Health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are not limited to the heart.
Multiple randomized controlled trials report improvements in morning stiffness and joint tenderness from inflammatory arthritis with the regular intake of fish oil supplements for up to three months.
A 2012 review of the scientific literature concluded that EPA and DHA, the types of omega-3s found in seafood and fish oil, was modestly helpful in relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In the studies reviewed, many of the participants reported that when they were taking fish oil they had briefer morning stiffness, less joint swelling and pain, and less need for anti-inflammatory drugs to control their symptoms, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH) online page 7 Things To Know About Omega-3 Fatty Acids.
Additional benefits were reported when fish oil was taken complementary with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin. However, because of weaknesses in study designs and reporting, better research is necessary before a strong favorable recommendation can be made.
Effects beyond three months of treatment have not been well evaluated, but there is good scientific evidence for continued safe use indefinitely.
Omega 3 fatty acids are healthy polyunsaturated essential fatty acids found in fish, flax, canola oil, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.
An “essential” fatty acid is a type of fat that cannot be manufactured by the body and needs to come from the diet. Essential fatty acids include omega 3s and omega 6 fatty acids (omega 6s are readily available in the diet).
The preponderance of omega 6 over omega 3 fatty acids in the typical American diet is linked below to the cause of many of our modern health problems.
The ideal ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 is 4:1 or even 2:1. At minimum, a ratio of 1:1 is desired. Many unhealthy American diets today have reverse ratios. Indeed, in Western diets the ratio averages 16:1 of omega 6s to omega 3s!, per NIH’s Pubmed abstract entitled The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids, dated Oct. 2002.
In part, the study abstract reports: “Excessive amounts of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and a very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today's Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 (a low omega-6/omega-3 ratio) exert suppressive effects.”
There are three main dietary omega 3 fatty acids – EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) found in fish and seafood, and ALA (alpha linolenic acid) found in plants.
Omega 3 fatty acids have been known as essential to normal growth and health since the 1930s. Awareness of their health benefits has dramatically increased in the past few years
The health benefits of the long-chain omega 3 fatty acids — DHA and EPA omega 3 — as found in fish oil and fish oil supplements are the best known.
These benefits were discovered in the 1970s by researchers studying the Greenland Inuit Tribe. The Greenland Inuit people consumed large amounts of fat from seafood, but displayed virtually no cardiovascular disease. The high level of omega 3 fatty acids consumed by the Inuit reduced triglycerides, heart rate, blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
Interest in the use of fish oil for the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA) stems from observations that groups of people who consumed large amounts of foods rich in omega 3s had lower rates of inflammatory diseases.
Fish oil contains high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids — the substances the body needs in order to perform a number of important functions, including reducing inflammation.
Species of fish high in omega 3s include herring, mackerel, salmon, and tuna. Fish oil supplements are available as capsules, softgels or oils.
Evidence from clinical trials on RA from use of fish oil dietary supplements is encouraging, according to the publication, Rheumatoid Arthritis--In Depth by the NIH's National Center of Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), which reports that fish oil supplements may be useful in relieving tender joints and morning stiffness. Studies have also found that fish oil may reduce the need for NSAIDs and other conventional RA medicines. Additional research is needed and under way to establish more firmly fish oil’s potential role in treatment regimens for RA.
Increased intake of the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil alter the body's production of substances known as prostaglandins, and, consequently, reduce some forms of inflammation. On the basis of this, EPA and DHA have been used in the treatment of symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis with considerable success (especially in early stages of the disease). Unlike "disease modifying" drugs, however, fish oil probably doesn't slow the progression of the disease.
The anti-inflammatory effects of EPA and DHA have also caused researchers to investigate possible benefits of fish oil for the treatment of menstrual cramps, inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease), lupus, and the kidney disorder IgA nephropathy. For each of these conditions, at least one double-blind study has found positive results.
In sourcing fish oil there are growing concerns about unsafe levels of contaminants such as mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, dioxins and PCBs that are now commonly found in many fish.
Some question the safety of obtaining omega 3 fatty acids from fish in the diet alone. Some also question the safety of fish oil supplements because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not enforce rigid testing of dietary supplement manufacturers. In fact, on March 2, 2010, the world’s largest producer of fish oil products was sued under California Proposition 65 for not revealing to consumers that their supplements contained toxic levels of PCBs.
There is no disposition of this suit at this time, and most fish oil manufacturers claim they process raw materials to filter such contaminants to minimum safe levels. However, there is no standardized testing mandated by the FDA. Some manufacturers screen more thoroughly than others.
