Who Needs An Omega-3 Supplement?

a clear jar containing many clear fish oil capsules

In the drug store, the pills come in many types: Fish oil, krill oil, and general omega-3 supplements. While there are many names and types of omega-3 supplements, many are often left wondering if these purchases are right for them.

Omega-3 risks?

Several years ago, an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association studied omega-3’s in a population of at-risk cardiovascular patients. Any link between taking these supplements and several common health problems, such as heart health issues and strokes were de-bunked.

Without severe health problems such as diabetes and heart disease, omega-3’s are known to improve bad cholesterol in adults, as well as potentially aid in weight loss. Although there are many who say there is no health link between taking omega-3 supplements and more healthy living, the evidence seems to suggest that there might be a slight health benefit to taking these for the mostly healthy.

The key to maximizing the benefits of omega-3 supplements is taking the type that is most easily absorbed by the body.

Fish oil supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA, and aren’t always the easiest or most efficient for the body to process. This could decrease their efficacy, and indeed lead to a placebo effect, if any. Krill oil came on the market soon after fish oil, and may have the same processing issues.

It’s always best to consult with a doctor or nutritionist before adding a supplement into your daily routine. Even if you think you need omega-3 supplements, it’s always advantageous to know what certain levels are in your body.

How Should Omega-3 be Used?

If you’re going to take a supplement without medical advice, however, fish oil, krill oil, or other omega-3’s will be either harmless or slightly advantageous. In moderate amounts, of course, these supplements can’t hurt you!

There is evidence, however, that high doses of fish oil can be disadvantageous to your bodily systems and levels. Importantly, those with metabolic syndrome are likely to have symptoms of heart disease and diabetes. Triglycerides and bad cholesterol have been significantly decreased in recent fish oil supplement studies for those with this health issue.

What are the Differences?

The key difference here? The fish oil supplements had an added element: Olive oil. For overweight men in a different study, eating salmon (which is high in fatty acids such as omega-3’s) and supplementing with fish oil pills has been shown to increase insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is key to preventing the symptoms and problems associated with diabetes, especially Type II diabetes.

Although the medical research is neutral or varied at best, and not encouraging at worst, omega-3’s remain some of the most purchased and opined upon supplements on the market.
Those who claim it helps in the treatment of cancers will be disappointed: There is absolutely no hard evidence to support that fact.

In fact, for men that suffer from prostate cancer, an increased concentration of omega-3’s in the blood has been found in many cases.

Although there are likely few correlations or causations for these facts, you may run across “fish oil causes cancer” articles when researching omega-3 supplements. These aren’t supported by scientific fact, but neither are claims that fish oil or other sources of omega-3’s decrease one’s risk of any cancers.

For all the back and forth, omega-3’s themselves are important to have in the body and blood. The most effective way of getting omega-3’s into the body is through whole foods. The fatty acids in foods like salmon are easily absorbed by the body, and are an excellent source of omega-3.

Where Can Omega-3 be Found Naturally?

You can also find this compound in nuts and seeds. For those who follow a Mediterranean style diet, omega-3 consumption should come fairly naturally.

Especially because these supplements are not regularly evaluated or regulated by the FDA, it’s best to be skeptical of health claims about and ingredients in over the counter fish and krill oil supplements.

The age of the supplement and its oxidation level can impact the quality of the lipids within. Oxidated or expired supplements might contain potentially dangerous lipid compounds, and could have adverse health effects.

It’s important to work with a nutritionist or doctor when trying to balance the body’s levels, eat right, and increase your overall health — especially as we age. While omega-3 supplements may help some, their efficacy could be overrated. It’s best to get these compounds from the foods you eat, and to maintain a balanced diet overall. Here’s to your health!

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