Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements: The Science, Benefits, and Common Questions Answered

The omega-3 fats found in fish and fish oil supplements are considered essential fatty acids.

In other words, your body requires omega-3s from your diet for optimal health because it can’t make them on its own.

A healthy diet high in the two most important omega-3s, EPA and DHA, can:

  • decrease inflammation[1], 
  • support heart health[2], 
  • help prevent obesity[3], 
  • and set the stage for healthy aging (among other benefits).

But an unhealthy diet high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3s has the opposite effects. 

If you’re health-conscious, omega-3s should be at the top of your supplement shopping list.

At Steve’s, we recognized the need for an affordable, high-quality fish oil supplement. Our Omega-3 Care Complete is third-party tested, mercury-free, fresh, and high in EPA and DHA.

Learn why our omega-3 supplement is the best choice available.

Otherwise, keep reading to discover the answers to frequently asked questions about omega-3 supplements, including the best type of fish oil, how much to take, the many benefits of omega-3s, tips to get the most out of your fish oil supplements, and more.

What is the best fish oil?

If you’re considering taking fish oil for health benefits, it’s worthwhile to shop around for a high-quality fish oil supplement.

Here’s what you should consider as you investigate your options.

First of all, omega-3 fatty acids are highly prone to oxidation. In other words, they can go rancid easily.

One investigation found that of 171 commercial fish oil supplements tested, over 50% were found to exceed limits for oxidation levels[4].

And rather than improve your health, some researchers think that oxidized supplements could actually be harmful[5].

A separate study comparing oxidized and unoxidized omega-3 supplements also found that the oxidized fish oil was less effective for supporting healthy cholesterol levels in women[6].

To avoid rancid omega-3 supplements, it helps to know the age of the fish oil, its country of origin, and that it was stored correctly away from heat and light[4].

Another problem to be aware of is contamination. Some fish oil supplements contain dangerous chemicals like PCBs and dioxin that are linked with cancer and other health problems[7].

Contamination with environmental chemicals could reduce the benefits of fish oil, so it’s wise to only use fish oil that’s purity-tested by a third party.

Finally, there are a few different forms of fish oil supplements available. The most common varieties you’ll encounter are triglycerides (TG) and ethyl ester (EE) forms.

Although evidence suggests that both forms can provide benefits, some studies show that TG fish oil absorbs faster and better[8][9]. 

If possible, choosing the TG form helps ensure you can get the most benefit from omega-3 supplements.

At Steve’s, we crafted our high-potency, high-quality fish oil capsules with your health in mind. They’re sourced directly from Norway, third-party tested and contaminant-free, and contain high doses of omega-3 fatty acids in the fast-acting triglyceride (TG) form.

Shop Steve’s Omega-3 Care Complete fish oil now.

What is the difference between fish oil and omega 3?

Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids aren’t exactly the same thing.

If you look at the label of a fish oil supplement, the nutrition facts section tells you the total amount of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as the specific amounts of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

The EPA and DHA are the most important and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil, and they’re what you should pay the most attention to[10].

If your doctor tells you to obtain 1,000 milligrams per day of omega-3s, he or she is recommending you take 1,000 milligrams of actual combined EPA and DHA, not 1,000 milligrams of fish oil or “other omega-3s.”

Other omega-3s are fine in addition to EPA and DHA, but they’re not a substitute for real EPA and DHA.

Unfortunately, some manufacturers count the total volume of fish oil as opposed to the amount of EPA and DHA as omega-3s on their labels, which is misleading. 

To put it another way, some fish oil is low in omega-3s but uses deceptive labeling to appear otherwise.

If you see a label with relatively low amounts of EPA and DHA that somehow lists a much larger amount of “omega-3s,” you should probably steer clear, because that fish oil is lower quality and less beneficial.

Finally, there are also other food sources of omega-3 fatty acids besides fish and fish oil.

For example, flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), a vegan or plant-based omega-3.  

That said, research shows that ALA is far less effective than EPA and DHA from fish because your body has to convert it into EPA and DHA[11][12].

Especially for people who eat an inflammatory diet high in omega-6s, ALA is not an adequate source of omega-3s[12]. 

