What Does Fish Oil Do for Your Health?

Rosie Siefert

Like many other supplements on the market promising to relieve pain, help you meet your daily dietary requirements or prevent certain diseases, fish oil has plenty of hype surrounding it. But should you take it?

How the Environment Impacts Your Health

Fish is one of those heart-healthy foods to add to our diets as it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, an essential nutrient that we can’t make in our bodies. The American Heart Association recommends consuming fatty fish at least twice a week. Salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines are particularly rich in omega-3s.

People who don’t like fish or people who don’t consume it regularly need to get their omega-3s in other dietary ways. Some foods such as flaxseeds, edamame and walnuts also have omega-3s, but not as much per serving as fish. When fish oil supplements hit the market, many saw them as a welcome new way of getting necessary nutrients without having to eat fish. That's a misconception.

Health professionals don’t necessarily recommend them as a way to meet all your dietary needs. As with other supplements, fish oil supplements shouldn’t be consumed in replacement of the actual food they come from. You need “the entire orchestra of fish fats, vitamins, minerals and supporting molecules,” according to Harvard Medical School, in order to have an overall healthy diet.

Fish oil has been shown to improve heart health, lower high blood pressure and reduce the effects of rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Mayo Clinic, but it can also interact with certain drugs and have side effects such as increased risk of bleeding, indigestion and nausea. Before beginning a regime, here’s everything else you should know about fish oil.