In 2004, the FDA announced qualified health claims for omega-3 fatty acids, noting supportive but not conclusive research showing that consuming eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Other benefits have since been attributed to these fatty acids as well.
The best natural source of omega-3 fatty acids is fish oil. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines are rich in these fish oils and are likely the best natural source. The American Heart Association recommends including a minimum of 2 servings per week of fatty fish in your diet. Many people do not meet that minimum, so they turn to fish oil supplements for the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.
There is no one best time to take a fish oil supplement, especially since many of the potential benefits of its use require consistent dosage over an extended period of time. There are, however, a number of possible side effects that can be alleviated with the timing of the taking of the supplement. It may take a bit of trial and error and a possible case of the fishy burps, bad breath, or gastrointestinal distress to find the perfect timing of your own supplementation. But until you get there keep in mind that it is the consistency of days, not the time of day that you take it that matters most.
Though the time you take your fish oil supplement each day would not alter its long-term impact, it is helpful for some people to take their omega-3 supplements first thing in the morning with their meal. The fat in the meal can aid with the absorption, while taking it with a meal each day at the same is likely to become habitual. There are others who would prefer to take it at bedtime as they tend to get fish breath and this late day dosage seems to remedy that issue. And there are others, still, who prefer to split the dosage in half and take it at breakfast and dinner, or breakfast and bedtime. As long as you are taking it every day, whether it’s day or night is merely a personal preference.
It is always a good idea to take your fish oil supplement with a meal, or at least a substantial amount of food. Taking most supplements on an empty stomach can cause people to feel nauseous. Given that fish oil supplements are known to come with potential side effects that include digestive issues like fishy burps, bad breath, loose stools, or a sour stomach, it would almost be like tempting fate to take them on an empty stomach. It is also recommended that a good source of fat be included when you take your fish oil supplement as it can increase the bioavailability of the omega-3 fatty acids and potentially enhance their effectiveness.
Determining the appropriate dose of a fish oil supplement varies depending on the brand you have chosen. The important thing to remember when looking at the supplement facts label is that it’s not the dosage of the fish oil that matters, it’s the dosage of the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, you need to be concerned with. That’s where the benefits of fish oil are. In the case of plant-based sources of omega-3s, it would be the alpha linolenic acid (ALA) that you would need to determine your dosage.
If you look at the supplement facts of Care/of’s premium brand wild Alaskan salmon fish oil, Wild at Heart, you’ll see that it contains 2000mg of wild Alaskan salmon oil which contains 600 mg of omega-3s, 220mg of which are DHA and 180mg of which are EPA.
It is important to get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your body, whether it’s through diet or fish oil supplementation. The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, tilapia) per week, which would yield approximately 500mg each of EPA and DHA omega-3s daily.
There is solid research to indicate that fish oil supports heart health, brain health, and eye health. Human clinical trials have extensively studied fish oil and how it can help retain healthy triglyceride levels while also promoting additional healthy heart markers.
Researchers have studied extensively the effect of fish oil on the brain and the possibility that it can be supportive of cognitive health. This randomized, controlled study demonstrated that DHA supplementation improved memory and reaction time (RT) of memory in healthy young adults whose habitual diet was low in DHA.
There is indication that healthy vision can be supported with high doses of omega-3s. This randomized controlled study of omega-3 fatty acids in dry eye syndrome shows that omega-3s can support dry eyes related to computer use. However, the exact mechanism of action and how omega-3s play a role in tear production need more research.
The key to successful supplementation of fish oil is consistency. It doesn’t matter what time you take it, or how you take it (food or no food, water, etc.), what matters most is that you take it consistently for the recommended period of time. With fish oil, you are going for the long-term benefits. Taking the time to make your supplementing as habitual as brushing your teeth will pay off in the long run.
Care/of has an app that will help you to remember to take your vitamins. It sends reminders and gives you “carrots” as your reward points which can later be traded in for a variety of prizes such as supplements, Care/of merch, credit towards your next box, or even the ability to choose to donate to a good cause. It’s a great app to help you build a healthy supplementation habit.
If you’ve decided to supplement your diet with fish oil, there’s only a few things you need to know about when to do so. Some people choose first thing in the morning with breakfast, others choose bedtime, and others split it up at convenient times. The key is to be consistent with taking it on a daily basis. What time you take it each day is not nearly as important as actually taking it each day. Make it a habit. It will benefit you in the long run.
Care/of has a helpful article about How Much Fish Oil to Take. It can be an invaluable resource as you begin your supplementation. And, as always, consult your doctor, registered dietician, or healthcare provider before you begin your new supplementation.