Fish Oil Supplements

Omega-3 Fish Oil Can Be As Effective for Attention As ADHD Drugs

I have always heard that omega-3 fatty acids are good for your health. But what do they really do for your body? I have distinct memories questioning these golden pills in my parents’ toiletry bags when I was younger. Time to find out once and for all why my parents taking these supplements!

Once I committed to college for water polo, my coaches sent me an intimidating 30 page document on how to reshape my diet and eating habits in order to best prepare myself for college athletics. On the list of daily habits included taking omega-3 fish oil supplements at one meal per day. The American Heart Association claims that certain supplements utilizing “a specific formula of omega-3 fatty acids” can help reduce inflammation within the body by “increasing the concentration of special molecule “mediators” that regulate the work of certain components in the blood.” This is most likely why many athletes utilize omega-3 supplements when they are training intensely.

Omega-3 fatty acids are often linked with certain aspects of cardiovascular health. However, the human body does not generate omega-3 fatty acids on its own, which is why many people seek them out in their diet or through supplementation. Omega-3 can be obtained through eating fatty fish, such as mackerel, herring, tuna, and salmon, which are especially high in this critical substance. 

Most people take fish oil supplements because there are a very wide variety of ailments that consuming omega-3 can mitigate. Many people take omega-3 supplements in order to balance their triglyceride levels (amount of fat within the blood.) However, triglyceride levels are more likely to be improved by taking prescription fish oil medications, which often contain higher levels of omega-3s, along with important other substances to improve your health. Many doctors encourage prescription options to manage triglyceride levels because they are more potent and more effective than over the counter options. 

Some studies suggest that taking fish oil supplements may improve the cognitive function and attention span of children with ADHD. In addition, other studies suggest that ingesting high levels of omega-3 fatty acids can slow weight loss in cancer patients, possibly reduce the depressive effects of bipolar disorder when paired with medical treatment, improve menstrual cramps when taken with vitamin E, and a variety of other heart and cardiovascular improvements when taken in concordance post-surgery or with medical supervision. There are so many studies underway concerning a long list of other possible health factors that taking fish oil supplements may improve. However, there are a variety of studies that suggest there may not be as much evidence as we think to support the claims surrounding these supplements. The Harvard Health Blog states that one study documented in the New England Journal of Medicine discovered that “omega-3 fatty acid supplements [do] nothing to reduce heart attacks, strokes, or deaths from heart disease in middle-age men and women without any known risk factors for heart disease.” Regardless, medical professionals still encourage consuming fish periodically in order to maintain a healthy diet.

Fortunately, most over the counter fish oil supplements do not coincide with many side effects. Side effects that most often occur may include a variety of unpleasant, yet not very harmful occurrences, such as heartburn, upset stomach, burping, and the like. There is concern, however, when consuming real fish to maintain a constant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming large amounts of fish may increase your mercury intake because it bioaccumulates in many fish species and in the human body when consumed. The buildup of mercury in the body would be counteractive to bettering your health, and can prove to be very dangerous.

When regularly consuming real fish, I ask that you make sure your fish is always sustainably caught or harvested, and not treated with antibiotics or exposed to harsh chemicals. Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch – you can type in the sea creature you are looking to eat, and can get instant information about whether it is endangered, if their populations are well managed, caught in the wild or farmed with methods that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife.

For my vegan and vegetarian friends, many omega-3 supplements may not be right for you, as most companies source omega-3 from fish. If meat is not your go-to, you can obtain omega-3 fatty acids from ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil, chia seeds, walnuts, canola oil, and soy oil, and can help you stay away from omega-3 deficiencies. 

If you choose to go the animal product route, many fish oil supplements will list where their omega-3 comes from, right down to the type of fish. For example, certain fish oils claim to source their omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, among other options, while other companies are more vague on the type of fish they use. If you are looking for a brand to consider, you might consider browsing Carlson Labs’ products.

Overall, there are very few downsides to trying omega-3 supplements, but I would encourage you to speak with your health professional in order to discern if they are right for you. 

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