Depending on the kind of medical practitioner you consult, or which headline you read, fish oil supplements are either a waste of money, or they can help improve conditions such as dry skin, joint pain, poor memory, and hot flashes. Some studies have even shown that fish oil may help prevent heart disease. How can one supplement claim all these benefits?
To get to the bottom of this, I asked Dr. Tori Hudson, a Naturopathic Doctor, who knows a thing or two about fish oil. She’s the author of several books on women’s health including Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine and Menopause: Maintain Health and Vitality. She also is on the advisory board of Nordic Naturals, which makes and distributes more than 150 Fish Oil products. She explained that fish oil can be especially beneficial for menopausal women. Here’s a summary of what I learned:
Six Benefits of Fish Oil Supplements
- Fish oil can indeed help with hot flashes. It’s not a cure, but two recent studies showed a significant reduction in frequency.
- It also promotes healthy bones by increasing the absorption of calcium and reducing how much calcium gets secreted.
- When it comes to cardiovascular health, fish oil helps by lowering cholesterol levels; and reducing the risk of heart disease as well as preventing its progression in those who already have CV issues. It may also slow the progression of atherosclerosis, thus preventing heart attacks.
- Fish oil can be helpful in certain kinds of arrhythmias, or irregular heart beats, a not uncommon complaint of women during the menopause transition.
- DHA is particularly beneficial during pregnancy for fetal brain and eye development. In our later years, it supports brain aging and depression and also helps prevent macular degeneration. Women experiencing memory issues, or mood swings during menopause would benefit from from a Fish Oil that is heavier on the DHA than the EPA.
- On the other hand, if you’re complaining of joint pain (inflammation)you’d want more EPA than DHA.
When it comes to fish oil, Dr. Hudson told me that you definitely get what you pay for.
“You have to consider taste, rancidity, freshness and purity,” she said. “What contaminants have been tested for and removed? Potency is another issue that suffers when you buy lower quality fish oil. “It’s often lower in cheaper brands,” she added.
Last year, ConsumerLab.com tested 24 Fish Oil products and only 17 of them passed quality testing, meeting requirements for freshness and purity and containing their claimed amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. Three of them were found to be spoiled.