Nutrition

Fish Oil Supplements — Do We Need Extra Omega 3?

Written by shapeshifter

Damn right we do!

OK, I guess I gave away the punch line before the story even got started. But this is important and there’s no room for messing around.

If there’s one thing you can do TODAY to start looking and feeling better immediately, it’s adding an Omega 3 supplement to your daily routine.

Omega 3 has been identified as being beneficial to an almost inexhaustible list of diseases of modern man. Everything from cancer to depression seems to benefit from this “miracle” oil.

fishoilAnd just in case you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years, Omega 3 is best known by most people as fish oil. That’s because fatty, cold water fish are the most abundant source of this essential oil. It’s referred to as essential because we can’t produce it in our own bodies, so we need to get it from an external source.

Actually — before someone calls me out on this — we can convert some foods like flax seeds to usable Omega 3s. We’re just not very good at it.

But why do we have to supplement?

It’s estimated that our ancestors consumed upwards of 300 – 400 grams of Omega 3 per week. If we’re lucky, the average Western diet yields maybe 15 – 20 grams per week!

So when you take an Omega 3 supplement, you should think of it more along the lines of bringing yourself up to normal levels rather than adding extra. That’s why adding fish oil to your routine has been shown to help with so many disease states and indicators of general wellness.

Since we don’t get enough of it in our diets, adding a supplement brings us back up to where we should be…

We’ll be back in a couple days with more details on the health and wellness benefits of Omega 3 supplementation. But for today we’re going to focus a bit more on how fish oil can make you “look better naked.”

One of the things Omega 3s do is help switch on your lipolytic (fat burning) genes and switch off your lipogenic (fat storing) genes. Most people think of genes as immutable masters of our destiny. But the truth is, our genes are more like switches that can be turned on or off. Depending on what position they are in, they tell the body to do certain things. Adding fish oil helps turn those switches to the right positions for burning fat.

The other groovy thing fish oil does is improve cell membrane health. How does that make you look better? It improves something called “insulin sensitivity.” And that means your body reacts properly to the hormone insulin, which has the job of shuttling nutrients and energy into your cells. If your lean tissue becomes resistant to insulin, that energy will get shoved into fat cells. But supplementing with fish oil helps prevent that, allowing you to use and store more energy in your muscles and other lean tissue.

So how much do you Omega 3 do you need to take?

More than you think. If you are overweight, you should probably set a target of 1 gram per day for every percent body fat. So if you are at 15% body fat, you’d take around 15 grams per day.

You should also make sure you add vitamin E to your routine. This helps prevent any possible oxidization of the fish oil in your body (oxidization is when something reacts with oxygen — like when an apple goes brown after you cut it open). Aim for 400 I.U. of vitamin E per 10 grams of Omega 3.

And speaking of oxidation, make sure you choose a HIGH QUALITY source for your fish oil. I usually keep a liquid fish oil on hand as well as capsules. My preferred liquid brand is Poliquin, but it’s hard to find. If you can’t get it, just use capsules. You can’t go wrong with a brand like Prograde. Their EFA Icon capsules contain the highest quality pure antarctic krill oil.

If you absolutely have to go with a lesser brand, here’s a little trick to check the quality of the oil in the capsules. Cut one open and taste the oil. If it tastes and smells “fishy” — like fish that’s been sitting around at room temperature for a while — get rid of it…

Like I said, we’ll be back in a couple days with some more important info about Omega 3s. We’ll talk about more of the health benefits. And we’ll also tell you about EPA and DHA, the two elements of Omega 3s. You’ll find out what the difference is, what ratio you should be looking for and why. Oh, and we’ll also tell you why you should NOT be supplementing with essential fatty acid products that contain Omega 6.

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shapeshifter

42 Comments

  • Hello,

    I agree 100% that everyone needs more omega-3’s.

    I am finding through my Nutritional Balancing studies, however, that the amount required can vary depending on the metabolic type (as determined by hair analysis in nutritional balancing).

    A fast oxidiser, as I am now (and people can change their metabolism with time and healing) needs considerably more.

    I am currently taking 300mg of EPA/DHA fish oil 3 times a day…. to great benefit.

    • Dr. Mercola – you can find his website online – has written about this. He used to recommend cod liver oil as a supplement for vitamin D, but no more. I don’t remember the exact reasons, but there were some negatives associated with cod liver oil.

      Cod liver oil is not the source for fish oil.

      Carlson Laboratories has a fish oil that is TASTELESS. You can get it for a good price on Amazon.

  • I don’t understand how anyone can get to the 300-400 grams per week figure you’ve mentioned above. According to nutritiondata.com a half fillet of wild caught Atlantic salmon contains just under 4 grams of omega 3 fatty acids. This is one of the highest concetrations found in food which makes it one of the best foods to eat if you want more omega 3.

