A recent surge of studies has shown that fish oil supplements are not as useful as previously thought for preventing heart disease. So what’s the deal? Good or a waste of money?
Well, that depends on what you are using it for. The effects of fish oil supplementation on a variety of tissues (and issues) has been researched for over a decade now. The results are mixed. Some of this is likely dependent on the type of study, the effected system of the body, the quality of the fish oil and the dose of fish oil. It is a complicated equation. For example, studies on post pardum depression depression and cognitive health show substantial benefits to fish oil supplementation while cardiovascular benefits are mixed.
So should you use fish oil or not? Probably, but there is a better solution. There are a few important things that I have observed over the last few decades and science has begun to prove my suspicions correct one vitamin and mineral at a time. All essential nutrients (including omega-3 fatty acids, aka fish oils) absorb and are utilized by the body more efficiently when consumed in food as opposed to through supplementation. For example, the zinc in oysters is far superior for biological benefits, such as increasing testosterone or improving the immune system, than equivalent doses of zinc from supplementation. This is evident despite the fact that supplemental zinc will increase blood levels of zinc. The reason for this is that there are specific enzymes and amino acids that aid int he absorption and utilization of every essential nutrient. These same amino acids and enzymes are used to absorb or make these nutrients in the foods that naturally contain them. So it make sense that nutrients contained naturally in food (but not when added to a food as a supplement such as enriched food) will be utilized better than supplemented nutrients. This leads me to the next part. If you are not eating sufficient amounts of a particular nutrient and you choose to supplement, the amount that you need will likely be different from everyone else. Several things determine how much you need. Your available enzymes, your gut health, and you current levels all play a part. It is not uncommon for individuals to require such high levels through supplementation that it is actually cheaper to fix the problem with food. In the case that you already have deficiency related symptoms (chronic inflammation for instance), natural sources are most likely to be your best option.