Fish Oil — Why?

Sorry for the hiatus so soon after starting this blog – I was on vacation. Short post for now!

I don’t understand why people take fish oil capsules. Sure, it’s a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids – but why can’t you just eat fish? You’re removing a lot of good stuff if you only take fish oil capsules. Fish is a great source of protein and other nutrients. It’s especially good for those on high protein diets – red meat has a lot of saturated fats – by switching to fish you can limit your saturated fat intake.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Methylmercury, PCBs, dioxins, etc. Sure, there are certain types of fish (usually high in the food chain – like yellowfin tuna) that are contaminated to the point that consuming them is unsafe. Fish oil supplements only have traces of these contaminants because they’re found primarily in the meat of the fish. However, if you follow the Seafood Watch Program – run by the Monteray Bay Aquarium, you can avoid most of these contaminants (i.e. have your fish, and eat it, too).

The whole allergy issue is bunk as well – most people sensitive to fish are still allergic to fish oil.

So it would seem that the only reason that people have to avoid fish are those that don’t like fish. Sorry that you have to miss out!

Health Benefits of Fish


6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    justin said,

    I think it’s a bit more complex than that.

    For one, store-bought fish are often farm-raised or wild-caught/grain-finished. And anything that is chowing down on grains or corn is likely to get a skewed Omega 3/6 ratio. So I’m not sure you’re getting as much O3 as you want to just by eating fish.

    But there’s actually a much better reason to take capsules or some other form of fish oil, and that is that our diets are heavily weighted towards Omega 6s because our food sources are either heavy Omega 6 sources already or they are meats that are from animals that were fed grains instead of grass, which skews their 3/6 ratio towards Omega 6s. Thus, taking the capsules helps restore balance to this unnaturally out of whack ratio.

    Maybe you could accomplish the same thing by just eating more fish, but I’m guessing you’d have to eat fish once or twice a day to accomplish that.

    BTW, I’m not convinced saturated fat is something we need to limit.

    • 2

      allawayr said,

      And anything that is chowing down on grains or corn is likely to get a skewed Omega 3/6 ratio

      Definitely agree with this – I’m all for wild-caught (and not grain-finished) fish – should have mentioned that. That’s the problem with a lot of sources of food in general these days – everything (even if it seems “natural”) is usually a couple steps removed from nature. It’s also a reason you should have a good relationship w/your local fishmonger – they can usually give you accurate info about the fish.

      Thus, taking the capsules helps restore balance to this unnaturally out of whack ratio.

      Makes sense. Ideally, however, one would try to get away from the Western-style diet that causes this in the first place (for example, buying only grass-fed meats, reducing the amount of pure plant oils in your diet): like this says – reducing or removing the need for such a supplement.

      fish once or twice a day to accomplish that.

      Hey, I have no problem with that!

      Interesting that you say we shouldn’t limit sat fat intake – I’ve seen this notion mentioned elsewhere as well. However, most people eat beef (for example) that eats only grain – however, grass-fed beef typically has a lower sat fat level than typical US beef. So if one sticks with the typical US beef – they’d need to reduce sat fat in other ways in order to maintain a “natural” level of sat fat consumption. Also, I think the general public should reduce sat fat consumption – since they can be found everywhere in processed foods it’s quite possible that someone on a typical Western diet consumes too many sat fats (at least that’s my uneducated POV!).

      • 3

        justin said,

        Good points on the grassfed beef and other foods. I think the more you can eat “natural” meats (where the meats are from animals that ate something approximating their biologically ideal diet – e.g. grassfed beef).

        I think the Western diet is too high in sugar and grains, which drive insulin production and inflammation. The fat-is-bad is a red herring.

        You might like Gary Taubes “Good Calories Bad Calories” if you care to learn more about the lipid-hypothesis that has driven mainstream nutrition policy over the past few decades.

      • 4

        allawayr said,

        Agreed – one reason HFCS (while not evil) isn’t considered a good carbohydrate – it’s always used in a really high concentration that promotes insulin production.

        I’ll have to check that book out, will add it to my next amazon order (also going to order the followup books to the Omnivore’s Dilemma, something I’ve been meaning to do for about a year now).

        Another thing to consider is that (anecdotal – I have no supporting data) it seems most people on low-fat diets tend to replace that fat with sugary and starchy foods. They don’t eat many fats so their appetites are never satiated.

  2. 5

    Hawkeye said,

    I prefer flax oil. Also eating fresh fish often breaks your budget, especially if you go for quality and not catfish or some other junk fish from China.

  3. 6

    jettica said,

    I’ve been taking Emu Oil capsules apparently they have a higher concentration of EFAs in them. (And you don’t burp that awful fish taste throughout the day)

    From if you are interested.

    But back onto the fish oil I think they have so much more omega 3 in that even eating fish 3 times a day wouldn’t match it and Doctors still recommend the capsules. I think eat fish when your budget allows it but take the supplements too. Taking the emu oil capsules I’ve lost weight and have seriously reduced my cholesterol, but I have been exercising and calorie counting (about 1600 a day) so that obviously has an effect too.

    Great article x

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