    With that said, it would take 75-100 half filets per week to obtain a number like this. That’s 11-14+ half filets per day and I just don’t see it as possible.

    Please let me know if I’m missing something in my analysis.
    .-= Kris´s last blog -> The Food Pyramid is Killing You! Not what you think =-.

    • Kris, what I believe you missed was that the 300-400 grams was what ‘our ancestors’ consumed not what was proposed for us. In the last century, Eskimo’s were found to consume 9000+ calories per day of Whale Blubber in various forms yet their incidence of heart disease was virtually zero. Also note that ‘capsule supplements’ represent a ‘processed and concentrated’ form of the oil which ‘could’ allow you to get to the higher levels of intake if you really thought it necessary.

      • Thanks Michael,

        You bring some very interesting insights. I actually wasn’t implying however, that it was being recommended for us so much as it seemed virtually impossible to get that much omega 3 even if your entire diet was nothing but omega 3 rich cold water fish.

        The Eskimos are certainly an interesting case study and I have done some research on their diet. It actually does not surprise me at all that they have none of the modern western dietary plagues such as heart disease but they eat a diet that would scare the hell out of your average modern dietician. I would not call the Eskimo diet the common diet of our ancestors though.

        Speaking purely of our ancestors and nothing of our current recommendations, it’s still hard to believe that your average person consumed the omega 3 equivelent of 75 to 100 half salmon fillets every week.
        .-= Kris´s last blog -> The Food Pyramid is Killing You! Not what you think =-.

    • Hey Kris,

      Note that I said “upwards,” so we’re talking about upper limits here. But the fact is that the food supply of our ancestors was MUCH more rich in Omega 3, and not just from fish… Eating the brains, marrow, etc of the game they brought down was an important source of EFAs back in the day. And the game was grazing on grasses and other foods that were rich in Omega 3, making them a much better source. In all, the food supply in general seems to have provided much more EFA than our modern uber-farms.

      Also, I don’t suggest you start consuming that much Omega 3… 🙂 It’s just a frame of reference. The most important thing seems to be the RATIO of O3 in your diet compared with other fats. But will talk more about that next time.

  • I have taken fish oil for years AND flax seed in one form or another
    I always found the flax to be helpful with joint issues or at least thought it was the flax
    Your last article mentioned an alert re the Omega 6 which is found in abundance in flax.
    What’s the issue in your mind?
    This is super important to me at this time as I have just had BI-Lateral Total knee replacement and want to use the most effective supplements for healing and rebuilding a couple of atrophied legs. Thanks
    You guys put out great stuff

  • Maybe my math is wrong but if I am 15% overweight (and I am) and need 15 grams of omega 3 per day that would mean that I need to take about 50 fish oil pills if the pills contain 300 mg of omega 3? Please correct me if I am wrong.

    • Good question… That’s why I always keep liquid fish oil on hand. A single teaspoon is about 5 grams. I usually use a mix of liquid and caps depending on how much I’m taking during the day.

  • Is there any possibility of taking too much and damaging a Kidney or liver on this. I mean I am considered Obese. Last i checked I was at 50% body fat, I love the program and will be buying the program today, So I am currently checking into the supplements. I never knew that the omega 3 would help with fat loss. so 50 grams a day?? seems excessive or do I need to do more research and learning on this.. and if so where do you begin?

  • 50% bodyfat/overweight would lead to 50gram ie 10 teaspones, that is ½dl of oil.
    There must be some sort of upper limit as this would take a huge share of my daily calories!

    • Great question Irene. That would definitely be a mega-dose and I’d be wary to go for that without the supervision of a health care professional. That being said, at certain times I myself take a tbs with each main meal of the day (45 gr per day) to great effect. That’s somewhere in the ballpark of 350 calories. But the positive metabolic effects outweigh the calorie count in my opinion.

  • I find oils & fats a bit confusing.
    Cod Liver Oil – Also see http://www.omega3oils.info/codliveroil/

    Mike Anderson of RAVE DIET fame claims that research clearly shows any oils, whether plants or animals can cause heart disease when their intake exceeds 20% of total calories. He maintains that oils should be put in machinery not people. Hence our fat intake must come only from the food we eat as found in its natural state. No oils added to our diet. Keep fat intake to 10% of total daily calories, no Refined foos, no Animal food, no Vegetable oils, no Exception & Excercise ((- spells R.A.V.E.). This also means a total vegetarian form of diet.

    Dr Dave (http://www.drdavesbest.com ) disagrees with the need for adding Vit-E to counteract Omega-3 oxidation.
    Hence my confusion about all the advice given. Both Dr_Dave and Mike Anderson appeal to scientific research for the evidence.

