Are your fish oil supplements really boosting your omega-3s, and your health?

Are your fish oil supplements really boosting your omega-3s, and your health
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Omega-3s are widely known for their health benefits, both mental and physical. The focus on both their consumption and supplementation is particularly heightened in societies such as those in the West where factory farming produces meats with low omega-3 content and high omega-6 content.

Therefore, many in these areas supplement with omega-3 supplements, especially fish oil supplements, to combat this high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that results from many standard diets and can lead to some very poor health outcomes.

Given the importance placed on omega-3 supplementation, there is equal or greater importance on determining whether or not fish oil supplements are actually boosting omega-3 levels and impacting our health in a positive way?

A fish oil-based omega-3 supplementation test

To determine efficacy of fish oil supplementation, researchers tested red blood cell membranes of a group of adult subjects (mean age of 44 years) to determine whether or not the percentage of omega-3s found in the blood had risen after 120 days of fish oil supplementation.

Additionally, they also tested the subjects scores on mental and physical fitness via survey.

Their results, published in Nutrition Journal in 2013, may give us some practical insight into some of the benefits of fish oil supplementation.

To begin with, they found that supplementation increased the percentage of omega-3s by approximately 20 percent.

They also found small but significant improvements in participants’ mental health as well.

What can we take from this omega-3 supplementation study?

While the increase in percentage of omega-3s is very encouraging, as well as an increase in mental health scores, there are a couple of caveats to this story.

The first is that, although the authors stated that this research was conducted independently and we have no reason to not believe that, it must be disclosed that this study was sponsored by Garden of Life, whose fish oil supplement Minami Nutrition® MorEPA® Platinum was used in the study.

Perhaps this means that Garden of Life’s product truly delivers what its consumers hope it will. I hope it does. In fact, I have taken many Garden of Life supplements over the years and have probably recommended one or two from time to time, although I have never tried this one.

But we still have to have knowledge of the fact they sponsored this study and go forward with that understanding.

To that same point, we do not know how other fish oils might perform under similar circumstances. Which means, we must ask the following questions:

  • Would other companies’ fish oil supplements have had similar, better, or worse results if taken in similar doses?
  • Are the results observed attributable to the dosage, quality of manufacture, or a combination of both?
  • What is the optimal dose? Would there be better results with a different dose, more or less?

Lastly, those studied in this research were an average age of 44 years, worked at health food stores, and were already taking fish oil supplements prior to taking this product and dosage. So while it is impressive that there were improvements considering they were already taking fish oil supplements, they do not represent a broad sampling of the general population, as the researchers readily acknowledge.

This begs the question: if these participants saw such a significant increase having already been taking fish oil supplements previously, are there doses so low as to not provide any benefits? If so, how low are they? And, would those in lesser physical health than these participants derive similar benefits, or does the health of the participant at the onset of supplementation factor in to the results at all?

Like many studies, this may give us a good general indication of some of the potential of fish oil supplements, and perhaps even enough information to make a decision for ourselves. But what it really gives us is a good indication that more studies can refine and even improve our understanding, hopefully to the point of finding the optimal dose of such supplements for each of us, based on our needs.

For now, as always, please discuss these results with your licensed healthcare provider to see what might be the safe and proper choice for you. The information here is posted for informational purposes only, so please discuss any changes to your dietary or treatment programs with your licensed healthcare practitioner, rather than relying on information found here.

And for more information on omega 3s, be sure to check out our other articles by clicking on this link. (You might find some really interesting.)


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