The subject of fish oil and cod liver oil has come up with quite a few people over the last few weeks. Some of you might already be taking it (great), some thinking about it, some maybe haven’t heard about it.
I will briefly outline the benefits and what to look out for in decent products. As with everything, it is your choice what to do. Only ever put in your body what you want to,
what you are happy with. My opinion is, as always, only advice - please feel free to do your own research and of course ask questions.
Why would I recommend it? I don’t generally advocate supplements as I believe achieving your goals and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is often possible through eating natural foods. There is little point supplementing a poor diet, it will be a waste of time and money if you don’t eat healthy natural foods. However this is one area that virtually everybody in this country is deficient in, even when a diet includes plenty of fresh fish. This is why I would recommend nearly everyone takes an additional supplement. It has come up so often with clients in the last couple of weeks I thought it was deserving of a blog post!
Lots of research about illnesses in western society are attributing poor health to a highly imbalanced ratio between Omega 3 and Omega 6 intake (fatty acids that are essential building blocks in our bodies). Ideally the ratio between Omega 3 and Omega 6 should be between 1:1 to 1:3 - most people it’s around 1:20 or even higher. This is obviously a cause of concern when it can be linked to so many health problems.
What is fish oil? It’s literally oil taken from the tissues of oily fish. It is a ‘good’ fat – as fish oils contain the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Remember fat is essential in our diets, our bodies need it. The concept of fat being bad for us is a rant I will save for another day, but essentially the idea of low fat, high carb diets that have been promoted in western society for the last 40 years have led to an INCREASE in health problems and obesity.
There is a difference between fish oil and cod liver oil – fish oil comes from the whole animal where as cod liver comes from just the liver. Fish oil is better as it generally has a higher level of EPA/DHA than cod liver oil – the active ingredients that will help improve our health, as well as promote fat burning in the body.
Background over, now for the benefits of fish oil. It’s quite a list, are you ready?!
- Helps against many diseases such as:
- Raynaulds disease,
- Crohn’s disease,
- Chronic fatigue syndrome,
- Heart disease,
- Potentially also helps prevent cancer, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia (more research needed)
- Reduces blood pressure
- Helps with brain focus and cognitive function
- Keeps your cells in good functioning condition
- Turns on your fat burning enzymes and turns off your fat storing enzymes
- Reduces internal inflammation in the body through training which will help you recover quicker after training
- Reduces the impact of ‘bad’ food, stress and toxins – helps your body fight against the impact of these
- Increases serotonin, the feel good hormone, making it good for fighting depression
- Lowers bad cholesterol
- Helps to regulate blood sugar level – again good for fat burning and will boost energy levels
As you can see it’s a pretty long list. There are no negative effects either, although poor quality oils ‘can’ contain mercury. This would only be in poor quality (cheap) oils, cod liver (never fish) oils and would be in such low quantity it would have very little effect. It just means be careful with the quality - it’s another case of you get what you pay for. (and it is very highly regulated now, I’d say there is more chance of being hit by a bus).
What to look out for?
A few key points:
- Omega 3-6 Ratios – we want high in Omega 3 to help redress the imbalance
- Cold pressed – avoid any oils that have been heated in the manufacturing process, it denatures them and will make them worthless. If it doesn’t say, it’s probably heated. If it’s good quality it will say somewhere that it’s cold pressed, raw, unheated
- Try to go for fish oil rather than cod liver oil
- High level of EPA and DHA – higher the better
- High in vitamin A and D is a bonus. The healthy omega 3 fatty acids are essential for the body to process these vitamins in our body
Don’t worry about supplementing omega 6 or 9. Most people will have adequate levels in their diet, especially from raw nuts and seeds (for 6) and adding olive oil to food (for 9). Liquid or capsules? Your choice. Personally I prefer liquid, but it comes down to your personal preference.
How much should you take? Personally I would go over the recommended (on the packet) dose. This depends on you individually, but upwards of 500mg a day minimum will see benefits. How much you should take depends on your current diet as well as your health and fitness goals.