  • Hey there…
    I feel like an outcast whenever I read articles about all these miraculous foods or suppliments one can take to curb your appetite, increase your metabolism, make your hair shiny, fold your laundry while you sleep, get your taxes done in 30 minutes & increase your sex drive.
    Ok, so some of those aren’t covered in the articles but, you get my point.

    Here’s MY concern with regards to your fish oil thing….I’m allergic to fish.
    If it has scales & lives in water, then I don’t have it…….unless I’m feeling suicidal.
    I am allergic to nuts, as well. (pecans, walnut, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts.etc)
    And don’t give me that k-rap about a peanut being a “legume”.
    When I eat a peanut, I break out in hives & my throat closes up.
    I eat beans, lentils or peas, nothing happens.

    So, all these articles go on & on about healthy fats, omega-this, how wonderful it is for you to chow down on almonds & I think “But what if I CAN’T???”
    I am not someone who measures my food’s weight, dimesions, or number of teaspoons I can or should have. It would just be nice to know what it is that I can use in substitute of all these “miracle” foods to reap the same benefits.
    How about an article on that?? 😀

    • Are you also allergic to chia seeds and ground flax seeds? Those are good source of ALAs – though not as good as animal sources for the Omega-3s, which your body needs to convert from the ALA. Grass-fed beef and pasture-milk and pasture-butter will also provide higher levels of Omega-3s, but not to supplement levels.

      You can also get Omega-3 supplements sourced from microalgae, but I think those are relatively expensive.

      Good luck.

    • Catherine – great point. For every “miracle” food there’s someone out there who would die from it… There are always exceptions that prove the rule. For example, there are small portions of the population who are stimulated by depressants. Just a small example. 🙂

      Anyhow, I think I have the PERFECT person to write a guest post just for you. Let me see if I can get her to agree. She’s brilliant and this is right up her alley.

      Cheers,
      Adam

  • Just a word of caution regarding fish oil. My wife and I took it for about a year and the psychological effect it had on both of us was horrendous. Depression, mood swings, inexplicable outbursts of absolute rage and the blackest moods I have ever experienced in my life.
    This from 2 normally happy healthy and extremely fit people. It took us a long time to work out what was doing this to us but as soon as we stopped the fish oil the problems stopped and have never returned. I have also heard anecdotally of other people suffering the same symptoms, one of whom was suffering depression already and committed suicide after doubling her intake of fish oil.
    I’m not aware of any scientific or medical evidence to suggest that fish oil can have any psychological side effects but my own experience was enough to make me swear off it for life.

    If anyone does begin to feel any of the above mentioned symptoms, my advice is to drop the fish oil and look for an alternative.

    • That’s very interesting JB. I’ve heard this mentioned before but have gotten very little detail. I’m curious, do you have similar effects with other types of omega 3 supplements or was it strictly the fish oil? Also, during that year, did you use mutliple brands or only one?

      I’d really love to hear any other information you have on the topic that is based on personal experience.

      Thanks
      .-= Kris´s last blog -> The Food Pyramid is Killing You! Not what you think =-.

    • According to Dr. Barry Sears most fish oil is contaminated with levels of mercury. Is it possible that you were getting a contaminant along with the Omega-3 in your fish oil.

      In his book, “The Anti-Inflammation Zone”, Dr. Sears stresses the importance that fish oil be ‘ultra-refined’ – because of the mercury contamination prevalent in fish.

      In fact he mentioned a conference of nutrition experts. The experts were asked if they recommended fish oil supplementation. Most raised their hand.

      Then they were asked if they actually took fish oil. Few or none raised their hand. According to Dr. Sears, because of the likely contamination of fish oil with mercury.

      If you’re going to take fish oil, do yourself a favor and read “The Anti-Inflammation Zone” – especially if you have any concerns about side-effects, or just to understand proper dosage.

    • That is actually REALLY interesting JB. The preponderance of the scientific research actually shows completely the OPPOSITE. Most studies show a positive impact on depression, cognition, mood, etc from Omega 3 supplementation. BUT, there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule. A quick search on Pubmed will bring up a pile of studies on the subject.

  • Hi Kris
    I actually feel relieved that you’ve heard about this before. Everyone raves about fish oil and I’ve never heard anyone raise any concerns about it in the past.

    To answer your questions, neither my wife or I have ever had any problems with any other food or supplements of any type. It was only fish oil. We were both taking flax oil as well at the time but we stopped it and the issues remained. My wife doesn’t take any supplements anymore but I still have creatine daily and take a multi vitamin. From memory we usually stuck to the one brand but I’m sure we would have changed from time to time because of supply or price specials.

