Getting enough healthy fats into your diet can have lasting benefits for your health. Many health problems are linked to low healthy fat consumption. This is because healthy fats have an important role in reducing unhealthy inflammatory status in the body.
In this article, we’ll discuss the role of one type of healthy fat, omega-3 fatty acids, and compare three popular omega-3 supplement types and their health benefits. If you’ve wondered whether krill, fish, or flaxseed oil is the best option for you with respect to getting enough healthy fats, read on.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid Benefits
Omega-3 fatty acids are needed in every cell in the body. Your eyes and brain have high levels of DHA. Omega-3s also aid in the proper function of the heart, lungs, immune system, and hormones. Omega-3s are naturally found in foods like fatty fish, plant oils, and seeds.
There are no current standards set for the required amount of omega-3 fatty acids besides the type alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Men need 1.6 g of ALA per day, while women need 1.1 g of ALA per day.
A few plant foods have omega-3 ALA, but this has practically no function in our cells and is hard for the body to convert into EPA and DHA. Best estimates are that only about 5 mg of DHA can be made from 1000 mg of ALA. Some people have enzyme mutations that make this conversion process complicated, if not impossible.
In addition to getting your daily requirement from healthy foods, there are also several kinds of supplements available. Some research indicates that these supplements may have benefits for certain heart conditions, although more research is needed. This can help reduce the number of anti-inflammatory prescriptions needed to manage these diseases.
Overall, omega-3s are needed for proper functioning in the body, and there’s evidence that they can be a helpful part of a treatment plan for many common ailments.
Krill Oil Benefits
Krill oil is made from small, shrimp-like crustaceans that are commonly eaten by whales. This oil is made by harvesting the krill and extracting their fats which are then encapsulated and used medicinally.
Some studies have demonstrated that krill oil can help reduce LDL cholesterol, commonly called “bad” cholesterol because of its negative effects on the heart and blood vessels when too much of it circulates in your body.
Other research indicates krill oil may have an anti-inflammatory effect, with one study noting participants reported reduced knee pain and stiffness when taking krill oil compared to a placebo. One study found that an antioxidant found in krill oil, astaxanthin, may have the ability to reduce excessive oxidative stress.
Krill oil has a similar fat content to fish oil and offers similar benefits. However, there are some key differences between these two oils. Krill oil is more bioavailable than fish oil, meaning it can be absorbed better by your body.
One meta-analysis showed that there’s little difference in how these two oils alter cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These biomarkers are indicators of your risk for heart problems.
Overall, krill oil has benefits to heart health and anti-inflammatory properties. While it has some advantages over fish oil, whether this one is best for you will largely depend on you.
If you’re taking blood thinners or have a blood clotting issue, krill oil may enhance the effects of these medications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking this supplement. Along those same lines, it’s necessary to stop taking these medications before having any surgeries or procedures to reduce the risk of excessive bleeding, too.
Fish Oil Benefits
Fish oil has well-documented benefits compared to krill and flaxseed oil. Fish oil is often the standard recommended supplement when your doctor wants you to get more omega-3s in your diet. However, despite its popularity, the evidence of these benefits is mixed overall.
The most frequently discussed benefit of taking a fish oil supplement is the benefits of DHA in fish oil for brain and heart health. Some research suggests fish oil can help slow cognitive decline.
It may also support a healthy mood. One review of studies notes that while more research is needed, fish oil supplements can help increase lubrication between joints.
There’s evidence that fish oil may increase insulin sensitivity. Blood sugar problems would benefit from this because this means the insulin your body makes can be more effective at keeping your blood sugar levels stabilized.
Some research has caused controversy because it suggests that fish oil may not have the benefits it claims to. One study states that because supplements aren’t required to be reviewed for effectiveness by the FDA before approval, they may contain lower levels of omega-3s than what they claim. This would make them less effective and unlikely to deliver on the promises made on the supplement’s label.
Some studies discuss how omega-3s are thought to help treat skin conditions.
Although the data is mixed, you can discuss starting a fish oil supplement with your healthcare provider to determine if it could be beneficial in your specific situation. Fish oil can interact with many medications, so be sure to ask your provider before you start taking this supplement if you take prescription medications.
Flaxseed Oil Benefits
Flaxseed oil is made by extracting the oil from flax seeds, which come from the flax plant. Much like krill oil and fish oil, it’s high in omega-3s. The overall benefits of flaxseed oil compared to fish oil are similar in terms of increasing antioxidant capacity.
One key difference between flaxseed oil compared to krill and fish oil is that this is a better option for plant-based eaters or vegans from a dietary preference standpoint. If you have moral or other objections to eating animal products, flaxseed oil is a great way to get similar benefits while sticking to your dietary preferences. Another unique finding of flaxseed oil is that it may aid in weight management.
Like krill oil, flaxseed oil may interact with certain medications. Ezetimibe, a common cholesterol-lowering drug, may be rendered less effective if taken with flaxseed oil, so consult your healthcare provider if you’re taking this drug. As a precaution, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new supplement if you’re currently taking any other medications or herbal supplements.
Which Omega-3 Supplement is Right for You?
Now that you know how these three supplements compare, how do you decide which one is best for you to take?
They have similar benefits, and some differences in considerations you should make based on your current medications, underlying conditions, and dietary preferences.
There’s enough evidence to support that these supplements each have some benefit for those wanting to reduce their chances of serious illness. The decision to pick a specific supplement will ultimately vary based on your personal needs.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for health and longevity. While it’s necessary and possible to get omega-3s from your diet alone, those who don’t regularly consume fish and vegans may benefit from supplementing.
It’s important to note that supplementation is just one of the ways you can meet your daily needs for healthy fats. Consuming animal products, such as eating fatty fish at least twice a week, also can help get omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
The best omega-3 supplement for you will depend on your personal needs and preferences. A registered dietitian or your doctor can help you decide which one will best suit your needs based on any underlying conditions you may have, your family history, and your risk factors.
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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