How Much Fish Oil Should I Take? A Scientific Answer

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    Over the past decade, fish oil has received a lot of attention which has shined the light on the wide range of health benefits fish oil has to offer.

    How Much Fish Oil Should I Take?

    Fish oil is included in the daily supplement regimen for many people. Why? The evidence-based benefits! Luckily, this supplement has received a lot of attention over the past decade. This attention has triggered more research and, ultimately, revealed more benefits related to fish oil use. If you're interested in fish oil it's important to make sure you're taking the right amount to get all the benefits.

    How long do I have to use fish oil to feel the benefits?

    It is important to state that you likely won’t feel the benefits associated with fish oil. For example, it is not really possible to feel improvements in heart health. That doesn’t mean it is not working though. The length of time it takes to see benefits from fish oil will differ from one person to the next. This time is also impacted by the benefit that is desired. Generally, fish oil does not produce results very quickly. Most people will start to see benefits after taking fish oil daily for a time between four weeks and three months. It is unlikely, however, that you will discontinue fish oil after this duration of time, even if you do start to see benefits. Most people will take fish oil for many months or years to maintain the desired effect. Your physician can help you determine how long to stay on fish oil.

    Why should I take fish oil?

    The primary reason for taking fish oil is because fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are linked to a wide breadth of benefits like joint, brain, heart, and eye health and can only be obtained through your diet from foods like fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed, and canola, or from supplementing. Let’s dive into some of the benefits of fish oil a little more:

    Heart: One of the primary reasons that people consider taking a fish oil supplement is for the heart health benefits. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating at least 2 servings of fatty fish per week since they are great sources of omega 3s. Human clinical trials have shown that fish oil helps maintain healthy triglyceride levels while promoting other studied health markers.

    Joints: Fish oil has shown promising results for joint health. One 12 month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that patients taking 2,600mg of omega-3 per day experienced more joint comfort than those taking a placebo.

    Brain: Fish oil may also provide cognitive benefits. In a 2005 clinical study, omega-3 supplementation was associated with an improvement in attention and mood for the omega-3 group versus the placebo group. A population-based study performed a year earlier found that people who consumed more fish in their diet performed better on cognitive battery tests.

    Eyes: Fish oil may provide benefits for those suffering from dry eyes. 518 patients with dry eye symptoms were enrolled in a 2013 study. The fish oil used in the study was one capsule (500mg) two times a day containing 325mg EPA and 175mg DHA. Of the participants, 65% of patients in the omega-3 group and 33% of patients in the placebo group had significant improvement in symptoms at 3 months.

    How does fish oil compare to other omega-3 supplements?

    Although there are several types of foods and supplements that can provide you with omega-3s (e.g. algae sources for vegans), fish oil may be the superior source. This has to do with the different types of omega-3s that exist. Fish oil contains two types of omega-3s: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Most major benefits linked to omega-3s have been to EPA and DHA. Alternative sources often contain an omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). At this time, it does not appear that ALA can confer the benefits that EPA and DHA can. Therefore, if you are selecting a source alternative to fish oil (e.g. vegan option), it is important to make sure it contains EPA and DHA, like Care/of’s Veggie Omega sourced from algae.

    How much fish oil should I take daily?

    Given the large number of possible benefits, there is not a specific dose of fish oil that each person should aim for. Rather, the dose often depends on the desired benefit. For example, physicians often recommend much higher doses for individuals that are taking fish oil for heart benefits (e.g. cholesterol changes). Your physician can help you determine the ideal dose. Many people are instructed to take a dose between 1,000 mg and 2,000 mg of fish oil. This dose normally provides between 250 mg and 600 mg of EPA and DHA (the most important omega-3s).

    Healthy Individuals

    Omega-3s are essential for every person, not just those people that are seeking a health benefit. While we are able to get omega-3s from some food sources (e.g. flax seed), our diet is often inadequate when it comes to omega-3s. Therefore, supplementing with fish oil can help you achieve a proper amount of omega-3s each day. By taking fish oil, you can help maintain cognitive health, eye health, heart health, and is important when not eating enough fish.

    During Pregnancy

    Pregnancy is a very important time to consider how much EPA and DHA you are getting each day. These omega-3 fatty acids are essential for fetal development and cannot be overlooked. Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA from Fish Oil (or a vegan source like Veggie Omega are essential nutrients that help maintain your cognitive health while also supporting your baby's nervous system and brain health. Many people cut back on fish, a source of omega-3s, during pregnancy and breastfeeding to avoid mercury, so Fish Oil may be a great way to get these healthy omega 3s.

    The general recommendation is that an expecting mother should get 650 mg of omega 3s where at least 300 mg is DHA. This is because DHA is critical for development during the third trimester. You should speak with your physician to determine what source and dose of EPA and DHA are ideal for you.

    What time of day should I take fish oil?

    There is not a certain time of day that you need to take your fish oil supplement. There are certain strategies, however, that can improve your experience and the results you see. Fish oil supplements can potentially contribute to digestive discomfort if not taken with food. These concerns can often be alleviated by taking your fish oil supplement with a meal. Some people also like to store their fish oil capsules in the fridge to reduce the likelihood of them causing belching. In addition, a meal with fat content may be most ideal. This study found that omega-3 fatty acids may be absorbed best when you take them with a fat-containing meal. You don’t need to add fatty products to your meal just for this reason though.

    Are there any risks of taking too much fish oil?

    Although standard doses are safe for most people, there are concerns with taking high doses for some. Potential digestive discomfort can increase with high levels of fish oil. Always be sure to talk to your doctor about new supplements before adding them into your regimen. Especially when taking other medications.

    Which fish oil supplement should I take?

    When selecting a fish oil supplement, it is important to purchase from a company that sources their ingredients responsibly. For example, sustainable fishing practices or fish-raising practices are very important to consider for fish oil. Ideally, your supplement of choice will also break down the source of omega-3s and list the amount of EPA and DHA in each dose. “EPA” and “DHA” should be listed on separate lines on the product’s label itself. Fish oil is available from a large number of sources, but you want to select a product from a reputable brand to ensure you are getting a high quality product.

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    Diana Morgan, MS, CISSN
    Head of Scientific & Regulatory Affairs
    Diana Morgan is an innovative and entrepreneurial strategist with over 15 years of experience in the dietary supplement industry in areas such as Regulatory Affairs, Product Development, Technical Services and Sales coupled with a personal passion for nutrition & health.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.