Fish oil and omega 3 fatty acid supplements seem to be the choice for news stories these days. It is hard to pick up a magazine or turn on the television without seeing something about the benefits of these nutritional items. Essential fatty acids have been studied in many clinical trials and have been shown to lower the chance of heart and circulatory diseases, to relieve or prevent joint problems, clear acne, improve mental agility and act as a mood elevator, and help to protect against and endocrine problems. Cold-water fish with high oil content such as salmon, mackerel, herring, cod, anchovy, and sardine have proven to be the best natural source of omega 3 fish oil available. However, there is a lot of controversy about the safety of these fish and that has led to a plethora of supplements flooding the market. That is why it is important to know what to look for when shopping for this miracle food.
We are looking for two things in our fish oil supplements, potency and purity. There are two essential fatty acids that we are concerned with and they are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA). There is a third, and it is called alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. This is found mostly in plant sources of fatty acids such as olive oil, flax seeds, and tree nuts. The body must convert ALA to DHA in order to be useful and the conversion process is not very efficient. Therefore, it is important to look for supplements that contain EPA and DHA as their main components.
You must look carefully to make sure you are getting a good dose of these two nutrients. They are the active ingredients that provide all the benefits. A supplement that provides 300 to 500 mg of these nutrients is usually a pretty decent product in terms of potency since the average dosage for a healthy adult is 1 to 3 g per day. There are higher concentrations available so that you have fewer capsules to take on a daily basis. Another thing to be aware of is the ratio of EPA to DHA in the capsules that you take. Normally, most supplements provide a 2 to 1 EPA:DHA ratio for most heart benefits. For mood elevation and brain health higher levels of DHA are needed.
Often times Vitamin E is added to omega 3 fatty acids in order to fight the additional free radicals that are produced from higher levels of essential fatty acids in the blood stream. Vitamin A is also added for the same reason. If you have a problem with these additives you should be aware of what is in the supplements you choose.
The purity of supplements has become a concern as more products are put on the market and price pressure begins to reflect the quality of the items. Extracting fish oil for use in supplements will also extract the heavy metal contaminates from the fish. Concentrating the fish oil will also concentrate any contaminates. You must be aware of the source of your supplement as it can be just as important to your safety as the nutrients are to your health. Molecular distillation and high pressure filtration used by many manufacturers today remove these impurities and guarantee the purity. Also, look for third part testing from your supplier. Companies that comply with the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) usually produce high quality supplements you can trust.
Taking supplements for your health is a great way to get all the nutrients you need, but you need to make smart and educated choices when it comes to these items. They can be miracle foods but they can also interact with other treatments. Always consult your physician when using natural remedies in conjunction with traditional medications.