The question everyone seems to be asking is: “Is fish oil really good for you?”
I mean, should you be spending money on a fish oil supplement, or even eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids?
Is it dangerous, a waste of money and time, or what’s going on?
There is no definite answer, because it depends on your needs. If you suffer from a medical condition or another ailment, you’ll need to do your due diligence and ask your doctor before you decide.
However, if you’re a “regular” person looking to improve your health, the generic answer is that fish oils are good for you.
The reason is because a large majority of people are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids. And by large, we’re talking about 80%+ of the western population. That means you’re most likely deficient as well, and it’s preventing you from feeling as good as you could feel.
Now, there have been quite a few controversial articles floating around lately saying that omega-3 fish oil supplements are a waste of money, and could potentially be harmful to your health.
In this article, we’re going to look at the claims they make, and why most of it is murky at best.
Remember, this site is all about common sense, so let’s sprinkle some of that onto the heated fish oil debate.
Let’s start with número uno.
1. The Science Behind Fish Oils is Inconclusive
Recent reviews of a handful of different studies have concluded that neither eating extra helpings of fish, nor taking a fish oil supplement reduces heart attack, risk of stroke, depression, or prevents cognitive decline.
This is going against decades of research into the benefits of omega-3 fish oils, so what’s going on here?
First, many of the studies analyzed were done on people with an existing heart condition, which meant that they were already on other medications, such as statins.
Earlier studies were done on people where our “medications” were not as good as they are today. This could dramatically affect the study results.
Here’s a great point made in the Scientific American:
“Finally, whereas the recent JAMA analysis concluded that fish oil has no effect on cardiovascular outcomes, the researchers did find that omega-3s reduced the risk of cardiac death by 10 percent, an effect that was statistically significant (having a “p value” of 0.01).”
This result was omitted in the analysis. So as you can see, there are problems and holes. I won’t dive further here. You can read the article in Scientific American if you want more details.
The bottom line is that fish oils work. Our bodies need omega-3 fatty acids to function properly. The question is about where you get them.
If you can get your hands on wild caught fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, do that. If you can’t, you may want to supplement with high-quality fish oil pills.
In the end, you have to try things for yourself and see how you feel. That’s what I and my family has done. I personally have noticed improved mood, focus and reduced allergies from taking fish oils.
Another problem often pointed to is that you need huge doses of omega-3 fatty acids to get any effect.
And that simply depends on what you’re using it for. If you have a health problem, you will need more than someone who does not.
If you compare fish oil pills to regular medication, it’s going to be a lot cheaper. Now, I’m not recommending you swap out your Prozac for fish oil pills. That’s for you and your doctor to decide.
What I’m saying is to use your common sense. Look at the overall consensus and not on any single study.
Look at what health benefits real people are experiencing, and finally, try a high-quality supplement for a month or two and see how you feel.
This comes down to how YOU feel. Fish oils are helping people, so what matters is that they help you, right?
It’s well known that fish today are riddled with heavy metals such as mercury, lead and arsenic, just to name a few.
But this is true for any supplement you take. In fact, it’s true for food. Your food is riddled with pesticides, chemicals and toxins.
That’s why it’s always smart to buy organic food whenever you can, and make sure that the farmer cares about what they’re doing.
In terms of fish oil supplements, it comes down to looking for a high-quality supplement that has been independently tested.
Watch out for supplements that have been tested by IFOS (International Fish Oil Standards). This is actually a private organization that many fish oil marketers use for testing.
While seeing the IFOS stamp on a supplement isn’t bad, it doesn’t mean the supplement is as good as it could be. You can read more about pharmaceutical grade supplements here.
4. Side Effects
There are many possible fish oil side effects ranging from diarrhea and headaches to decreased appetite and constipation.
Yes, I just wrote both constipation and diarrhea.
The fact of the matter is that when articles talk about side effects, they never talk about one specific supplement. They don’t talk about the quality of the supplement, or go into any specifics.
They try to scare you by spouting off possible side effects.
If I wanted to, I could scare you off eating regular food, because eating has its own risks. Anything can be twisted into sounding scary.
So once again, you have to use your common sense. Get a high-quality fish oil supplement and start with the smallest dose. See how your body reacts.
I’ve never had any trouble, nor have I heard anyone who has had trouble taking an omega-3 fish oil supplement.
I can see them causing some stomach upset if you take them on an empty stomach, but then again, a lot of things do that.
Not everyone will be able to eat everything. Common sense prevails once again.
For example, if you are allergic to fish or nuts, you should obviously avoid taking a fish oil supplement. The same is true for any medical condition, such as high blood pressure, bipolar disorder and so on.
5. Sustainability Issues
There are companies out there that do not care about the environment. They don’t care about the fact that they are depleting fish stock from the ocean.
However, this is not a case against taking a supplement. There are companies out there that actually care about the environment.
For example, the supplement I take is from a company called Xtend-Life, and they are controlled by the New Zealand government to make sure everything is sustainable.
In summary, neither omega-3 fatty acids, nor fish oil supplements, are magical fixes to health issues, but they certainly can help.
The fact is that your body needs these essential fats. If your diet is lacking, which it is for most people, then either eating clean fish, or taking a fish oil supplement is likely to help.
There will always be articles and experts opposing supplements. It’s always hard to know if it’s a misinformation campaign or if there’s validity to it.
So remember to use your common sense. Look at the overall consensus, see what real people are saying, and try it out for yourself.
I know that fish oil is good for me. You’ll have to experiment and see how you react.