Are Fish Oil Supplements Worth It?

Fish has long been known to be a source of Omega-3 fatty acids but it wasn’t until recently that the exact effects of these acids have become known. And, now that the results are out in the open, people have been consuming fish or fish oil to receive the benefits they give.

Omega-3s (specifically eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA) are known to help combat cardiovascular problems, memory loss problems, inflammatory conditions and obesity. Ensuring that your diet contains enough Omega-3 fatty acids will help you ward off these conditions. And as you’ll soon find out, Omega-3 can also help you to build muscle.

In 1996 the American Heart Association released the Science Advisory “Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Lipids and Coronary Heart Disease.” The advisory report listed the benefits of taking these substances based on evidence from clinical trials.

In November 2002 the American Heart Association released a Scientific Statement “Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease.” This statement more specifically linked consumption of Fish Oil (and Omega-3s) to a decrease in the risk of heart arrhythmias (which can lead to death), a decrease in triglyceride levels, a decrease in the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque and a slightly lower blood pressure.

Although Omega-3s can be found in multiple sources including fatty fish like mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon, fish oil and even in flax seed oil. However, only fatty fish or fish oil contains adequate amounts of EPA and DHA.

Fish Oil Supplements

Most people view Omega-3 fish oil supplements as general health supplements, however, supplementing your weight gain diet with fish oil should help you achieve an improvement in your body’s composition by decreasing the amount of excessive body fat mass as well as a lower likelihood of the fat being distributed in the abdominal area.

Studies have shown that even during periods of weight gain Fish Oil will help redistribute the fat cells away from the abdominal area and limit the rate of atherosclerotic plaque. In other words, even if it doesn’t help decrease weight it will help you be a “healthier” fatter you 🙂

Meanwhile, research from the Washington University and the University of Nottingham suggests that Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplementation can help improve muscle growth. In this study, healthy men and women supplemented with 4 grams of fish oil per day (1.86 g EPA + 1.5 g DHA) for 8 weeks. One of the most interesting findings of this study was that fish oil supplementation significantly improved muscle protein synthesis, suggesting an anabolic response to amino acids and insulin, which is an enormous benefit to people interested in gaining muscle mass and such.

Other studies have shown that Fish Oil has a significant effect on the brain and cognitive functioning. DHA plays a vital role in brain development and then maintenance of normal brain function in adults. The study “Helland IB, Smith L, Saarem K, Saugstad OD, Drevon CA. Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children’s IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics. 2003 Jan;111(1):e39-44” showed that maternal supplementation with fish oil has been shown to increase the IQ of children at age four by an average of 4.1 points.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Fish Oil seems to have very few side effects and it is generally considered safe and well tolerated. It even has fewer adverse effects than other dietary supplement oils. Doses equivalent to three times the FDA’s maximum safe dosage (3 grams EPA/DHA per day) have shown to be safe in rats. Studies have shown that the main side effects in humans have been a fishy taste in the mouth or “fish burps” but these side effects depend on the type of supplement taken.

It should be noted, though, that there are two major possible side effects of consuming too much fish oil. The first is that consuming high doses of fish oil may decrease the function of the immune system (as compared to an increase in function on lower dosages). The second is an increase in LDL cholesterol and an increase in HDL cholesterol. As with any dietary supplement, if you simply follow the directions and consult with your physician you can rest assured that the supplement is helping you.

Cost per Day

The Omega-3 dosages used in the research study were 1.86 grams (EPA) and 1.5 grams (DHA). The NOW Foods Ultra Omega 3 fish oil costs $21.25 (if you include free shipping) for 180 soft-gels. Since each soft-gel contains 500 mg of EPA, you would only need to take 4 soft-gels per day. This would last you 45 days so the cost per day would be around .48 cents. This is very inexpensive when you consider the muscle building and health benefits that you get from fish oil.

Final Thoughts

All in all, fish oil supplementation appears to improve our body’s ability to prevent disease, strengthen immunity, and improve muscle growth, among other benefits. Whilst you could get Omega 3 fatty acids from fatty fish in your diet, the problem is you would have to consume a large amount of fish. If you don’t, then you can take an Omega 3 fish oil supplement.

I’ve only tried the Now Foods Ultra Omega 3 Fish Oil. If you’ve found a better deal on a high EPA fish oil then let us know in the comments below. This can include liquid fish oil since I know some people find it hard swallowing big softgels.

Sources:

National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health
American Heart Association
Smith et al. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperinsulinaemia-hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle-aged men and women, Clin Sci121(6):2011;121(6):267-78. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21501117
Helland IB, Smith L, Saarem K, Saugstad OD, Drevon CA. Maternal supplementation with very-long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children’s IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics. 2003 Jan;111(1):e39-44. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12509593