Fish oil: Is It Really Necessary?

Fish oil: Is It Really Necessary?

You have most likely heard of essential fatty acids, but what exactly are they, why are they beneficial and what does this have to do with fish oil?

Essential Fatty Acids: Omega-6 and Omega-3

Essential fatty acids are unable to be produced by your body, therefore it is essential they are eaten. They fall into two main categories: omega-6 and omega-3. These two omegas act on the inflammation in your body like a set of scales, and it is important they are correctly balanced1.

Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory. Some inflammation is good for us- we need it for blood clotting, tissue repair, cleaning out dead cells, and good immune function. However, too much inflammation is not good for the body. Chronic low-grade inflammation has been linked to conditions such as the metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease2.

Omega-3 is anti-inflammatory; replacing omega-6 with omega-3 has been shown to reduce inflammation1. However, while Australians eat a lot of omega-6 through consuming poultry, eggs, cereals, and grains, we generally are not eating anywhere near enough omega-3 to balance the scale. 

Sources of Omega-3

Plant sources of Omega-3 provide alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It can be found in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, edamame, walnuts, soybean oil, seaweed, algae, chia, and hemp seeds.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Decosahexanoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids that are only found in fish and other seafood. They offer incredible anti-inflammatory properties that surpass ALA’s and have been found to be profoundly beneficial to human health2.

Benefits are obtained through as little as two servings a week of salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, or anchovies. However, if you are not a regular consumer of seafood, a good quality fish oil supplement may be a great alternative.

As an anti-inflammatory, fish oil is known for its anti-clotting abilities and may therefore not be suitable for all people. Always speak to your GP before commencing any dietary supplements.

1DiNicolantonio, J. J., O’Keefe, J. H. (2018). Importance of maintaining a low omega-6/ omega-3 ratio for reducing inflammation. Open Heart. 5(2): e000946. 

2 Minihane, A. M. (2015). Low-grade inflammation, diet composition and health: current research evidence and its translation. BMI. 114, 999-1012