Quick Health Scoop
- The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are found in all seafood, but are most abundant in fatty fish such as salmon, halibut, tuna, mackerel, and sardines
- EPA and DHA play vital roles in several functions in the body.
- The omega-3s support heart health, brain function, eye health, and mood†
When it comes to key nutrients—especially those important to heart health—fish oil tops the list. But what is fish oil?
Not surprisingly, fish oil is found in fish—most abundant in the tissue of fatty fish such as anchovies, halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil contains both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These polyunsaturated fatty acids play vital roles in several functions in the body. Some plants (such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts) contain another omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an essential fatty acid the body can convert to DHA and EPA, although the conversion rate is low.1
Research shows that people who eat seafood at least once a week are less likely to die of heart disease than those who rarely or never eat seafood.2 In fact, the USDA recommends that adults eat at least eight ounces of seafood per week because it provides a variety of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids.3 If you don’t eat enough seafood on a regular basis, you may benefit from taking a fish oil supplement.
If you’re wondering about fish oil benefits, read on to learn more.
What Are The Benefits of Fish Oil?
Fish oil—because of the omega-3 fatty acids it contains, particularly EPA and DHA—can support many facets of your health. But, specifically, what is fish oil good for? Fish oil uses range from supporting heart health and brain function to supporting eye health. When you eat foods or take a supplement with EPA and DHA, these fatty acids get incorporated into all your cell membranes, providing support for their structural integrity and fluidity, which is necessary for cells to function and communicate effectively. That’s how EPA and DHA support many functions in your body, including your heart, eyes, brain, and mood.4†
Since fish oil is good for you from head to toe, let’s look at what the research says.
Fish Oil Benefits For Heart Health†
Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce your risk of heart disease.5,6 According to the most comprehensive review to date of the omega-3s EPA and DHA and their relationship to coronary heart disease events—EPA and DHA intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, especially for those who are considered to be in a “higher risk population” such as those with high triglycerides or high LDL (bad) cholesterol. There is so much evidence on EPA and DHA and heart health, the FDA has issued a Qualified Health Claim, stating “Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. (See nutrition information for total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol content).”
Fish Oil Benefits For Brain and Eye Health†
Omega-3s are found in large quantities in the brain and eyes. In fact, DHA is the most abundant fatty acid found in both your brain and eyes. In your brain, DHA helps neurons transmit messages that allows your body to communicate and function normally. In your eyes, DHA plays an important role in allowing you to see clearly in different lighting conditions.
Fish Oil Benefits for a Healthy Mood†
The omega-3s EPA and DHA also play a role in mood regulation, and ensuring you have enough, can help to support a healthy mood.†
How Often Should You Take Fish Oil?
The American Heart Association recommends eating two, 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish per week.5 This equates to a daily fish oil intake of roughly 500 milligrams (mg) EPA and DHA. If you don’t eat fish at least twice per week (or at all), you may benefit from taking a daily fish oil supplement. When should fish oil be taken? Because all omega-3 supplements are absorbed more efficiently with meals, it might help to divide your daily dose into two or three smaller doses throughout the day to decrease the risk of gastrointestinal side effects.7
The Bottom Line
Loaded with the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, fish oil is good for supporting a variety of key functions, including heart health, brain health, and eye health. Because the body can’t make its own EPA and DHA, it’s best to get these key nutrients from food sources, primarily oily fish like mackerel, salmon, and sardines. However, if you don’t consume enough fish or seafood on a regular basis, you may consider fish oil capsules' benefits to fill in the nutritional gaps. As always, you should talk with your doctor about possible interactions between any supplements you’re considering taking and your medications.†
Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.
This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
- Harvard University Medical School. “Fish oil: friend or foe?” April 15, 2020. Accessed on: March 18, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/fish-oil-friend-or-foe-201307126467
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “7 Things To Know About Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” 2021. Accessed on: March 18, 2021. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/things-to-know-about-omega-fatty-acids
- USDA. “Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 2020-2025.” December 2020. Accessed on: March 19, 2021. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf
- Office of Dietary Supplements. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” March 22, 2021. Accessed on: March 22, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
- American Heart Association. “Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” March 23, 2017. Accessed on: March 22, 2021. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/fish-and-omega-3-fatty-acids
- American Heart Association. “Fish oil supplements provide some benefit after heart attack, heart failure.” March 13, 2017. Accessed on: March 23, 2021. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/05/01/fish-oil-supplements-provide-some-benefit-after-heart-attack-heart-failure
- Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute. “Essential Fatty Acids.” June 2019. Accessed on: March 22, 2021. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/essential-fatty-acids#cardiovascular-disease-prevention