Although a common supplement, fish oil, and its benefits have been poorly understood for many years. Fish oil contains two essential fatty acids: EPA and DHA. These are considered necessary because the body cannot make these fatty acids on its own. They must be consumed through the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of EPA and DHA are found in cold water, fatty fish like salmon, Atlantic mackerel, cod, and lake trout. Omega-3 rich fish is a crucial element found within the anti-inflammatory-based Mediterranean Diet.
These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, benefit heart, brain, and eye health, the nervous system, and recently, they have been shown to decrease the risk of premature death. Researchers from FORCE (Fatty Acids & Outcomes Research Consortium) recently completed a study that analyzed an individual’s omega-3 fatty acid index in relation to their risk of death. Three risks of death were assessed: cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all other causes combined. When comparing the 90th percentile to the 10th percentile of an individual’s omega-3 index, individuals with the higher omega-3 index had a 15%, 13%, and 11% less risk of dying a premature death in the above categories, respectively.
This data may help researchers understand why individuals tend to live longer in communities that consume regular amounts of cold-water fish, such as Japan and other Asian counties. As a true Midwestern girl, I do not enjoy fish of any variety, but I understand the benefits of healthy omega-3 intake. For individuals like myself, or when omega-3 rich fish is not available or too expensive, high-quality fish oil is a smart substitution for eating omega-3 rich fish. When choosing a fish oil supplement, it is important to ensure that the recommended dose includes greater than 1000 mg of EPA and DHA, combined, triglyceride or monoglyceride form, and screens for heavy metals. We recommend Nordic Naturals ProOmega or Xymogen Omega Monopure. For individuals seeking vegan omega-3 supplements, we have that too!
If you are unsure of your omega-3 index or whether the supplements you are using are successfully increasing your omega-3 index, a quick, non-fasting lab blood draw at the Couri Center will help you and your Couri Center Provider to understand your current levels better. The Couri Center aims for individuals to have an omega-3 index greater than 5.5%.
Remember, fish oil is a long-term, wellness-based supplement. Benefits should not be measured in quick-, symptomatic relief, but overall health, disease prevention, and a reduced risk of premature death. For more questions regarding which fish oil supplements would be the best compliment your health, please schedule an appointment with our Registered Dietitian.