The Big Debate: Fish Oil vs. Fish Oil Supplements
This is you: committed to feeling better, exercising more, getting the right amount of sleep, and in general just moving forward in a more positive way. How does your diet play into this equation? More to point, what should you be eating and how much? There’s an argument to be made that supports a diet consisting of plenty of fish and a combination of fish and/or fish oil supplements.
What should you focus on? Let’s look at fish oil vs. fish oil supplements. As you’ll find, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer. Rather it’s a matter of which one – fish oil or fish oil supplements, that benefits your overall health and dietary demands.
The Facts and Nothing but the Facts
You can’t make an educated choice if you don’t at least have a baseline to work off of, so some facts are needed: Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty layers of cold-water fish and shellfish, plant and nut oils and flaxseed, and has been shown to provide some benefits to a wide range of diseases including cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, cancer and even depression. Fish in particular is high in vitamins, minerals and protein but let’s not jump ahead. Whether you get your daily does of O-3’s from fish oil or supplements or fish is for you and a health professional to decide.
No matter which you prefer, the important aspect to consider is whether or not you’re getting enough EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Prescription fish oil capsules, research has shown, contain a higher dose of omega-3 fatty acids than non-prescription versions. Prescription-strength fish oil supplements are typically prescribed only if an individual’s triglyceride level is more than 500 mg/dl. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements come in many different doses and types. Each supplement can contain different ingredients, depending on the manufacturer's standards.
Keep in mind that the FDA doesn't regulate supplements as closely as prescriptions. So depending on what you purchase, the amount of omega-3s listed on the label may be higher than what you actually get. In addition, supplements may not be pure omega-3s and may contain other ingredients or contaminants.
So What About Fish?
Fish on the other hand contain a wider spectrum of healthy nutrients, including vitamin D, protein, and selenium. Each has its benefits and selenium in particular is not found in supplements. Depending on who you listen to, the variety of nutrients found in fish (salmon is most often singled out) makes fish a more effective choice than fish oil, which features only a single nutrient. That said, many people struggle to eat large amounts of fish on a regular basis, and so supplements are a great way to boost your omega-3 intake. In fact, more and more evidence points to the benefits of a combination of omega-3 both from whole fish and from supplements.
Doctor Knows Best
Ultimately, your doctor knows best. Whether or not you need to take a combination of fish oil and omega-3 supplement fish oil supplements, or if you need to augment either/or with fish is something for a medical professional to decide. More often than not all you need are a few adjustments to your diet.