Omega 3s, commonly found in Fish oil supplements have been talked about a lot lately. You may have heard about the “controversy” surrounding Omega 3s. The news has been full of stories question the role of fish oil and similar supplements for health. As doctors and experts in vitamins we are here to tell you the truth about Omega 3s and the important place they can play in a personalized vitamin regimen.
So why take Omega3s or Fish oil? It turns out that these special fats have essential roles in many of the cellular functions in our body. They have been studied and proven to have positive effects in the health of our hearts, brains and joints.
So how do we know Omega3s are good for heart health? There have been a number of big studies showing benefit to Omega3s. While they are not known to be helpful in lowering LDL or “bad cholesterol” they actually are good at reducing the other “bad type of cholesterol,” triglycerides and in raising HDL or good cholesterol. Modifying these components of your cholesterol profile (also helped by losing weight and exercising) are great ways to lower your overall cardiac risk. The “controversy” stems from some studies that did not prove a reduction in cardiac risk but they were very limited studies. They followed people for a short period of time and while the group as a whole didn’t show great risk reduction when taking Omega3s some subset for sure showed major impact, such as African Americans who had a 77 % cardiac risk reduction. Since this is a group with a higher baseline risk of cardiac risk it may be that studying this population showed an exaggerated effect. Nonetheless, this is promising for the role of Omega 3s in reducing risk of heart attack and stroke. Another study showed that adding Omega3s to traditional cholesterol medicines helped to further reduce cardiac mortality. Clearly there is some association between Omega3s and improved heart health.
There is also some data to suggest that omega3s may have blood pressure lowering affects. This remains inconclusive, but it may also contribute to the benefits on cardiovascular health.
Why else should you take Omega3s? Their benefits extend beyond cardiac risk reduction to other realms. There is a great deal of data suggesting that Omega3s benefit brain health in several ways. They have been shown to help control ADD symptoms in children. On the other end of the lifecycle, Omega3s may show some role in reducing memory trouble and dementia. Clearly Omega3s have some positive effect on brain function. Some speculate that these important fats may help enhance the function of nerve cells. We may not understand the exact mechanism but we do know that Omega3s help brain function and these positive effects add to the case for taking them.
Another important role for Omega3s is in pregnancy and nursing. Just as Omega3s many help with memory and behavior in kids and adults, they also seem to help with a developing baby’s brain. Any prenatal regimen should include Omega3s as an essential component as should a vitamin for women who are nursing. Whatever positive effects Omega3s and fish oil have on our brains seems to also play an important role in the developing brain so much so that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology insist on Omega3s for all pregnant and breast feeding mothers. From this we can extrapolate that the effects of fish oil and Omega3 on memory and brain health in adults is probably also significant and they can be used with hopes of reducing risk of dementia and to preserve memory. Omega 3s not only help with prenatal brain health. They also reduce preterm birth rates, clearly an added benefit.
If Omega3s help with memory, brain health and heart health, it is also not surprising that these properties help other body systems as well. It seems that Omega3s may help with many of these things because they have an anti-inflammatory effect. It is then not surprising that fish oil and Omega3s have a role in helping with joint pain and arthritis. These anti-inflammatory properties can help relieve arthritis pain by reducing inflammation and reducing the need for other medication in those with arthritis. They may also help reduce dry eyes.
There is some promising data to suggest that Omega3s may be helpful in the prevention of colon and breast cancer. While this is by no means a guarantee, taking Omega3s seems to have many potential benefits.
Are there any side effects to Omega3s? There can be. Omega3s pose a theoretical risk of increased bleeding (there blood thinning characteristics may be part of how they help reduce cardiovascular risk). It is recommended to stop them 7-10 days prior to surgical procedures. In day to day life, bleeding risk from Omega3s is not typically seen.
The other potential downsides to Omega3s are namely GI side effects. People can experience a range of issues including upset stomach, burping and diarrhea on occasion. However, it is our experience that with a high quality Omega3 product most people can acclimate to taking these pills by taking a lower dose for a few weeks and gradually working up to a full dose.
What about Omega 3s causing fishy after taste ? It turns out that this is only an issue with a fish based product. Taking a vegan Omega3 made from algae can solve this issue. So, on that note.. Try our Vous Vitamin Omega3 Essential Add On! You too can get all of the benefits we discussed. While you’re at it, take our personalized vitamin quiz to get your personalized daily vitamin.
Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three teenagers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.
The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Nothing contained herein is intended to be a diagnosis or constitute medical advice. The symptoms described in this Blog may be a result of a serious medical condition which requires medical treatment. You should consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this Blog and before beginning any vitamin or supplement regimen.