You may have heard praises of fish oil supplements, and doubts, and various advice about how to take these. Naturally, you may have questions about these supplements…and we're here to answer them!
Here are the most frequently asked questions about fish oil—and their answers—which you'll find helpful in your search for information about the nutrition-packed supplements you're considering adding to your diet.
1. What are fish oil supplements made up of?
The name of the supplement pretty much sums up what’s in it—fish oil. However, going into how it is derived, manufacturers essentially process the tissue of fatty fish to extract the oil.
The majority of fish oil you’ll find contains oil from salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovy, or sardines. Various fish oil supplement brands also mix the oil from different fish. Some fish oil supplements come from fishes in the wild (open seas), while others come from sea-farmed fish.
Other than fish oil, you will find additives such as preservatives and flavourings in some fish oil supplements.
2. How does fish oil provide nutrition to the body?
The primary nutrient in fish oil supplements is omega 3. To be more specific, you get EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.
EPA and DHA both make up certain parts of your body. For instance, DHA makes up the grey matter in your brain. Your body can’t make these fatty acids on its own, so you need to rely on diet.
You can get your omega-3 from fatty fish too. However, fish oil supplements are more cost-effective, and concentrated in EPA and DHA, and you can rely on these if you are allergic to or simply don't like seafood!
3. Is fish oil really beneficial or is it overhyped?
Fish oil is incredibly beneficial—and you can find proof in multiple studies! The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil not only make up the structure of cell membranes but also support interactions between the cells, a function that helps regulate the body’s immune system.
Other benefits of omega 3 in fish oil include:
● Reducing inflammation and preventing various inflammatory diseases.
● Supporting heart health by lowering triglycerides and lowering blood pressure.
● Improving cognitive function, as well as helping alleviate depression.
● Providing hydration effects to the skin, helping minimize signs of aging.
So, fish oil can improve overall health, and are beneficial for people of all ages.
4. Fish oil pill vs. liquid fish oil—which supplement is better?
Fish oil liquid is pure fish oil, and it starts reacting with your digestive system pretty much the moment you gulp a spoonful. It's likely to be fresher than capsules since there's a very short shelf life and expiration date of fish oil—provided there is not an excess of preservatives.
As for fish oil pills, you can get these as either softgels or tablets. The former is simply fish oil coated in a gelatinous substance, while the latter is highly processed. Hard tables likely contain the least percentage of omega-3 fatty acids and may have other nutrients such as Vitamin A.
5. How much fish oil should I take?
While there is no exact amount of fish oil defined, some experts suggest adults consume 1000mg of omega-3 per day. For babies, 500mg is a safe limit, whereas children can take 700mg of omega-3 fish oil in their daily routine.
Make sure to check the label to ensure there’s enough EPA and DHA to support your health. The 100mg of omega 3 that’s ideal should be EPA and DHA fatty acids that make up this composition, and not anything else. Also, watch out for multivitamin fish oil supplements; nutritional additions such as vitamin A are great, but excess consumption can deteriorate your health.
6. What is the best time to take fish oil supplements?
For adults, post-evening meals are the best time to take fish oil. Children can take fish oil in the morning or afternoon.
The reason for taking fish oil later in the day is that during sleep, your body absorbs medicine and supplements components the best. Plus, most issues such as blood pressure changes and acid reflux are at their highest at night, so taking supplements before sleep means you're likely to wake up feeling healthier.
That said, do not take fish oil supplements on an empty stomach or even a too-light meal. You may feel nausea and stomach discomfort if you do.
7. How to store fish oil supplements for maximum freshness?
If you're taking liquid fish oil, then refrigeration is the way to go. Ideally, you freeze fish oil for longevity, just as you store fresh fish after you've bought it. However, for ease of both consumption and storage, go for storing in the fridge.
As for fish oil softgels, go ahead and freeze them. This way, the fish oil inside will stay fresh longer, and you can have an easy time digesting these since the fish oil will open up in your gut later.
8. How do I know my fish oil supplements are expired?
The first indicator of expiration is, of course, the expiration date. However, never take the date on the label as a one-and-done rule; fish oil freshness depends massively on storage conditions and the external climate.
Your fish oil liquid or softgels will smell slightly like fish, but more reminiscent of salty air and ocean breeze. If your fish oil smells funky, it's likely rancid and unfit for consumption!
9. Are there any side effects of fish oil?
Taken properly and within safe dosage limits according to your age, you should be just fine. However, if you consume too much fish oil or take it on an empty stomach, you may feel bloating, uncomfortable gas, possible gut pain, and ‘fishy’ burps.
Also, never take fish oil without consulting a doctor if you're taking medication for a chronic health condition. For example, fish oil may interact with anti-coagulants for a heart condition or medicine for treating depression.
10. Can I take fish oil during pregnancy?
The omega 3 in fish oil is very beneficial for fetal growth, as well as a healthy prenatal and postpartum journey! Studies show positive effects of omega 3 on fetal brain development, as well as lowered risk of allergies and chronic diseases.
For women, fish oil may help prevent preterm labour, aid recovery, as well as help minimize postpartum depression. All in all, fresh and high-quality fish oil is perfectly safe for pregnant women. It is best, however, that you consult your OBGYN and ask about a safe dosage amount of omega 3 for you.
Final Note: Know Before You Eat!
It’s always wise to pursue knowledge about any fish oil supplement before you start taking it. That way you can avoid side effects, as well as getting wrapped up in any hypes and misconceptions.