Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for human health and can be found in various sources, including fish, nuts, and supplements.
But are omega-3 supplements are as good as eating fish?
We'll explore the evidence below, including sustainability, purity and dosage, as key considerations.
Eating Fish Vs Fish Oil
One of the main arguments favouring omega-3s through fish consumption is that fish is a 'natural' source of these essential fatty acids.
It is true that fish is a complete wholefood which also contains other nutrients, such as protein and vitamin D, which may benefit overall health.
Most nutritionists conclude, however, that the overall pros of omega-3 supplementation far outweigh the cons, due to reasons of convenience, doseage, purity and sustainability, especially if you omit the fish altogether and choose algae.
We'll explore more on this below.
A Supplement is More Convenient
One of the main benefits of fish oil versus a raw, Inuit lunch is convenience.
It can be difficult to incorporate enough fish into the diet to meet recommended levels of omega-3s, particularly for individuals who do not enjoy fish or have dietary restrictions.
How many of us can catch a nice salmon from unpolluted waters every day, when we're busy with work, the kids, and a million unopened emails.
Fish Oil Supplements are a Much High Dose
Omega-3 supplements are both more cost-effective, and give the ability for a controlled dosage.
The recommended daily intake of EPA and DHA for adults is at least 250-500 mg/day, and a typical serving of cod liver oil contains around 1000-2000 mg of these fatty acids.
To match this amount of EPA and DHA from fish, you would need to eat a significant amount of fish high in these fatty acids.
For example, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of wild salmon contains around 1500-2000 mg of EPA and DHA, while a 3.5-ounce serving of sardines contains around 1000-1500 mg.
As such, a fish or algae oil supplement represents another win over a big fish lunch.
Omega-3 Supplementation is more Sustainable than Eating Fish
Most nutritionists believe that algae oil omega 3 supplements are more environmentally friendly than fish because they do not require the extraction and processing of fish, which can negatively impact marine ecosystems.
Overfishing, habitat destruction, and pollution make fishing an ethically dubious choice for many people, even if they are not vegan or vegetarian.
The documentary film Seaspiracy released in 2021 concluded that commercial fishing is a major threat to the world's oceans and marine life and that it is necessary to reduce or eliminate this activity in order to protect the environment and ensure the sustainability of our oceans. The film suggests that alternative protein sources, such as plant-based options, may be necessary in order to meet human nutritional needs in a more sustainable manner.
As such, an algae based omega-3 supplement is superior to eating fish due to its sustainability and ecological credentials.
Are Fish Oil Supplements as Good as Eating Fish?: The Conclusions
Overall, it seems that both fish consumption and omega-3 supplements can be beneficial for improving health outcomes.
One of the main advantages of algae oil is that it is a plant-based source of omega-3s, making it suitable for vegans and vegetarians and those who avoid animal products for other reasons. On the other hand, cod liver oil is derived from the liver of cod fish and is unsuitable for those following a plant-based diet.
Algae oil is also generally considered to be a more sustainable source of omega-3s compared to products such as cod liver oil. Algae oil production does not rely on fishing or other activities that can negatively impact marine ecosystems, such as overfishing or habitat destruction.
Cod liver oil, on the other hand, is extracted from wild fish and may contribute to overfishing and other environmental impacts.
In terms of health benefits, algae oil and cod liver oil are rich sources of EPA and DHA, two types of omega-3s that are important for brain and heart health.
However, algae oil may have some additional benefits over cod liver oil. For example, some research has suggested that the body may more easily absorb algae oil than cod liver oil, which may make it more effective in improving certain health outcomes.
Overall, algae oil is a plant-based, sustainable alternative to cod liver oil as a source of omega-3s. While both options can provide health benefits, algae oil may have some advantages in terms of sustainability and absorbability.
It is always advisable to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.
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