of EPA and DHA supplements. To achieve therapeutic benefits of reducing inflammation, the number of capsules per day that needs to be consumed is 9-12 capsules, which gives us 2700mg of combined EPA and DHA. These days, there are also concentrated fish oil capsules available, and are dependent on the indication of use. You can find capsules with higher amounts of DHA – this will be mostly in fish oil capsules indicated for cardiovascular health or brain functioning. Capsules with higher amount of EPA are generally suggestive for any inflammatory conditions. The liquid fish oil supplements are the most potent and concentrated fish oil supplements on the market. The most concentrated level of available Fish Oil in liquid form is 4600mg, which means it contains 2700mg of EPA/DHA per 5ml. This is equivalent to 9 standard Fish Oil capsules.

There are many different brands on market and one has to be careful and to seek information on where the fish come from and the manufacturing process of the oil before it ends up in the capsule or bottle. According to my knowledge, I have few favorite brands – the first concentrated liquid fish oil to come onto our shelves are from Ethical Nutrients, (high strength liquid fish oil available in 170 ml and 280 ml volume bottles). It contains 2827mg of EPA/DHA per 5 milliliters servings (EPA 1.9g and DHA 927mg [0.927 grams] essential fatty acids per each 5ml serve), and is processed using a molecular distillation process that ensures purity and batch consistency. To ensure the stability of their fish oil liquids, they use process called Nitrogen Flushing. This is when the air in the storage vat is removed and replaced with nitrogen to prevent the oil going rancid (oxidized). Also, their fish oils products are well below the Australian minimum allowable levels of pesticides, heavy metals and solvents. If you decide to buy liquid fish oil, remember to store it in the fridge after opening, and to consume it within 1 month.

High concentration capsules are available from most of the brands. A particular favorite of mine is by Blackmores, called Omega daily. If you like to shop online, the one worthy to go for is Omega 3 DHA Fish Oil produced by Xtend Life, a New Zealand company, which produces clean vitamin supplements, fish oils and skin care. Their fish oil also contains powerful antioxidant called Astaxanthin. This antioxidant is fat and water soluble, allowing our body to utilize it easily. It can enhance immune system functioning, and can protect us against some types of cancer. Astaxanthin also protects our bodies against free radical damage by actually destroying free radicals on the surface of the cell membranes before they penetrate into the cell to cause cellular damage. It is present in Krill oil – another form of omega 3 making its way onto our shelves. I will discuss Krill oil at a later date, after doing more research and gathering more evidence to compare it to Fish Oils.

I do not think it takes a scientist to know why these dietary oils are so important for us – they are essential to our health, mental and physical wellbeing. The amount to take is also important factor to calculate as different conditions require different therapeutic doses of fish oil. For general wellbeing, good quality pure fish oil of about 900mg EPA/DHA (around 3000mg of fish oil) should be supplemented. For inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, it is 2700mg of EPA/DHA, those suffering depression will benefit from fish oil that has about 2000mg of EPA, which can be increased to 4000mg in major cases of depression. There were also clinical trials involving the use of fish oil for reducing the body fat in obese people – for these trials, 6000mg of fish oil was used. Together with healthy diet and healthy exercise, fish oil should be included in healthcare management of all of us.

For people who are worried about the safety profile of Fish Oil:
In general, Fish Oil is one of the safest alternative health supplements to take. There are however, certain circumstances where you need to be cautious – one of the warnings goes mostly for people on blood thinning medications like warfarin, or for those suffer from a bleeding disorder. It is then recommended that these supplements are taken under a doctor’s supervision.

From nutritionist’s and naturopath’s perspective, fish oils provide plenty of relief for inflammatory conditions, as well as a boost to the immune system.
(Check out just the normal food grade fish oils and also various fish meats for thoroughly detailed breakdown list of all nutrients they contain, it is very interesting: essential = human brain cells needs it a lot, but not just our brain cells obviously.)

The amount of vitamins and minerals may sometimes appear uncanny, and understanding the complexities that surround these magic foods can be difficult to grasp for the average person. In order to attain a more in depth understanding of this one should consider furthering their education and focus on the health industry. There are plenty of options available, like the Saint Peters online University, if one does choose such route, where they have led the competition in providing the best curriculum out there.

I would absolutely love a new info on fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids and I would love to hear from anyone who have used it/are using it to improve their health.

Mrs. Green’s previous article on: Papaya Sweet Answer to our Well-Being and Health.

* Many thanks to Karen Huynh for her valuable contribution to this article.

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