Fish Oil & Omega 3 Supplements: Are They Worth it in 2022
Over the past few decades, fish oil supplements have become one of the most popular vitamins among American adults. This should come as no surprise as the list of potential benefits that a reputable fish oil supplement can have on the body is extensive.
American society has dramatically increased its intake of fish in recent years with the average American consuming up to 19.2 pounds of fish per year as of 2019. Although this is an uptick from the 15.5 pounds per person in 2015, it still falls shy of the recommended 8oz per week.
The recommendation comes from research performed in many Mediterranean countries that eat seafood as their main source of protein on a regular basis. Studies have shown that people who live in these countries have a significantly lower risk of developing heart-related conditions or diseases.
It is believed that this is primarily due to the emphasis that this type of diet places on unsaturated fats and unprocessed foods, particularly fish. This is one of the main reasons why fish oil supplements are so popular in America.
What is Fish Oil?
Fish oil is a substance that is derived from the tissue of oily fish such as herring, tuna, anchovies, or mackerel. Occasionally, fish oil supplements may also contain added cod liver oil, which is a great source of Vitamin A.
Fish oil is an essential source of Omega 3 fatty acids which have been proven to improve heart health among other benefits. People can easily achieve the benefits that Omega 3’s provides by eating a 4oz serving of fish two times a week without having to take an additional fish oil supplement.
Studies among Mediterranean countries have shown no added benefit to taking a fish oil supplement in addition to an already healthy and recommended regular diet of fish.
On the other hand, there has also been significant research that shows a correlation between increased heart health and fish oil supplements in people who do not regularly eat fish.
This suggests that the benefits that fish oil supplements provide do not entirely mimic the benefits that regularly eating fish does. This is likely due to the numerous other nutrients that fish and other seafood provide that cannot be encapsulated into a single vitamin.
Thus, while fish oil supplements have the potential to be beneficial for people who are struggling with maintaining a heart-healthy diet, there is no evidence to suggest that they are effective or necessary for everyone to take.
What is Omega 3?
Omega-3 is an extremely beneficial fatty acid that the human body does not produce naturally, so it becomes necessary to incorporate it into a regular diet. It was originally discovered in 1929 by a husband and wife scientist team, George and Mildred Burr.
Burr and Burr discovered through extensive research that the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids were essential to the overall health and well-being of humans. Their research showed that an absence of these acids in the body directly led to a potentially life-threatening deficiency causing symptoms such as :
- Significant skin irritations, dryness, inflammation, and reduced resistance to UV light (increased risk of sunburns)
- Mood swings or Depression
- Poor circulation and deceased heart health
- Chronic fatigue
- Memory loss and cognitive decline
The importance of these essential fatty acids can’t be overstated. When left untreated, Omega-3 deficiency becomes the sixth highest cause of death among Americans, causing up to 96,000 deaths a year.
Luckily, several other sources of Omega-3 fatty acids occur naturally that can be incorporated into a healthy diet. Although fish is the most common source, Omega-3 can also be obtained from:
- Seaweed & Nori
- Chia Seeds
- Hemp Seeds
- Kidney beans
- Soybean oil
As many of these options are vegetarian, it is possible to maintain a healthy level of Omega-3s in vegan and vegetarian diets without having to take supplements. If supplements are recommended by a doctor, algae oil supplements may also be recommended as a source of Omega-3 as well.
Proven Health Benefits of Omega 3
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in helping the body run efficiently as they impact the majority of the body’s organs. Here are some of the proven health benefits that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can provide.
- Reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Improves eye health and reduces the chances of developing macular degeneration
- Promotes brain health and the development of fetuses during pregnancy.
- Reduces the risk factors of developing heart disease and can reduce the symptoms associated with chronic heart disease.
- Improves blood circulation, reduces platelet counts, and reduces the possibility of clotting.
- Lowers blood pressure, and reduces the amount of bad cholesterol in the body.
- May potentially reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children.
- Fights chronic inflammation in the body.
- Reduces the risk of developing many autoimmune disorders such as lupus, diabetes, and Crohn’s disease.
- Can help reduce the frequency of mood swings in patients with bipolar disorder.
- May reduce the decline in brain function associated with age and can reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s.
- May reduce the risk of colon cancer by 55%.
As research continues on the potential benefits of Omega-3s, scientists are likely to discover even more ways that this essential nutrient impacts the body’s overall health.
Are Fish Oil Omega 3 Supplements Still Worth it in 2022?
Although people in western societies are eating higher amounts of fish every year, it is still significantly less than the recommended amount. As of 2020, the average American was consuming 5oz of fish per week, which is less than the recommended 8oz per the recommended Federal Dietary Guideline.
The amount of fish being consumed has steadily increased with each year over the past decade, and the upward trend shows no signs of decreasing in the near future.
Within the next few years, fish oil supplements may become less relevant as people continue to choose healthier, more balanced, and more nutritious diets. For the moment, however, fish oil supplements are still an extremely useful supplement for many people that are unable to obtain the nutrients that they need naturally.
Not all fish oil supplements are created equal though. It is important to research particular brands to ensure that they are sourcing their supplements through reputable means and that they are not using fillers in their products. Some of the best vitamin brands include Mindbodygreen, Pure encapsulations, and Nature Made but there are many other reputable brands as well.
It is important for people to discuss their dietary needs and any potential nutritional deficiencies with their primary care physician to determine if supplementation is right for them. In some cases of extreme deficiency, a prescription supplement may be required.