As FDA spells out in its October 6, 2011 Dietary Supplements publication, it only enforces regulations after an unsafe dietary supplement reaches the market. In other words, the consumer is the guinea pig.
Not all dietary supplements are manufactured equally. The industry is not as strictly regulated as the pharmaceutical industry. The FDA considers dietary supplements, such as fish oil, to be foods”, not drugs.
The dietary supplement industry operated without guidelines for manufacturers from 1994 to 2010 when the current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) final rule was fully implemented by the FDA. However, health advocates and industry watchdogs complained the rules were far too lax. They said supplement makers were basically left on the "honor system". Some predicted unscrupulous sellers could and would invade the market.
The Natural Products Association (NPA), released a public statement: “Our industry has long supported efforts to remove the relatively few bad actors who market adulterated products. We have advocated for additional enforcement funds for regulators, and for giving regulators additional authority to act. Some seek to paint with an awfully broad brush,” it said, noting the idea that the 150 million Americans who use dietary supplements are gambling with their health by shopping at mainstream stores just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. "Hyperbole does not lead to sound policy.”
(We have tried to stress on this website that not all dietary supplements are equally tested for purity and potency. That’s why my husband and I put our trust for our heart and arthritis joints in the purest fish oil supplement we’ve found from the company with a conscience. They produce the highest quality pharmaceutical grade fish oil product we’ve been able to find).
The cGMP regulations do address ingredient safety and labeling ethics. But some experts say they don't require standardized testing methods and makers are not required to prove the product is effective (works).
Lack of enforcement may be a bigger problem than weakness of the cGMP regulations. The FDA inspects about 600 facilities yearly, a fraction of the estimated 13,000 to 15,000 supplement makers. As recent as 2016, 62% of inspected manufacturers were found in non-compliance of the cGMP.
In two recent prior years, the cGMP failure rate was as high as 70%. That's 7 of 10 manufacturers failing one or more safety compliance issues.
Will the Trump Administration's edict for less industry regulation have an effect on future statistics? Only time will tell.
The old adage “you get what you pay for” often rings true with dietary supplements.
Testing methods are of utmost importance if a manufacturer is trying to produce the best fish oil supplement. For example, the company referenced above features a pharmaceutical grade state-of-the-art, proprietary, triple molecular distillation process that concentrates natural beneficial omega-3 fatty acids with these benefits:
The product provides a full spectrum ultra-pure fish oil of all seven naturally found omega-3 fatty acids.
One daily serving size of 2 softgels provides over 1200 mg of natural fish oil, including 363 mg of EPA, 240 mg DHA plus 65 mg of five other naturally found fatty acids (docosapentaenoic, stearidonic, eicosatetraenoic, heneicosapentaenoic, and alpha-linolenic acids). Note: The label states: "Take 2 softgels one or two times daily with meals." If 4 softgels taken, the counts above become: 2400-726-480-130.
It is bioavailable, meaning capable of being absorbed by the body and available for use or storage, has low odor, no aftertaste, is easy to digest and gluten free.
The manufacturer’s guarantee is very important. Be sure to look for one, especially with fish oil supplements. What are the details of the guarantee? Is it in writing? Does it guarantee a 100% refund if you’re not satisfied?
Of more importance, does it also:
The above guarantee is exactly what the featured company guarantees.
Pharmaceutical companies are required to do clinical trials. Dietary supplement companies are not.
My experience with typical dietary supplement manufacturers is that most hide behind studies/trials done by others related to their product ingredients because they have very few (or don’t have any!) of their own studies on their own products. If you’re considering omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements, my recommendation is to find a company that’s proud of the research, development, science and clinical studies in their products.
See if the brand you are now using has published clinical studies on their supplements that prove both safety and effectiveness. Again, I would recommend choosing a company such as the 'beyond organic' one referenced above, which has 135 studies (100 published in peer-reviewed medical journals) on their own products (rather than just one or two) and conducts over 100,000 quality tests per year.
My husband and I have personal testimonies on the use of fish oil supplements and other natural products for the control of pain, inflammation, swelling and stiffness from our arthritis. Our recommended manufacturer, founded in 1956, carries the title, #1 natural nutrition company in America. They’ve invested more than $250 million in clinical testing, research and development on their products. Based on the evidence presented on this page, we sincerely believe their omega 3 fatty acids supplement, Omega Guard, is the best money can buy.
For our money, it's the finest fish oil supplement found anywhere on the market. In addition to the 180-count size we use (90-day supply at two softgels daily, 45-day supply taking four), a 60-count size is available.
*Omega 3 Fatty Acids Disclaimer: Health statements on this Omega 3 Fatty Acids page have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.