I don't take many supplements - just vitamin D in the winter, fish oil, protein powder (both whey and vegan varieties), and sometimes probiotics. I thought it might be helpful to explain why I take what I do, so in this blog post I'm talking about why I (and my kids) take fish oil and some of the benefits it has.
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are a family of fats that are essential for human health and function. They offer lots of health benefits including better heart and brain health, a reduced risk of depression and better skin health. I actually started taking fish oil when I was trying to conceive Rory - I read that the omega 3s help to improve egg quality, and reducing inflammation in my body would encourage conception and a healthy pregnancy. I've taken it ever since - to help keep my body (and brain in particular) healthy! PMS symptoms are strongly linked to inflammation in the body - and omega 3 being anti-inflammatory can help to reduce those symptoms. So whilst I'm not trying to get pregnant now, if it can help with reducing my PMS rage and pains then I'll carry on taking it!
There are several types of omega 3s but the most important ones can be categorised into two main groups:
Essential omega-3 fatty acids: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is the only essential omega-3 fatty acid. It is found in a wide range of plant foods. Walnuts, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds and their oils are the richest sources.
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids: The two most known are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). They are mainly found in fish oil and fatty fish, but also in seafood and algae.
ALA is considered essential because your body can’t produce it. This means you must get this type of fat from your diet. On the other hand, EPA and DHA aren't considered essential, because the human body can use ALA to produce them. However, this conversion is not very efficient in humans. Your body turns only about 2–10% of the ALA you consume into EPA and DHA. For this reason, many health professionals advise taking around 200–300 mg of EPA and DHA per day. You can do this by eating about two portions of fatty fish per week, or you can take a supplement.
EPA and DHA are involved in many essential body functions and play a particularly important role in brain and eye development and function. Studies show that maintaining adequate levels of EPA and DHA may also help prevent inflammation, depression, breast cancer and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I give it to my boys primarily to help their brain development and concentration at school.
There are also some links to fish oil supplementation and weight loss. I've got your attention now haven't I?! Whilst more research is needed in this area, there are various studies that have shown:
Fish oil may help reduce hunger and appetite in people following a weight loss diet
Fish oil may help to speed up the metabolism, and help you burn more calories
Fish oil may help to burn more calories during exercise than just exercise alone
Also, fish oil can help reduce a hangover! Because of it's anti-inflammatory properties, when you get in from your night out, have a few capsules of fish oil or if you're suffering from a hangover, have a few capsules with food as they can repeat and you don't want that if feeling rough!
There isn't a recommended dosage for fish oil. Do try and buy a high quality fish oil. At the moment I use one that is 1500mg per capsule with EPA 540mg and DHA 360mg.
In summary, there are heaps of benefits to fish oil supplementation, or eating enough oily fish. It's high anti-inflammatory properties really are great for a healthy body and mind!