Frequently Asked Question on Omega 3 (Fish Oil)?

Q: Where do Omega 3 fatty acids come from?

A: Omega 3 fatty acids are found in the green leaves of plants, like grass, phytoplankton, algae and seaweed. This is the food that OUR food is designed to eat, which makes grass-fed beef, pastured organic eggs, and most importantly, certain types of fish (wild-caught fish and fish lower on the food chain, like herring, anchovy, sardine and mackerel) are good, natural sources of omega 3′s. Unfortunately, due to poor meat quality, and over-consumption of fast foods, processed foods, and vegetable oils, most of our diets are lacking in these essential fatty acids (and overly rich in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids).


Q: So why can’t I just eat grass or seaweed to get my omega-3's?

A: First, you don’t have the ability to digest grass properly. Moving on, omegas 3′s are a family of fatty acids, and the “parent” molecule is called alpha-linolenic acid (abbreviated as LNA or ALA). The ALA from plants is converted by animals or fish to the potent anti-inflammatory omega 3′s called EPA and DHA by a long conversion process (see the discussion of ALA from plant seeds below). The ALA itself is not actually anti-inflammatory, and only a small percentage of ALA can be converted to EPA and DHA. Fish (and to a much lesser degree, land animals) do the metabolic work to convert the plant-based ALA into concentrated EPA and DHA. Fish oil is already a concentrated source of EPA and DHA, which is why fish oil has such potent anti-inflammatory properties.


Q: Why can't I get my omega 3's from flax?

A: There are countless problems with getting your omega 3′s from this particular plant source. It requires an extremely inefficient conversion process – meaning your body has to do a lot of work to get the EPA and DHA you want out of the kind of fat found in flax (ALA). And the conversion pathway is fraught with difficulties that can, in fact, lead to MORE inflammation – the exact opposite of the intention. Finally, even if everything works perfectly, the amount of EPA and DHA you can actually convert from flax is so small it practically doesn’t count. (By the way, the story is the same whether you’re talking about flax, chia, hemp or echium.) Just stick with your fish oil.


Q: Why do I need EPA and DHA?

A: You only need a quick web search for this one, because there is a wealth of information on this subject. Fish oil is not a magic bullet, but there are an infinite number of well-documented benefits for a whole host of lifestyle diseases and conditions. The short answer is that EPA and DHA are specific types of polyunsatured omega 3 fatty acids. Your body cannot produce these fatty acids – you must get them from the food you eat, or via supplementation. EPA and DHA are natural anti-inflammatory agents, and as such, play a role in brain health, heart health, protection against cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression, improvement of skin conditions like psoriasis and acne, fetal brain development, inflammatory bowel disorders, and arthritis, to name a few.

Our typical diets are rich in another type of pro-inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acid called omega 6. When our dietary intake of omega 6's far exceeds our intake of omega 3's, our bodies experience a wide range of negative consequences, all with the underlying cause of increased systemic inflammation. Minimizing dietary intake of omega 6 fatty acids, and supplementing your intake of omega 3 fatty acids, helps to reduce inflammation, and the wide range of downstream effects.


Q: Do I have to be worried about mercury levels or other contaminants in fish oil?

A: In a word, no. The larger the fish, and the higher it is on the food chain, the more potential exposure it has to heavy metals and other contaminants. Fish oil is almost always harvested from small fish like herring, anchovy and sardines, all of which are very low on the food chain. Healthy ForeverTM Omega 3 brand is tested to ensure that any mercury or other heavy metal levels are all below detectable levels (.01ppm).


Q: Are there any contraindications for taking fish oil?

A: Because fish oil capsules have an effect on reducing the stickiness of platelets, it is recommended that if you have any of the following conditions, that you see your physician to discuss whether you should take fish oil capsules:
    -You have a bleeding tendency
    -You are on blood thinning medications
    -You are about to have surgery

Of course, before starting any new medication or supplement, it is always a smart idea to consult your physician.


Q: I’m pregnant – is it safe to take fish oil?

A: First, consult your doctor before starting any medications or supplementation. The general consensus is that EPA, and especially DHA, provide excellent benefits for your baby’s neurological and early visual development, and may reduce the risk of pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, post-partum depression and pre-term delivery. Your recommended dose will be different, however… again, check with your doctor to find a range that’s healthy for you and your baby.


Q: How much fish oil should I take?

A: Our general recommendations are to aim for around 2-4 grams of EPA/DHA per day. However, if you eat lots of wild-caught salmon, grass-fed beef and other natural sources of omega 3 fatty acids, and generally avoid sources of omega 6 (like vegetable oils, factory-farmed meat, nuts and seeds), you may not need any fish oil supplementation at all.


Q: I’m pretty inflamed/sick/overweight. Can I take more than you recommend to jump-start results?

A: Hear us clearly – you can’t fish oil your way out of poor dietary choices, lack of sleep, over-training or any combination of the above. It’s of the utmost important that you get your dietary and lifestyle house in order! More fish oil is not better – and in some instances, can do more harm than good. So make better food choices, get to bed earlier, allow yourself more time to rest and recover and do your best to minimize stress – and don’t rely on any pill or supplement to fix your stuff.


Q: How do I take fish oil?

A: Most importantly, always take fish oil with meals. This reduces the chance of stomach upset or “fish burps”. We think about sandwiching our fish oil inside a meal – one bite of food, then our fish oil, followed by the rest of our meal. And split your dose up throughout the day, especially if you’re at a 0.5 factor or above. Finally, if you’re new to fish oil, ramp up to your recommended dose slowly.


Q: What happens if I take too much fish oil?

A: Your digestive tract will tell you – and things will “move along” far too quickly for comfort. We can’t imagine the moderate doses we recommend (no more than 4 grams of EPA/DHA per day) would cause digestive upset, however… unless your fish oil was of poor quality, with a low concentration of EPA/DHA.


Q: How do I store fish oil?

A: Keep fish oil in a cool, dark place. Your refrigerator is the ideal location, especially in summer. Fish oil reacts to light and heat, and can turn rancid. Rancid fish oil – obvious based on the smell – should be immediately discarded.


Q: Do I count my fish oil as calories or fat grams?

A: First, why on earth are you counting calories? While different folks have different answers for this question, we say no. The way your body uses EPA and DHA is different than other types of fat – the eicosanoid biosynthetic pathway, the brain, and the retina have first dibs, and EPA and DHA are typically used in these pathways as opposed to being used as “fuel”.


Q: I’m a vegetarian/vegan – are there any plant-based alternatives to fish oil?

A: Algae oil is the best alternative, although it’s nowhere near as effective or cost-efficient as fish oil. Most algae oil contains only DHA, and you’ll find even those that contain some EPA will have an extremely low concentration per pill. It’ll cost you an arm and a leg, but it’ll do the trick.