Fish oil has got to be one of the first supplements that people start taking. Fish oil capsules are sold in almost every health food and supplement store in the world. So common are they that they now sit alongside the best multivitamins for men in the supermarket.
The reason people take fish oil is for the omega 3 content. Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely important nutrients for the human body.
In the typical human diet, you consume fairly equivalent amounts of omega 3s, omega 6s, and omega 9s. However, in the modern Western diet, people consume far more omega 6s and omega 9s than omega 3s. As omega 6s and omega 9s and pro-inflammatory, and omega 3s are anti-inflammatory, this situation leads to chronic inflammation and all the problems that come with it.
That’s why so many people are using fish oil these days. Their diets are low in omega 3s, so they need to top up from fish oil.
But is fish oil really the answer here?
Is there a better way to get omega 3?
Are omega 3 supplements worth taking?
Let’s go through some of the science to find out!
How important are omega 3s?
Just how important are omega 3 fatty acids? Do you really need to be taking them? Are omega 3 supplements worth it?
For most people in the West, omega-3 is a critical nutrient. When you consider some of the main health problems that affect people in the developed world today – obesity, cancer, stroke, and heart disease – you see just how much of an impact omega-3 might have on public health.
Omega-3s are extremely anti-inflammatory.
So any condition related to inflammation (that’s most chronic illnesses) will be affected by omega-3 intake.
But more specifically, omega-3 consumption has been linked to a reduced incidence of heart disease and stroke. This isn’t just because omega-3 consumption reduces inflammation, which damages your blood vessels.
Omega 3 also seems to reduce the occurrence of blood clots, assuages irregular heart beats, and slightly lowers blood pressure.
Then there’s the effect omega-3 has on the brain.
DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid highly prevalent in fish oil, makes up a huge proportion of your brain’s gray matter.
People who consume more DHA tend to exhibit better cognitive function, even in the short term. An elevated intake of DHA throughout life is also associated with better cognitive function in old age.
So clearly, omega 3 is pretty important!
But are omega 3 supplements worth it?
Is an omega-3 supplement worth taking?
In an ideal world, nobody would take an omega-3 supplement.
Humans can – and many DO – get more than enough omega-3s from their regular diet.
It is easy to get plenty of omega-3s from food. While not as prevalent of EPA, it is also easy to get all the DHA you need from food, regardless of your dietary restrictions. Your body can make DHA from EPA, so as long as you’re getting enough of that, you’re fine!
Foods high in omega-3s include:
Flax seeds (the best source per cup)
Eating these foods on a fairly regular basis will help keep your heart and brain health and inflammation levels nice and low.
However, we know it isn’t realistic for everyone to eat a diet high in flax seed and mackerel.
Few people are willing to put effort into their diets these days. So for the vast majority of people, an omega-3 supplement is going to be needed if you want to achieve optimal health and performance.
Omega-3 supplements are rarely expensive.
Even high quality omega-3 supplements obtained from plant sources (i.e. the algae where fish get their omega-3s from) that are extremely rich in DHA tend to only cost $20 or so for a month’s supply.
Is omega-3 worth taking?
Yes. Considering the health and performance benefits on the table, the cost of a bottle of even the best omega-3 supplements is relatively small.
The risks are also very low; few people ever experience side effects while taking any omega-3 supplements. If anything, people find they sleep better and have more regular bowel movements!
More about bio-hacking supplements: