Fish oil is one of the most widely researched supplements on the market and has been linked to a multitude of health benefits, of which the large majority of the population will benefit from. While fish oil is the generic term used in day-to-day discussions, what is actually being referred to is the EPA and DHA content of the fish oil present in either a food or a capsule, of which these are given the blanket name of Omega 3 Fatty acids.
Within Westernised countries such as Australia, high consumption of meats that are grain fed, eggs, oils and nuts along side a concomitant low intake of fish and seafood, results in a poor ratio of omega 6’s to omega 3’s, which has been postulated to be the primary reason and need for western cultures to consume more omega 3 fatty acids (1).
It is possible to consume adequate amounts of omega 3’s via dietary consumption of food, however this does not account for the context of its consumption and fails to acknowledge the total grams of fat intake needed in order to consume enough EPA/DHA on a daily basis.
What I mean by that is, although you may be able to achieve sufficient omega 3 intakes via food, in order for you to do so you will also be consuming a relatively high intake of fat from things such as salmon, has one of the highest naturally occurring omega 3 concentrations.
In doing so, when only considering omega 3 as a sole source of nutrition intake, we are not accounting for the fact that ensuring caloric and total fat intake as a percentage of calories, is critically important for maintaining a healthy weight range and it may otherwise be more beneficial to supplement with fish oil capsules instead, as the quantity required to get maximum benefits is not achievable via food within a calorie controlled diet.
So what does fish oil do?
Some of the proposed benefits of improving your omega 6 to omega 3 ratio are:
- Decreased depression
- Decreased triglycerides
- Decreased inflammation
- Improved glucose regulation
- Decreased muscle soreness post exercise
Currently it is proposed that an optimal ratio of Omega 6:3 is 1:1, however studies referencing the largest westernised culture of America are in the proximity of 10-20:1 (2), and as of 1999 it was found that the median ratio of Australians were in the vicinity of 8:1 (3).
Triple Strength Omega 3 by Nutra Life
So as you can see, our ratio of Omega 3 consumption in comparison to our Omega 6’s, is grossly out of order, which is why dietary supplementation is recommended.
But how much do we need?
Well that all depends on what you are trying to achieve with your fish oil intake.
The primary benefit of fish oil is its positive effect on reducing circulatory triglycerides as well as the potential for a reduction in cholesterol as well, whereby the recommended dosage of EPA/DHA per day ranges between 1.7g (4) and 3.4g (5).
This means you will need to take between 6 and 12 standardised 1000mg fish oil capsules daily, provided they have 300mg of combined EPA/DHA per capsule.
This is where using a higher dose capsule will have benefits as some contain up to 3x the potency of EPA/DHA per pill, meaning you will only need between 2 and 4 capsules daily.
Similarly, studies looking at the benefits of fish oil reducing symptoms of depression, improved blood glucose regulation and a reduction in decreased muscle soreness post workout, all suggest a similar dosage, with the current recommendations suggesting the dosage is best to be spread throughout the day with a meal.
Fish oil is a great all round supplement, is cost effective and has a multitude of benefits to all users regardless of their need for supplementation.
If you have no current health concerns but instead would like to get on the front foot by improving your omega 3 to omega 6 ratio, aim for 1.2-1.7g of combined EPA/DHA daily.
Conversely, if you currently have high circulatory triglycerides, poor blood glucose regulation, cholesterol imbalance or suffer from any mood related condition, supplementing at a higher dose closer to 3.4g of EPA/DHA combined may offer benefits.
As always, consult your health practitioner prior to supplementing with any product.
Simopoulos, A. (2002). The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 56(8), pp.365-379.
Simopoulos, A. (2008). The Importance of the Omega-6/Omega-3 Fatty Acid Ratio in Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Diseases. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 233(6), pp.674-688.
Ollis, T., Meyer, B. and Howe, P. (2000). Australian Food Sources and Intakes of Omega–6 and Omega–3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 43(6), pp.346-355.
Bernstein, A., Ding, E., Willett, W. and Rimm, E. (2011). A Meta-Analysis Shows That Docosahexaenoic Acid from Algal Oil Reduces Serum Triglycerides and Increases HDL-Cholesterol and LDL-Cholesterol in Persons without Coronary Heart Disease. Journal of Nutrition, 142(1), pp.99-104.
Skulas-Ray, A., Kris-Etherton, P., Harris, W., Vanden Heuvel, J., Wagner, P. and West, S. (2010). Dose-response effects of omega-3 fatty acids on triglycerides, inflammation, and endothelial function in healthy persons with moderate hypertriglyceridemia. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 93(2), pp.243-252.