Something Smells Fishy...
3rd June 2013
Fish oil is one of the most common supplements these days, but I’ve found that a lot of patients don't know why they're taking it or if they actually need it. It seems to be one of those things that people hear that it's good for them, so they jump on the bandwagon.
Before I talk about if you actually need it, first I’ll go in to the different components that make up fish oil, why they are good for you and mention some other alternative supplements that deliver the same effect.
What Is Fish Oil?
Fish oil, as the name would have it is an oil which is derived from the tissues of fish. The main beneficial component of fish oil is the Omega -3 fatty acids however the fish don't produce this themselves, they actually accumulate it through micro-algae, plankton and other fish below them in the food chain.
Fatty predatory fish (sharks, swordfish, albacore tuna, tilefish and king mackerel) potentially contain more Omega-3 than other fish but you need to realise that because of their position at the top of the food chain, they tend to contain other toxic substances like mercury, dioxin, chlordane and PCB's. These toxic substances are used in such things as thermometers, fluorescent lamps, coolant for motors and transformers, and pesticides so they're not really the kind of things you'd want to include in your diet unless you're some sort of robot.
These less than desirable substances can be very harmful to humans with prolonged exposure; this is why it's imperative to use good quality fish oil.
Benefits Of Fish Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are known to have many health benefits.
• Pregnancy & Lactation
• Potential cancer benefits (preliminary findings - more research needed)
• Heart disease
• Nerve function
• Brain Development
• Cancer (response to chemotherapy)
• May protect the liver against side effects of common drugs used for epilepsy, depression, Bi-Polar disorder and other mood disorders.
Different Qualities Of Fish Oil
As mentioned previously, low quality fish oil can contain loads of toxic substances which are best avoided. One of the best quality fish oil supplements are made by Bioceuticals (www.bioceuticals.com.au), which we stock at Biomechanics Healthcare. There is a range of fish oils for different conditions, as well as in liquid form for those who don't like swallowing pills.
Bioceuticals claims to be the first company of it's kind to voluntarily comply with the worlds strictest quality and safety regulations, GOED (Global Organisation for EPA and DHA) To read more about the varying qualities of Omega-3 available visit their website at http://www.goedomega3.com.
What Other Supplements Contain Omega-3?
If you're a vegetarian and don't want to consume fish oil then you can get your EPA/DHA from algae. Not that I suggest grabbing a handful of algae and eating it, but you can find supplements where the EPA/DHA is derived from algae.
Some nuts, legumes and seeds contain ALA, which is a natural substance your body uses to naturally produce EPA/DHA. Flaxseed/linseed oil is the most potent and best known. However, it's not the best way to get EPA/DHA in your diet as the conversion process is very inefficient (average 0.2 - 10%), so you will need to consume anywhere from 10 to 500 times the amount of ALA to get the same amount of EPA/DHA in fish oil.
Krill oil is becoming quite popular these days as it’s claimed that it’s more abundant, potent & better absorbed than fish oil. A lot of those reasons make sense but the vast majority of research in the benefits of EPA/DHA supplements has been based on fish oil. So far it's too early to tell for sure of krill oil is as beneficial as it's proponents claim. At the moment fish oil is much more affordable.
How Much Fish Oil Do I Need?
Most scientific bodies & authorities recommend that the average person consume 250mg - 500mg of EPA & DHA daily.
EPA/DHA is more common in the following types of fish: Cold water oily fish including salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines. Herring, sardines, mackerel and salmon contain around 1-2g of omega-3 per 85g serve of fish. In comparison, the most omega-3 rich non-fish food is eggs, which contain just 0.109 grams of omega-3 per 85g serve.
Fish oil supplements can contain any amount of EPA & DHA, so you need to read the label. Remember that a 1000mg capsule of fish oil doesn't necessary contain the recommended daily intake of EPA & DHA, that 1000mg can be made up of other substances as well so make sure you check the amounts! You may need 2 or more capsules to reach your desired intake.
The Take Home Message
If you regularly eat oily fish (3 or more times a week), then it's unnecessary to fork out $10- $20 a month for supplements. In fact if you think about it, the word supplement is exactly that: something to supplement your normal diet. In other words you take supplements to fill a nutritional gap that you're not fulfilling with your regular food. For those of you who don't eat fish (like myself) then you should be considering fish oil or other Omega-3 supplements as a necessary part of your diet.
If you have any other questions send us an inquiry at Biomechanics Healthcare Cronulla, or ask your therapist next time you're in for an Osteopathy, Massage, Acupuncture or Exercise Physiology treatment.
By Rhys Donovan
Owner and Osteopath of Biomechanics Healthcare
Disclaimer: This information is intended as a guide only and not to be taken as proper advice for anyone's specific condition. Always seek professional advice first before attempting to treat your injuries/condition.
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