Though it is widely known and accepted that the omegas in fish oils are good for your health, it is often just as widely misunderstood in regards to what it is, how much one should take and where it should come from. Fish oils belong to the Omega-3 family of fatty acids. Within Omega-3 fatty acids there are two main types; short chain Omega-3 fatty acids, and long chain Omega-3 fatty acids. Short chain Omega 3 fatty acids are derived from sources such as flaxseed oil but only contain Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA) which is of a lesser consequence in terms of health benefits. Long chain Omega- 3 fatty acids are derived from fish, shellfish, and algae. These sources are more desirable as they contain both Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA).
Found within this fatty layers of cold water fish, EPA and DHA are precursors to Eicosanoids. The result of 20-Carbon fatty acids being oxidized, signalling molecules called Eicosanoids are formed which exact a complex system of controls over the human body. These controls have many benefits to beings as a whole, but at the top of that list is its unique ability to operate as an anti-inflammatory, its biosynthesis reactionary related stimuli at a cellular level. Countless studies have demonstrated its correlation to reducing symptoms and/or alleviating the effects of cancer, asthma, depression , cardiovascular disease, ADHA, arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis and macular degeneration. There has even been studies suggesting fish oils in aiding anxiety and clinical depression. Of course, most people use it for more general health benefits such as skin, hair and joint health.
What fish are used
It is interesting to note that marine and freshwater fish are far less desirable for ingestion of EPA and DHA as the said environment just do not encourage consistently high enough amounts of long chain Omega-3 fatty acids. First, the fish that are harvested for oil don’t actually produce Omega-3 fatty acids themselves, but collect them through the consumption of microalgae and prey fish that have themselves collected high amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. Second, cold water fish have this unique advantage of being in an environment catering to high levels of good quality antioxidants such as iodine and selenium through their diet, which preserves the integrity of the lipids and prevents its common degeneration.
It would be more lucrative from a manufacturing standpoint to use much larger fish from similar environments, the reality is they are poor candidates to source out Omega-3 fatty acids. Larger fatty fish such as albacore tuna, sharks, swordfish, tilefish, etc are typically predatory fish, thus, their position at the top of the food chain coupled with their sheer size usually translates into the larger fish carrying high levels of toxic contaminants such as mercury, PLBs, dioxin, chloride and others, that is why companies that follow safety and health regulations use exclusively small cold water fish despite the cost of production being over double what the production of larger fish would cost.
Which brand to choose
There are many good companies to choose from when selecting a fish oil supplement. One of the best to be released in recent years is the fish oil capsules by Optimum Nutrition. They are guaranteed to be made exclusively from sardines, anchovies and mackerel while having a special “Energic” coating which prevents it bursting in the stomach, acid reflux, bad breath and general indigestion that is so common with many fish oils are the one brand that can be said to be tasteless, odourless and easily digested with no greasy residue left in your hands. It also does not need to be refrigerated and sells at a reasonably low cost.
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