Instead of ALA, fish oil is the best source of omega-3s because it contains EPA and DHA that your body can use with no conversion required.

How much Omega 3 is recommended daily?

The recommended omega-3 dose depends on your body and your health history. Here are some mainstream recommendations from experts:

  • In the United States, the recommended daily allowance of omega-3s is 1,600 milligrams for men and 1,100 milligrams for women[13].

 

  • Health authorities in the US also recommend adults eat two servings of fish per week, which provides an average of 250 milligrams of daily EPA and DHA and is associated with a reduced risk of heart attacks[14].

 

  • Harvard physician Bruce R. Bistrian, M.D. and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend people with cardiovascular disease take a gram per day of combined EPA and DHA from fish oil[15].

 

  • The Cleveland Clinic recommends 2-4 grams of EPA and DHA for people with high levels of triglycerides[16].

 

On the other hand, combined daily doses of up to 5,000 milligrams (5 grams) of EPA and DHA have also been shown to be safe for adults in studies[17].

Finally, a 2018 systematic review of studies found that the benefits of omega-3 from fish oil increase according to the dose, so higher doses could be more beneficial compared to lower doses[18].

And as you’ll learn in the next section, other factors in your diet can also affect your body’s omega-3 requirements.

What is the best ratio of omega 3 to omega 6?

Along with your dietary omega-3 intake, the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 oils you eat is also very important for your health.

Unlike the healthy omega-3 fatty acids discussed in the earlier sections of this article, omega-6 fatty acids are potentially harmful, inflammatory fats mostly found in processed foods[19].

It’s true that your body also requires omega-6 fatty acids, but unhealthy modern diets have far too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 fats[19].

And when you eat too many omega-6 oils, it can also increase the likelihood of an omega-3 deficiency.

The overconsumption of omega-6 fatty acids is associated with obesity, inflammation, heart disease, increased cancer risk, and other health problems[19].

Some researchers have found that a healthy, traditional human diet has a ratio of about 1 to 1 omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, but modern processed diets usually contain a ratio of around 1 to 20–far too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3 intake[20].

Here’s a list of high omega-6 foods to avoid or eat minimally[20]:

  • Processed and packaged foods
  • Fried foods
  • Seed or “vegetable” oils (corn oil, safflower, cottonseed, and soybean oils)

Essentially, the more omega-6 fatty acids you eat or have eaten, the more omega-3s your body requires to balance the fatty acid ratios in your cell membranes[19].

While you can get a blood test to learn your ratio (called the Omega-3 Index), the easiest and best ways to ensure your levels are balanced are to: 

  • eat a healthy diet, 
  • reduce your intake of processed foods and omega-6 fats, and 
  • increase your omega-3 intake using fish oil supplements and seafood. 

Next, you’ll learn more about the benefits of taking fish oil supplements according to scientific research.

What are the benefits of taking fish oil?

For Inflammation

A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is considered anti-inflammatory and may help reduce chronic inflammation in your body[1].

Many of the other benefits of omega-3s, such as lowering the risk of various diseases, stem from decreasing chronic inflammation.

Heart Health

Consuming adequate amounts of omega-3s from fish or fish oil supplements is shown in studies to support cardiovascular health and decrease risk factors including[2]: 

  • Improving HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels
  • Lowering triglyceride levels 
  • Helping prevent or lessen arterial plaque formation
  • Reducing the risk of sudden death from cardiac arrhythmias

Also, researchers have documented that people who eat diets high in omega-3s experience much lower rates of heart disease and cardiovascular disease compared to people who eat low amounts of omega-3s[21][22][23].

In Obesity

Eating excessive amounts of omega-6 fatty acids without enough omega-3s is associated with higher rates of obesity[20].

Studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent weight gain and support healthy weight maintenance, and could help reduce inflammation levels in people who are overweight[3].

A 2015 meta-analysis also found that fish oil supplements may help reduce belly fat, especially combined with diet and exercise[24].

For Cancer Risk

Limited evidence suggests that omega-3 fats might reduce the risk of colorectal, prostate, and breast cancers[25]. 

