There are dozens of reasons to take fish oil, from improved bone health to reduced risk of a host of diseases, and it will also make you thinner. “Unless you already eat a lot of oily fish, you can benefit from supplementing with fish oil to reduce body fat and inflammation,” says strength and conditioning coach Joseph Lightfoot. “It will also keep your levels of feelgood hormones on an even keel”, which will reduce the risk of you hitting the office biscuit tin.
RECOMMENDED: The Best Supplements
What is it?
Oil. From fish. More specifically, it’s a supplement rich in omega 3 fatty acids including EPA and DHA, which are actually taken from algae. Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid, which means we can’t synthesise it so we have to consume it via diet. Omega 3s are important in everything from cardiovascular function to preventing neurodegenerative decline in old age.
Why do I need it?
- Boost Your Metabolism: Omega 3 intake is important for normal metabolic function, according to the British Medical Journal. This creates the foundation for maintaining a healthy weight and looking and feeling healthy and energised.
- Train Your Brain: Supplementing omega 3 fish oil helped study subjects’ ability to form memories, as well as improved their attention span and their reaction time, according to results published in the European Journal Of Clinical Investigation.
- Lose Fat Faster: Increasing your omega 3 intake can help you get a lean physique by improving your insulin sensitivity so your body becomes more efficient at burning fat, according to a study in the Journal Of Physiological Research.
Is there a difference between brands?
Yes, a massive difference. Avoid cod liver oil and those containing trans fats, which aren’t nearly as beneficial. Choose a brand with a good ratio of omega 3 to omega 6; you may also want to get a brand that uses small fish (herring and mackerel), which contain fewer environmental toxins such as mercury. If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of such supplements, you can also choose one that uses “fish discards” and therefore doesn’t lead directly to the depletion of fish stocks.
How do I take it?
With food, if you’d rather avoid fishy burps. Some sources claim oil is “better” than tablets, although it can be less pleasant to take. Research is inconclusive, however, so for convenience you should just invest in good-quality tablets.
The expert verdict
Supplementing with fish oil is a worthwhile pursuit, agrees Jenny Tschiesche, a registered nutritionist and creator of Lunchbox Doctor.
“Most of us do not consume sufficient amounts of omega 3 fatty acids,” says Tschiesche. “They’re a critical part of our diet.
“They’re called ‘essential’ fatty acids because we do not make these kinds of fats in our bodies so we need to be consuming them in food or a supplement. Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory, and inflammation is linked to many common diseases.
“While wild-caught fish is a great source of omega 3s, it’s not always easy to buy this kind of fish in your regular supermarket. You will find it easy to source fish oil supplements in your local pharmacy and health foods store, but you really do get what you pay for.”
Here are Tschiesche’s three tips on what to look for when splashing out on fish oil supps.
- Look for a capsule with 1,000mg oil.
- Check that the oil is sourced from wild-caught fish.
- Buy from a brand that has shared the results of testing to show neither heavy metal traces nor environmental toxins in their product.
“Of course, any fish oil supplement you purchase has to be something you are happy to consume,” says Tschiesche. “Some people like to mask the flavour of fish oil with strawberry or citrus in a liquid form, while others would rather swallow a capsule whole. Find out what works best for you to ensure you can take the supplement on a regular basis.”