    To put this all in context, we basically spent a year in a living nightmare. We came to the brink of separation and our kids suffered enormously as well. We would have the most horrendous fights and then spend days not speaking to each other. It felt like I was in a deep black hole that I just couldn’t climb out of.

    We only discovered the fish oil connection by accident. The girl that committed suicide was a news reader in Australia and her story was on T.V one night. She had suffered from depression and her psychiatrist had prescribed fish oil as part of her treatment. In the 2 weeks leading up to her death the prescription dose was doubled. As we heard this on the T.V we both sat bolt upright and the penny finally dropped that it may have been fish oil that was causing us so much carnage in our relationship.

    I got up and threw the rest of it in the bin and within 2 weeks our lives had returned to normal. We still have the odd fight but its always resolved within a couple of hours and we’re best mates again, just like we always had been.

    I’ll stop rambling now. If you need any further info, I’ll be too happy to help.
    Cheers
    JB

    • JB,

      I really recommend that you read that book – “The Anti-Inflammation Zone” – by Barry Sears. He answers that question in detail.

      Our public library had a copy.

      Good luck to you and your wife.

  • Thanks Greg

    I guess the question was rhetorical and one for anyone else considering or taking fish oil. After my experience I’ll never go near the stuff again.

    All the best to you too mate.

  • Can you address what time, in relation to exercise, is the best to take the fish oil, pre or post? I’ve read/heard consuming fats prior to exercise helps in burning fat, but taking fih oil/flax seed oil post exercise would help prevent/reduce muscle and ligament soreness.

    • To be honest, I think that the timing might not be all that important. Just try to spread it out during the day. The best way to do it is to take 1/3 of your daily intake at each of your three “main” meals of the day.

      If you are a “well oiled” machine, timing might make a small difference. But I really wouldn’t worry about it.

  • Where did you come up with the number …” 1 gram per day for every percent body fat”…??
    I read a lot and have never seen such an incredible number. Neither Will Brink (www.brinkzone.com) nor Charles Bass (www.cbass.com) suggest anything over 3 grams of fish oil/day total, which equates to about 900 mg of EPA and DHA, the acutal omega-3 fatty acids. Without reputable, confirmable references a person can say just about anything and people will believe it. 45 grams a day ???!!!! Even water can be toxic when taken in excess

  • Hey all, I am not all that familiar with how to get around on this “blog”? Is that what this is?And I want some info on building an atrophied body
    I just had Bi-lateral total knee replacements and during the recovery I find I have really lost huge amout of muscle (of course that could lead one to believe I HAD huge amount of muscle to lose not so
    However I am in physical therapy to rebuild knee stability and I am anxious to shed the waist fat I have developed through this non active time.
    I am 67 and have been fit in the last few years but because of the knee problems I let myself go to crap over the last two years.
    I am pleased with the attention me knees are getting as it is tough but in a very controlled enviornment so I will not hurt the prothesis.
    However I am wanting to lose this gut and build the rest of the body but intervals are somewhat out because of the fragile legs and getting up off the ground is tricky.
    So I have come to the thought that a very restrictive diet , like an Atkins type would drop weight fast BUT would that be detrimental to the development of muscle in the legs.
    Anyone have any expertise in this area and since I am fairly sure I am asking this in the wrong area What is the right area thanks

  • Vital Nutrients (vitalnutrients.net) produce one of the highest quality fish oils on the Market. They are a natural supplement company whose products are produced with one of the highest quality assurances on the market.

    You will have to go to a licensed physician, Chiropractor, Naturopath, NP..etc to purchase these products directly from Vital as they do not sell directly to the public….but it’s well well worth it!

  • This article says take 15 “GRAMS” of fish oil per day if you are at 15% body fat. Does that mean take 30 gel tabs a day, since the recomended brand is 1000 “MILLIGRAMS” per serving of 2 gel tabs? I’m confused about the quantities recommended. Can someone please clarify?

  • Hey could you guys do a write up on supplementation. I am so skeptical about absolutely any supps and refuse to take them. I think they are overpriced and sold to ‘suckers’ (not saying you guys are suckers but you know what I mean)

    I probably am to heavy to that side but by an large I can’t bring myself to trust supplement companies (Muscle Tech has me jaded I think).

    So if you could write up a supp guide for health for the skeptics out there I would be greatly appreciative. I don’t want to be missing out on important aspects of health but if you could pro/con it that would be great.

    I have grown to trust your guys opinions on things but I am just wary of putting pills in my body.

    Thanks and sorry for the long post.

    • I hear ya Brian. And I agree that there are MANY supplements out there that are a complete waste of money. BUT there are also several supplements that I consider almost essential for everyone and several others that can be laser targeted to specific people with regards to their health or physique goals. Our plate is pretty (very) full right now, but we’ll see what we can come up with… 🙂

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