What's The Deal With: Fish Oil

  • Written By:Dr. Jaime Schehr N.D, R.D​
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"What's The Deal With" is a series from Dr. Jaime Schehr (N.D., R.D) that explores the latest health news, buzzy ingredients, and answers your most asked wellness questions.

Fish oil is arguably one of the most common supplements on the market and something I do recommend often. It contains omega-3 fatty acids EPA & DHA, which are vital for brain function and effective at reducing inflammation (and we can all benefit from a little less inflammation).

The Sources

Good food sources of omega-3s include fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, sardines. And while plant products like flax, chia, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds contain the omega-3 ALA, which the body can convert to DHA and EPA, they are not as good of sources of this fatty acid as fish.

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Should You Supplement?

So, is supplementing worth it? Well, regularly eating fish would be the best way to get omega 3s in your diet, but this is not always feasible or safe. Fish can be high in toxins, and wild-caught is expensive and not always available. Not to mention that many people don’t love including fish in their diet that often or even at all.

For those reasons, I often recommend fish oil as a supplement to manage inflammation, benefit cardiovascular health, support muscle maintenance and even improve mental health (depression and anxiety) and sleep.

Both EPA and DHA are important in pregnancy, however DHA is particularly important for fetal development of the brain and retina during the third trimester and up to 18 months of life. Omega-3 fatty acids are critical for fetal neurodevelopment as well as their role as an anti-inflammatory.

It is impossible for pregnant women to meet their omega-3 fatty acid requirements from omega-3-rich oils and two servings of seafood a week, which is the general recommendation and therefore supplementation is generally recommended in pregnancy. Both fish oil supplements, containing both EPA and DHA, and algae-derived DHA-only oils are good, mercury-safe means of supplementing the diet of a pregnant woman.

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The Downside

What’s the downside? The sourcing of your fish oil is very important and as attractive as the less expensive and BOGO deals from big box retailers are, it's important to source your fish oil well, just as you should source your fish well.

Fish oil supplements are commercially available from multiple companies with variable amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Most commercially available fish oil supplements contain less than 1 to 2 ppb of mercury, however it is important to look for brands that are third-party tested and have a GMP (good manufacturing practices) stamp.

Dr. Jaime Schehr, a nationally recognized expert in integrative medicine and nutrition holds duel licenses as a Naturopathic Physician and Registered Dietitian.

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