2021's 10 Best
Fish Oil Supplements
Fish oil is a supplement that is noteworthy for its high content of omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s). Omega-3s are associated with many health benefits. Those that are most beneficial are docosahexaenoic (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic (EPA).
While fish oil has been used for centuries, it became the subject of renewed interest in the 1970s when a pair of Danish researchers studied Inuits. The researchers suggested that a fish-heavy diet might be what protected the Inuits from heart disease. Studies since then have called into question whether fish oil reduces the risk of heart disease. However, they have also revealed a plethora of other benefits of fish oil.
In fact, a 2009 study found that low levels of omega-3s in the diet were responsible for an estimated 84,000 deaths that year. This was ranked as the eighth-deadliest of the “preventable risk factors” and the second-deadliest of the dietary risks.
So what can fish oil do for you? Let’s take a closer look.
Benefits of Fish Oil
For many years, people believed that fish oil significantly reduced the risk of heart disease. But a recent study suggests that fish oil may not have a significant impact on lowering the risk of heart attacks or strokes. The study did show that those taking omega-3 supplements were 7% less likely to die of coronary heart disease. So it’s not like taking fish oil has a negative impact on heart health. It’s just that the positive effects of omega-3 supplements on heart health may have been overstated. The jury is still out on this question, as another clinical trial of over 25,000 people is expected to be published soon.
That being said, there are plenty of other health benefits of taking omega-3 supplements. In addition to general health benefits, there is evidence that fish oil supplements may benefit those looking to improve athletic performance. Let’s take a look at some of the many benefits of fish oil.
One of the main benefits of omega-3s is their anti-inflammatory properties. Strenuous exercise damages the muscles, which causes the body to repair the damage. The body also tries to make the muscles stronger to be better prepared for future workouts. Anti-inflammatory agents like omega-3s help allow this process to happen more quickly.
This has the added benefit of mitigating delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is the uncomfortable aching all lifters have experienced. Omega-3s can also help reduce the risk of injury during intense workouts and boost energy levels.
Not only do omega-3s speed the recovery process, they also help increase protein synthesis. This can translate to gains in strength and mass. Omega-3s seem to work particularly well in conjunction with amino acid supplements. They can also reduce fatigue while working out, which will enable you to work out for longer periods of time. This can lead to more gains in strength and mass.
Along with promoting muscle growth, omega-3s can also help burn fat. This has the additional benefit of making it less likely that your body will burn muscle instead of fat during exercise. This can lead to an overall improvement in body composition, as you have more muscle and less fat.
And while fish oil may not be directly responsible for lowering the risk of heart disease, its fat-burning properties can have an indirect effect. Being overweight increases the risk of heart disease. So, whether it’s with diet, exercise, or supplements, maintaining a healthy body weight can help to lower the risk of heart disease.
If you’re playing a sport in which reaction time is important (i.e. virtually all of them), fish oil can help. A 2011 study involving pro Spanish female soccer players showed that fish oil improved their reaction time. Omega-3s have also been shown to improve brain function in other areas as well. For example, fish oil can help improve memory. This can help athletes memorize playbooks, for example.
Anyone who has suffered from exercise-induced asthma knows how debilitating it can be. Reaching for your inhaler instead of the dumbbells is not where you want to be. The good news is that fish oil can help. A 2013 study showed that omega-3s can improve lung function and reduce the inflammation that causes exercise-induced asthma attacks.
Omega-3s don’t just make your muscles stronger. They can make your bones stronger too. A 2009 report showed that omega-3s have been beneficial for bone health in animals. More research is needed to definitively say if omega-3s are as beneficial to human bones, but the science is promising.
The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3s are also helpful for general health. Some inflammation is normal when the body is recovering from an injury or illness. This is actually essential to the healing process, but sometimes the inflammation can persist for a long time.
This is known as chronic inflammation. It can cause numerous health problems such as arthritis, periodontitis, or even cancer. Fish oil can help reduce chronic inflammation. For example, studies have shown that fish oil can significantly improve the symptoms of arthritis.
