8 oz. salmon has just under 4g EPA & DHA, but at a cost of $5-10+ per serving you are better off financially with fish oil for daily use
From curing ADHD to reducing inflammation, fish oil has a list of health claims longer than the ingredient list for a Costco Muffin. Fish oil is the one supplement I use more than any other (I take it daily), so I decided to review the science supporting the health claims.
What are the proposed benefits of fish oil/omega-3 that have been validated by science?
The evidence for fish oil’s positive effects on blood lipids and heart health are the strongest of its health claims. There is a compelling evidence that fish oil decreases Triglycerides: 100% of the 40+ studies show a 15-30% improvement with fish oil supplementation. There is also evidence that fish oil can cause a minor improvement in HDL (the “good” cholesterol) count, again 100% of the 20+ studies show this correlation. There is also a minor decrease in vLDL- a type of lipoprotein that is correlated with cardiovascular disease and stroke. Lastly, there is strong evidence of a minor decrease in blood pressure.
Heart health is all fine and dandy, but most of us take fish oil for inflammation and muscle soreness. The evidence for these benefits is a little less clear. Out of the 3 studies that have been done that observe the relationship between fish oil and decreased muscle soreness, 2 have found no effect with one finding a slight correlation. However, the evidence regarding fish oil’s ability to reduce inflammatory markers seems to be dose-dependent. Almost all of the studies that used <2g of fish oil per day showed no correlation between fish oil intake and inflammation, however the higher doses of 4g+ seem to be effective in certain populations.
I also want to point out that there is evidence showing a notable decrease in depression and ADHD in young children with fish oil supplementation.
How much fish oil do I need per day?
One way to determine how much fish oil you need to take per day is to get an Omega-3 index done. You can ask your primary care health professional to order this lab, or SFH offers an Omega-3 index assay.
The omega-3 index determines the combined EPA + DHA in your red blood cell membranes. This test can give you an idea of your cardiac disease risk:
<4% means you are at high risk
4-8% means you are at moderate risk
>8% means you are at low risk (100%)
Studies have shown that just 1.8g combined EPA/DHA per day for 5 months can imorove your index by 5%.
But, again, we are CrossFitters so how much do I need to take to make the ache go away? The evidence is mixed. Some studies show as much as 6-7.5g/ day is necessary, others show 4-4.5g/day for lowering inflammation. In his appearance on the Wodcast Podcast, Matty Aporta of SFH says 4g of combined EPA/DHA first thing in the morning is enough to do the trick. And he is adamant about taking it first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, for the greatest effect.
Is there Such thing as too Much Fish Oil?
You know what they say about too much of a good thing? This principle applies to fish oil. Omega-3 fats make the cell membrane more fluid vs. saturated fats which makes them more rigid. Too much fluidity and the membrane becomes “leaky”. A leaky membrane allows molecules to enter and exit the cell without much discernment. We want a balance between rigidity and fluidity.
Chances are, you won’t take enough fish oil in a day to reach this leaky level, but be warned and always be conscious and calculated with your dose vs. “swigging”.
A Gram of Fish Oil Does Not Equal a Gram of Fish Oil
Not all fish oil is made the same! The beneficial and bioavailable omega-3 molecules are EPA & DHA. Let’s take a hypothetical fish oil supplement with a label that reads “1000mg fish oil” you might think “OK, just 4 servings and I’m reducing inflammation”. This actually may not be the case, so you must look a little deeper.
If the label in our hypothetical case also reads “400 mg EPA, 400 mg DHA” you have found yourself a decently potent product, but you have to take 5 servings to get the inflammation benefit because it only contains 800mg or .8g of the stuff that really matters.
If this hypothetical label instead reads “200mg EPA, 200mg DHA” you should toss it in the trash because you’d have to take 10 servings to get the anti-inflammatory benefits and consider what the other 600mg of fish oil contain if not EPA & DHA? It may be omega-6 fats.
Lower quality fish oils have also been found to contain mercury, other heavy metals, and environmental pollutants. Stick to the good, third party tested stuff.
A gram of omega-3 does not equal a gram of omega-3
You may also be thinking, “what about chia, flax and hemp? Those chia drinks at Whole Foods have 2.5g omega-3 per serving. Just two of those delicious little beverages and I am reducing inflammation!” This is a wrong assumption. Plant-based omega-3 is in a form called ALA. ALA is not usable by animals (humans are animals) and must be converted into EPA & DHA. This process is terribly inefficient.
Studies have shown that 6% of ALA converts to EPA and about 4% to DHA, less in unhealthy populations. This is unfortunate because it would take an unrealistic amount of plant based sources of omega-3 to get the 4g we need for anti-inflammatory benefits…about 40g of ALA to be exact. This equates to about 2/3lb of chia seed…good luck getting that down with a smile!
Why I choose SFH Fish Oil
I am the ultimate skeptic when it comes to supplements. I take them, but I rarely suggest a brand name. If you are going to sell me, skip the bolded underlined claims in highlighter hues next to a bodybuilders veiny bicep and show me a few studies to validate those claims.
I am also frugal when it comes to supplements, I will go out and find the cheapest product with the least amount of ingredients and buy it. If a new brand comes out with something of the same (or better) quality for less, I will be skeptical of their methods…but I am not loyal to the original brand and move on.
Case in point, I used to take Carlson fish oil because it has a high concentration of EPA & DHA, does not cause fish burps, and is very palatable. And then SFH came onto the scene. With just over 1 TEASPOON…yes 1 TEASPOON (I was downing tablespoons of Carlsons) I am able to get the 4g combined EPA & DHA necessary to reduce inflammation.
If I simply wanted to improve my blood lipids I would only need a half tablespoon per day. Two bottles, or $120, could catapult me into a lower cardiac disease risk category based on the Omega-3 index.
When I was first introduced to SFH it seemed too good to be true, so I did an analysis of all the options on the market (I literally made a spreadsheet) and determined that SFH is the best value gram-for-gram with the added benefits of requiring the least volume of fish juice slurping in the morning and their receipt of stellar purity ratings from third party testers.
My last piece of advice is to put the fish oil in the fridge or freezer after opening. Once exposed to oxygen, fish oil will oxidize creating harmful byproducts. Heat will accelerate this process. I am planning to start putting half of my bottle in the freezer which helps it last about 120 days vs. 40 in the fridge.
SFH fish oil can be purchased at BCF, just ask a coach for assistance.
By Courtesy of Matt W
Run, Wall Balls, GHDSU, Press, V-twists, DU.