Muscle Mass

Omega-3s may help prevent age-related loss of strength and muscle mass and help preserve strength and physical function in older people[26].

Mental Health and Brain Function

Omega-3s play several important roles in brain health, and insufficient omega-3 levels can decrease brain function[27].

Scientific studies have shown promising results for fish oil in supporting mental health in people with conditions like depression, ADHD, and schizophrenia[28][29][30].

A separate 2014 study also found that fish oil with EPA helped support cognitive performance in healthy young adults[31].

Finally, other evidence suggests that obtaining plenty of EPA and DHA could preserve memory, slow mental decline, and reduce the risk of dementia during aging[32][33][34].

Eye Health

Similar to your brain, your eyes need plenty of omega-3s to function correctly[35]. 

And people who are deficient in omega-3s may have a higher risk of eye diseases[35].

Studies show promising results for fish oil supplements in dry eye disease and age-related macular degeneration[36].

Skin Health

Your skin is naturally plentiful in omega-3 fatty acids, where they appear to help keep inflammation in check[37].

There’s evidence fish oil supplements may be beneficial in skin conditions including acne, eczema, and psoriasis[38][39][40].

Joint Health

Omega-3s are good for your joint health because of their ability to limit inflammation[41].

Scientific evidence suggests fish oil supplements could help support joint health in athletes, people with osteoarthritis, and people with rheumatoid arthritis[41][42][43].

Metabolic Health

Fish oil helps support metabolic health, and may help support insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders[44].

How long does it take for fish oil to work?

To get the most benefits from fish oil, you need to use it long-term.

Fish oil doesn’t work overnight. First, it has to build up in your bloodstream and cell membranes, which could take several weeks or longer.

Some research suggests that because it’s more easily absorbed, the triglyceride form of fish oil could increase your omega-3 levels faster compared to the ethyl ester form[45].

You’d still need to take it long-term, but fish oil in triglyceride term could provide faster results.

Along with taking fish oil supplements, remember to also reduce your intake of unhealthy, inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids to get the best overall results.

Does omega 3 have side effects?

Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids are extremely safe, with no adverse effects reported using doses up to 5 grams per day of combined EPA and DHA[17].

And they’re not only safe for pregnant or lactating women, but also extremely important for a healthy pregnancy[46].

Evidence also suggests that omega-3 supplements are safe for children[18].

However, oxidized (rancid) fish oil supplements could cause harmful side effects, so it’s important to make sure you take high-quality supplements that have been stored safely[17].

For the most part, the only undesirable effect most people experience from fish oil is “fish oil burps,” which are fishy burps that occur during digestion. (Our Steve’s Omega-3 Care Complete contains natural orange flavoring to prevent this issue.)

While some fish contain potentially harmful levels of mercury, the purification process of high-quality fish oil supplements removes any mercury, so heavy metals aren’t a concern–as long as you choose a reputable fish oil brand with third-party purity testing.

Fish oil may decrease the viscosity of your blood, which is normally beneficial for your health[47]. 

But if you have a history of stroke, or take blood thinning medications, ask your doctor how to safely add fish oil to your health regimen[48].

Final Thoughts

Fish oil is a must-have supplement for limiting inflammation, supporting heart health, and keeping your brain and body healthy.

Here’s what to look for in omega-3 supplements:

  • High in EPA and DHA (make sure to double-check the label–look at the EPA and DHA levels, not just omega-3 content)
  • Mercury-free, contaminant-free, and third-party tested
  • Triglyceride form for the best absorption and bioavailability
  • Fresh, not too old, and stored properly

If you want to obtain all the benefits of high-quality fish oil, don’t make the mistake of compromising for generic supplements.

Remember that evidence shows that over half of fish oil supplements on the market are rancid, which can reduce their health benefits, and may even be dangerous[4].

That’s why we’re offering Omega-3 Care Complete, so you don’t have to sacrifice quality for affordability.

Our high-quality fish oil supplement is purity-tested, fresh, and contains high amounts of EPA and DHA in the superior triglyceride form.

Shop Omega-3 Care Complete now.



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