Fish oil has also been shown to help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. One study from 2014 showed that patients with macular degeneration had substantially lower omega-3s in their diet. Fish oil can also reduce the risk of eye problems related to diabetes.
The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil have been shown to have many mental health benefits. This stands to reason because the brain itself is 60 percent fat. For example, studies have shown that omega-3 supplements can help improve symptoms of ADHD and depression. Studies also indicate that fish oil may help in warding off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
CANCER TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
One area of research that is getting a lot of attention is whether fish oil can help prevent and treat cancer. One 2013 study on prostate cancer indicated that omega-3s can help inhibit cancer cell growth. Another study from 2014 showed that omega-3s can be helpful in treating breast cancer. Omega-3s may also help pharmaceutical cancer drugs be more effective. This is very promising. However, both studies have cautioned that more research is needed to make definitive conclusions.
Fish oil can also improve acne, and it can help prevent wrinkles and other signs of age. A lack of omega-3s tends to dehydrate the skin, making someone look older and less healthy. Fish oil has also been shown to help treat eczema and even sunburn.
FERTILITY AND PREGNANCY
Fish oil has been shown to help with fertility for both men and women. For men, omega-3s help sperm become stronger. For women, omega-3s help to treat conditions like endometriosis, which can make a woman infertile. Fish oil can also help during pregnancy. Since the woman is supporting the fetus, her levels of omega-3s can become depleted. It is important to have enough for mother and child, as omega-3s help with the development of the brain. This even continues after birth via breastfeeding.
Sources of Fish Oil
As its name implies, fish oil is derived from fish, though the fish themselves do not produce the oil. Rather, they get it from eating algae or other fish. In terms of food options, salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring are particularly abundant in fish oil. It is important to note that how the fish is prepared matters a great deal. Studies have shown that baking or boiling fish is far preferable to frying it, as more of the DHA and EPA is retained. Canned fish is also not recommended, as the canning process destroys nearly all the omega-3s. Alternatively, fish oil can be obtained through supplements.
What to Look for in a Fish Oil Supplement
You want to ensure that you get the proper amounts of EPA and DHA. Some fish oil supplements might include other ingredients, so the amount of EPA and DHA may be less than you want. The easiest way to check is to look at the label. The amount of EPA and DHA in the supplement should be listed under the supplement facts.
To reap the health benefits of fish oil, you typically want a total of between 2000 and 3000 mg of EPA and DHA per day. This is the equivalent amount found in a 6 oz. filet of wild salmon.
Many fish oil supplements only have around 300 mg of DHA and EPA. This will require 7-10 capsules per day to meet the goal if you aren’t getting any EPA and DHA from dietary sources. Other supplements are more highly concentrated and have about 600 mg. This will cut the number of capsules needed per day in half.
Another thing to watch out for is the freshness of the fish oil supplement or lack thereof. While fresh fish oil is beneficial, rancid fish oil may actually cause more harm than good. You want to make sure that the fish oil supplement has as low an oxidation rate as possible. It is a good idea to look for a supplement that has been tested by a third party. It is also best to avoid any supplement that has a strong fishy taste or smell.
Dosage and Side Effects
It is recommended to take fish oil in low doses, which is defined as 3 grams or less per day. The 3 grams refers to the total amount of EPA and DHA in the fish oil supplement. Exceeding this amount is not recommended, as it may increase the chances of bleeding and make blood harder to clot. High doses may also inhibit the immune system, which is especially a concern for the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. Possible minor side effects include heartburn and nausea.
Best Fish Oil Supplements
Our top 10 list of fish oil supplements is organized to reflect what you most value in your supplements. First and foremost is quality. All of our top ten supplements meet high standards of quality and come from brands with a proven record in excellence and purity. Another important factor in deciding the top ten was cost. You don’t have to pay through the nose to get a high-quality fish oil supplement. In addition, all the companies represented on our list have stellar records with customer service and prompt shipping. This ensures that your supplement experience is enjoyable from the first click to your final dose.
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