Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy, polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) that must be obtained through your diet since the body cannot naturally produce this fatty acid. Whether you consume your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of omega-3s largely depends on what you eat. If you consume a diet rich in fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and trout, you're likely getting your RDA of the essential fatty acids from the oils in the fish. If you don't eat at least three servings per week, you should consider taking a fish oil supplement.
Getting your omega-3s is one thing that we recommend to nearly everyone, and few experts argue against its use. Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent age-related disorders and promote joint health. There's very strong evidence that fish oil helps reduce inflammation, a major cause of our most devastating diseases. In 2002, experts from Washington's Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health reported that "omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and, therefore, might be useful in the management of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases."
Important health benefits
In the same study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers explain that "coronary heart disease, major depression, aging and cancer are characterized by an increased level of interleukin 1 (IL-1), a pro-inflammatory cytokine." Although not conclusive, this research suggests that omega-3 fish oil merits further study as an anti-aging and anti-cancer supplement.
There are too many quality omega-3 supplements out there, but we are big fans of any product that is high in DHA.
It's becoming more evident that no matter where you are in your adult life cycle, a diet rich in these healthy fats are beneficial. Because omega-3s are a proven anti-inflammatory, this supplement is also great for joint health. Look for a concentration high in EPA and DHA.
Whether your goal is to slim down or bulk up, fish oil can help. When combined with a proper diet and exercise regimen, fish oil is a nutrient that has the ability to promote fat loss.
According to a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "[fish oil] supplements and regular exercise both reduce body fat and improve cardiovascular and metabolic health. Increasing intake of n-3 Fas [omega-3 fatty acids] could be a useful adjunct to exercise programs aimed at improving body composition and decreasing cardiovascular disease risk." An earlier study, performed in 1997 and published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, demonstrated that "dietary [fish oil] reduces body fat mass and stimulates lipid oxidation in healthy adults."
Recommended dose for weight loss
To lose weight, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests a daily serving of 2 oz. to 7 oz. of fish oil, containing approximately 3.65g of omega-3 fatty acids, with 0.66g from EPA and 0.60g from DHA.
Fish oil and general health
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered mainstream nutrients not only for their favorable effects on body composition, but also for their antioxidant and life-extending properties.
Triglycerides and cholesterol
In 2006, researchers from the University of Ioannina in Greece conducted a small study consisting of 42 patients with severe hypertriglyceridemia. On average, triglyceride levels were 500 to 2000 mg/dL. Following administration of a highly concentrated omega-3 fatty acid agent, at 4g per day, patients' triglyceride levels decreased 45%, total cholesterol decreased 15%, and very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol decreased 32%. At the same time, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol increased by 13% and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol increased by 31%.
The researchers go on to report that another small study, which included patients with triglyceride levels ranging from 354 to 2478 mg/dL, found that 4g of omega-3 fatty acids per day had a similar effect on lipid and lipoprotein concentration compared to patients who were given 1200mg per day gemfibrozil, a drug used to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
Studies like these have led to the NIH officially approving omega-3 fatty acids for use in lowering heightened triglyceride levels.
Lowering triglyceride levels
For the treatment of high triglycerides, take 1g to 4g of fish oil per day.
Omega-3 fatty acids are capable of reducing blood pressure, based on evidence showing their ability to expand blood vessels.
Lowering blood pressure
The NIH suggests taking either 4g of fish oil, or fish oil that provides 2.04g of EPA and 1.4g of DHA per day.
For individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, morning stiffness and aches can diminish your quality of life. What if you could reduce your need for over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as Advil and Tylenol? Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce pain associated with this debilitating autoimmune disease.
Reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms
Taking fish oil that provides 3.8g of EPA and 2g of DHA per day can help reduce inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
Research shows that consuming omega-3 fish oil can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides in those who have the disease. Fish oil and omega-3s have also been linked to lowering mortality risk for heart disease patients.
Preventing heart disease
Fish oil that provides 0.3g to 6g of EPA and 0.6g to 3.7g of DHA per day may help reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Combining fish oil and calcium supplements may help slow bone loss and even increase bone density. 
Omega-3 side effects
There are no side effects associated with fish oil supplements. Taking 3g to 4g per a day is a safe dosage range.
If you consume a diet that is rich in fish sources, there's no reason to add an omega-3 supplement to your regimen. Though rare, taking too much omega-3s can inhibit clotting, which can interfere with your body's ability to stop bleeding from an internal and/or external injury.
Lower quality fish oil supplements, specifically those with poor coating, or a burst soft-gel in your bottle, can cause a nasty fish taste in your mouth, or fish-flavored burps, known as "fish burps".
You can prevent fish burps by slowing your digestion. Freeze fish oil supplements or split your dose: take half during the day and half at night before bed.
What we like
Omega-3's often come from fish and fish oil, but fish is not the only source of omega-3s.
There are too many quality omega-3 supplements out there, but we are big fans of any product that is high in DHA, including Jarrow Formulas and NOW Foods.
Not all fish oil are the same. Just because it's a fish oil doesn't mean it has the right fatty acids, or an appropriate amount of essential fatty acids. Currently, we're experiencing a trend in which omega-3 is being added to a variety of foods, including milk, eggs, and bread.
Although the dosages we outline in this article are supported by the NIH, the FDA recommends not exceeding more than a 3g per day of omega-3 fatty acids containing EPA and DHA, and no more than 2g per day from a dietary supplement.
If you're already taking an omega-3 fatty acid, we encourage you to review the ingredients and be sure they contain amounts that will be beneficial to your unique health habits and concerns. Always check with your healthcare provider for information about taking this supplement, proper dosing, and whether it's right for you.
This information is intended to supplement your knowledge, not to replace advice from your physician. Interactions between your current medications and omega-3 fatty acids are not noted, therefore never use supplements without approval from your healthcare provider.
- Simopoulos AP.; Journal of the American College of Nutrition; "Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases;" December 2002.
- Couet C.; International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders; "Effect of dietary fish oil on body fat mass and basal fat oxidation in healthy adults;" August 1997
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration; "FDA Announces Qualified Health Claims for Omega-3 Fatty Acids;" September 2004
- MedlinePlus; "Fish Oil;" Reviewed September 2013.
- Hill AM., et. al.; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; "Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors;"May 2007
- Gazi I., et. al.; Hellenic Journal of Cardiology; "Beneficial Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The Current Evidence;" May 2006