Fish oil is one of the more popular dietary supplements. Almost everyone has heard about fish oil before, but not so many know what it precisely does.
Fish oil has numerous health benefits, many of which are more or less related to the fact that it reduces inflammation.
If you belong to the majority of people, then you know this is a pretty good thing, but you likely don’t know what it precisely means or why.
Below I will be breaking down these things and answer the question: why exactly is fish oil good for you.
What Is Fish Oil?
First, let me just very briefly go over what fish oil is.
Fish oil is literally the fat or oil from the fish, which is extracted from the fish tissue and processed.
Fish oil is rich in certain kinds of fatty acids called “omega 3 fatty acids”. These are essential for your body because it cannot create it by itself (Actually it can, but only to a very limited extent).
There are two important types of omega 3s in the fish oil, and it is the quantity of these that you should be concerned about. They are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
So when you are looking at the label of the fish oil container you want to look at the amount of DHA and EPA, and use the quantities as an important factor in your decision making.
Omega 3s are also present in shellfish, plants, and nuts. Plants and nuts mostly contain another fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA) which is not as beneficial.
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is on a very basic level the reaction of your immune system to different stimuli. It is a natural and very important function in your body. It is what simply happens when your immune system is fighting something that it finds potentially could be harmful to you.
Examples are fighting off diseases or infections, or the reaction to highly stressful situations. The normal and detectable signs of inflammation are heat, pain, redness, and swelling. This can be seen in the tissue around a wound or felt in a sore throat.
Inflammation is a good thing. Too little and you can’t effectively fight off harmful things to your body. However, if you have too much of it for a prolonged period it is a very bad thing.
High Inflammation And Health Risks
Having chronic high inflammation is linked to countless of health risks.
If you have heard or read about anti-aging techniques or methods, then you perhaps know that lowering inflammation is one of the most important things.
You might also have heard or read that high inflammation is the main reason why people can’t lose weight.
It is true that high inflammation effects your insulin resistance, and that this can lead to lowered metabolic rate and affect your feeling of hunger. But, these effects are often highly exaggerated by weight loss programs and their marketing. However, it is still something to be concerned about.
Because too much inflammation affects your body negatively keeping it under control and limiting the number of causes that can lead to inflammation is very important.
Fish Oil And Inflammation Reduction
The real reason why fish oil reduces inflammation is that it alleviates a big problem in most people’s diet. The problem is that many people are getting too many omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3s. Omega 6 fatty acids are also essential fats like omega 3s.
In other words, there is an imbalance in the ratio between omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids.
As you read above fish oil is rich in omega 3s and supplementing can thus improve a potential imbalance in this ratio.
If your diet more or less aligns with what can be described as the “western diet”, then you are getting a lot of omega 6 fatty acids and too few omega 3s.
The omega 6s are very high in polyunsaturated fats such as most vegetable, nuts and seed oils.
Initially, this doesn’t sound so bad, but the problem is that these fats are used in all processed foods and is fed livestock that we ourselves consume. The result is that omega 6 fatty acids are abundant in most of the food we eat.
Ideal Omega 3:6 Ratio
I have read several estimations of omega 3:6 ratios in average Americans. They are usually somewhere between 1:16 – 1:20.
The ideal omega 3:6 ratio is said to be 1:4 or less.
Having a ratio that is very high in favor of omega 6 is a bad thing as it causes inflammation.
A very short explanation is that omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids compete against each other in the body. They are absorbed by the same enzyme, and there is a hard cap on the total amount of the two your body can use.
Because of the structure of the fatty acids and how they interact in the body, omega 6 fatty acids are pro-inflammatory and omega 3s are neutral. In addition, omega 3s have some unique benefits for cell membranes and your brain, which you are not getting the full effect of if you are absorbing a lot of omega 6s.
Fish Oil Is Likely Not The Complete Solution
All this being said, I think it is important to understand that while supplementing with fish oil can be very beneficial in alleviating the problems caused by an imbalance in the omega 6:3 ratios present in many people, it is likely not going to solve the problem.
Of course, it all depends on your diet, more specifically omega 6 fatty acids intake.
If your diet results in a ratio of 20:1 eating a few fish oil pills is going to be no way near enough to lower that ratio to 4:1 or less.
This does not change the fact that fish oil is a great supplement and that it will provide great benefits when it is lowering your omega ratio considerably.
Even if you still have an unhealthy amount of omega 6s in your body, the fact that it has been lowered will still cause a big reduction in inflammation. This is a very good thing and in my opinion worth spending money on.
“But I Eat Fish, So I Don’t Need Fish Oil”
I have heard many people say they don’t need to supplement with fish oil because they eat fish.
Eating fish is, of course, great for getting those omega 3 fatty acids. But that doesn’t necessarily make fish oil supplements a bad choice. It really depends on the specific intake of omega 6s and omega 3s and not whether you eat fish or not.
In case you eat fish the amount of omega 3s you get depends on the type of fish you are eating. Obviously, the fatty ones are the best. But eating the fatty fish are regretfully also the ones that come with more heavy metals like mercury.
This is something you have to worry less about when you are taking fish oil because heavy metal contents are closely monitored and reduced.
Fish Oil For Faster Strength And Muscle Gains
Supplementing with fish oil will of course not directly help you build any strength or muscle.
But as I mention briefly in my other post on the best supplements for strength training, having a healthy body is very important for long-term success with gaining strength and muscle.
In my perspective, a strong and muscular body is a healthy body, and I think that is the kind of body most people are interested in. At least they should be.
So Which Fish Oil Supplements Should You Get?
Like other supplements, there are many different brands to chose from when buying fish oil.
A few years ago there was a major scandal about big companies selling rancid fish oil, which you probably can guess is not beneficial at all. It is therefore important to see what third-party testing companies have to say about the fish oil before you make your buying decision.
Other things that are tested for worth mentioning are the labeling accuracy (does the pills really contain the DHA and EPA as labeled) and mercury content.
There are some fish oil supplements that have been processed to have increased DHA and EPA. These are often labeled “triple strength” or “ultra strength” and comes with much more DHA and EPA. That way you get more of the good stuff in one pill.
Another important factor is obviously the price.
My Fish Oil Recommendations
Taking all these into consideration there are two fish oil brands that I would recommend. You can get both at Amazon often at the best price. Click the links below to go to Amazon.
I may receive compensation should you chose to buy through these links, but it doesn’t affect you.
If you find the price a bit high compared to other fish oil supplements you have been used previously, please have in mind that these two products have about 3-4 times the potency of regular fish oil supplements.
If you compare the DHA and EPA amount the price roughly evens out to be the same. However, with these two products, you will be getting some of the highest ranked on the market by qualified testing companies, and you get the convenience of eating 3 – 4 times fewer pills.
I have found that this helps a lot on any fishy aftertaste or burps.
Please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you about whether you take fish oil supplements and which.