Supplement Spotlight: Fish Oil

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You’ve heard about it, read about it, seen it, and even smelled it, but what exactly is fish oil all about?

Often our society can get instantly hooked on a new “fad”, especially one related to our health, but we are often very unaware of what the product is actually doing for us. The buzz about fish oil began a number of years ago and hasn’t seemed to slow down since. But if you take a fish oil supplement, or are considering doing so, do you really know why you are or if you should?

Fish oil, as you may have guessed, is oil that is derived from tissues of fatty fish such as mackerel, tuna, and salmon. These oils contain two types of fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and these are what that fuss is all about.

These two fatty acids are important for regulating various biological processes, especially the inflammatory response. They are anti-inflammatory in nature, and reduction in inflammation can reduce pain, especially in chronic conditions such as diabetes or arthritis. They help reduce triglyceride levels, and while more research is needed, it’s possible they help reduce the rate of cardiovascular events and may help prevent heart disease. EPA and DHA are precursors to eicosanoids, which act as central nervous system messengers, so fish oil can also be considered “brain fuel”, and studies have shown fish oil notably improves mood in people with major depression.

With the high amount of pro-inflammatory foods in our diet, and the concern and risk of cardiovascular disease being ever-present, taking a fish oil supplement can be a great addition to your daily health routine, especially if you don’t consume a lot of fatty fish in your diet. Health Canada recommends a minimum dose of 100mg combined EPA and DHA per day, and a maximum of 5000mg per day in adults 19 years and over. And it’s important to note many of the benefits of fish oil happen over a period of weeks, so don’t expect an immediate response.

But there is a caveat to these recommendations: not all fish oil is created equal. Most of the fish used to make the oil are predators, which means they are susceptible to accumulating high amounts of toxins in their tissues, mercury being one concern. Therefore, you should always use a high quality brand. And as with any supplement, there is a risk of taking too much, so be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations to prevent overuse.

Do you take fish oil? Have more questions about it? Feel free to reach out for more information!

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