Pros vs. Cons of Taking Fish Oil

Fish oil gets a lot of attention from health specialists.  As it turns out, this attention is most well deserved.  Countless studies from all over the world have shown the importance of omega-3 fatty acids in maintaining and improving one’s overall health.  In particular, research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids are great ways to improve one’s heart and brain health.  It is important to note that what is generally good for the heart is also good for the brain and vice-versa. 

One of nature’s great sources of omega-3 fatty acids is fish and fish oil.  Certain fish in particular are very high in omega-3 fatty acids.  Fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and black cod, are all great sources of omega-3 and can be worked into most diets with relative ease. 

It is difficult for most people to consume fish every day, and most health experts advise against consuming fish every day regardless.  Why?  Unfortunately, consuming too much fish also means that one is potentially consuming too many other contaminants as well, such as heavy metals, like mercury and lead, as well as industrial pollutants.  Further complicating issues is that due to the Fukishima disaster there is an added risk of radiation exposure due to fish.   For example, this issue has been observed in tuna and other fish caught in different fishing areas in the region.  In fact, in a May 2012 Reuter's article, low radiation levels were detected in tuna off the coast of California.

High quality fish oil is purified to remove contamination including mercury and other heavy metals.  However, not all fish oil is of the same quality or undergoes the same rigorous purification process.  This means that you need to “do your homework” to ensure that your fish oil is indeed purified. 

One way that you can help ensure the purity of your fish oil is to first pay attention to where it was sourced.  Secondly, pay attention to how high on the food chain the fish, from which the fish oil is derived, falls.  The higher up on the food chain, the more contaminants you are likely to consume.  This means that smaller fish, such as sardines and anchovies, stand as a much better overall pick for your fish oil and omega-3 needs. On the other hand, a fish like cod, which is, of course, the key ingredient in cod liver oil will be potentially higher in contaminants.  With that stated, however, it is possible to find high quality, purified cod liver oil.  Due to the Fukishima disaster, it is likely best to side with caution and look for fish oils that are sourced from areas like the waters of Iceland and Norway in the Atlantic.

There are established and verified benefits to consuming fish oil; however, there are potential drawbacks.  The first, as we have already covered, is the risk of contamination with a variety of harmful compounds.  Secondly, fish oil, if not consumed in a relatively short time span may oxidize.  That means it could do more harm than good to your overall health as oxidation can cause cell damage.  This is why antioxidants are so important for general health.  If you do opt to take fish oil as a supplement, be sure that you consume it in a relatively short period of time after purchase.

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