Wednesday, September 12, 2012

To fish oil or not to fish oil?

I have had questions left, right and centre recently from friends, family and clients regarding fish oils. In particular, people are interested to know:
1. To fish oil or not to fish oil?
2. How much should I take?
The simple answer to question 1 is YES. Whether you suffer from chronic disease such as heart disease; have risk factors such as high triglycerides; suffer from chronic arthritis, eczema, depression or ADHD; or are just looking to optimise your nutrition - you should take fish oil. The answer to question 2 is a bit more complex. How much fish oil you should take is very individual.  
Fish oils are often associated with improving heart health, but the benefits are far greater than just a healthy ticker. Fish oils can also help brain function, reduce joint pain and arthritis and help keep skin healthy. For general health and well-being, it is recommended everyone consume 500mg EPA + DHA daily.
What does 500mg EPA + DHA look like?
  • Consume 150g oily fish 2-3 times a week
    • For example, 150g serve Atlantic salmon (1976mg EPA + DHA) + 80g canned salmon (1072mg EPA + DHA) + 80g canned tuna (386mg EPA + DHA) = 3434mg EPA + DHA per week OR 490mg per day
  • See table below for amounts of EPA + DHA in foods
  • As you can see; it is quite difficult to get 500mg EPA + DHA daily unless you are consuming oily fish such as salmon and sardines twice weekly. If you have increased omega-3 requirements, it is very difficult to get enough through food alone
  • 1-2 fish oil capsules (depending on how concentrated it is)

Most fish oil capsules are 1000mg, of which varying amounts are the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Many supplements contain, on average, 180mg EPA and 120mg DHA, a total of 300mg per capsule. So, always check the EPA and DHA content of your supplements and choose one with higher quantity of EPA and DHA. In general, most people will need to take 2 capsules per day of most fish oil capsules.

If you have heart disease, aim for a minimum of 1000mg EPA + DHA daily. If you have high triglycerides, aim for a minimum of 1200mg daily (up to 4000mg as indicated by your health professional or GP). If you suffer from osteoarthritis or joint pain, aim for a minimum of 3000mg daily.  
What about krill oil?
The omega-3s in krill oil are packaged differently from fish oils, in the form of a phospholipid that is easier for the body to absorb. Because of its higher absorption rate, people need to take less capsules to achieve desired health benefits. 

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