Fish Oil Supplements: Benefits, Types and Precautions

Parul Dube

October 12, 2022

Oily and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna, sardine, and herring contain fish oil. They provide omega-3 fatty acids and are rich in vitamins A & D. Omega-3 fatty acids comprise a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids. If you don’t eat fish, fish oil supplements are your best bet to fulfil your body’s omega-3 fatty acids requirement. 

The FDA recommends fish oil for daily consumption. It significantly lowers the triglyceride levels of the body and improves heart health. It also ensures proper blood circulation. In addition, it prevents heart diseases and strokes. Fish oil is also beneficial for many kidney-related problems.

The omega-3 fatty acids play multiple roles in our bodies. For example, they help in cell growth and muscle activity. However, since our bodies do not produce omega-3 fatty acids, only foods provide them. These fatty acids also prevent the clotting of blood. They can help avoid strokes.

What is Fish Oil?

Eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids are omega-3 fatty acids found in fish. Animal products, fish, and phytoplankton contain these. Fish oil is a perfect source of omega-3, an essential fat present in the human body. As a result, it provides multiple health benefits. 

Fish bodies have three types of omega-3 fatty acids. These are:

  • Alpha linoleic acid (ALA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

These acids are necessary for performing several body functions. For example, they help improve brain function, inflammatory response, and metabolic signalling. An ideal source of fish oil is fish itself. However, you can consume fish oil supplements containing EPA and DHA.

Foods rich in EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, trout, salmon, albacore, shrimp, halibut, herring, clams, cot, light chunk tuna, and cod. ALA is a different kind of omega-3 acid. Vegetarian food sources such as walnuts, spinach, and flaxseed oil are good sources of ALA.

Health Benefits of Fish Oil

Research proves that fish oil leads to a significant reduction in triglyceride levels. In addition, fish oil is healthy for the body in multiple ways. Some of those are:

  • Reduces blood pressure
  • It makes nails and hair shiny
  • Diminishes plaque growth in the arteries
  • Stabilises irregular heartbeat
  • Decreases the chance of stroke or heart attack
  • Amplifies mental health
  • Strengthens the scalp

Infants get omega-3 through breastfeeding. However, younger children don’t. Therefore, they should consume an omega-3 rich diet for steady growth.

Sources of Fish Oil

There are many great sources of fish oil. All of them have a slew of benefits of their own. Here are the most common sources:

1. Mackerel

Mackerel is a small fatty fish found in saltwater. It is a good source of omega-3. 100 g of mackerel provides up to 5134 mg omega-3 fatty acid. It also has a remarkable taste and provides versatility in cooking.

2. Salmon

Salmon is a highly nutritious food rich in selenium, vitamin B, and D. One hundred grams of salmon contain up to 2260 mg of omega-3 content.

3. Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil is generally considered a fish oil supplement rather than a food. The cod liver oil is extracted from the liver of codfish. There is 2682 mg of omega-3 in a tablespoon of cod liver oil.

4. Anchovies

The tiny oil fish is called anchovies. They are generally canned or dried. One hundred grams of anchovies can provide up to 2113 mg of omega-3 or fish oil.

5. Caviar

Caviar widely includes eggs, fish, or roe. It is a luxurious dish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. One hundred grams of caviar contains up to 6786 mg of omega-3 content.

Other Foods

Another way to consume fish oil is through food sources. Certain food sources are rich in Omega-3. Furthermore, they are very healthy on their own. The vegetable alternative of fish oil supplements for the vegetarians are as follows:

  • Chia seeds
  • Kidney beans
  • Soybean oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Walnuts
  • Canola oil

Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil supplements are omega-3 fatty acids in the form of pills and liquids. Pharma companies produce them in doses ranging from 250-2000 mg. 30% of the fish oil supplements are omega-3s. The remaining 70% is composed of other fats. 

You should consume about 150 g of fish a week, about 2000-3000 mg of omega-3. However, some people prefer not to eat fish. Fish oil supplements are best for them.

The fish oil supplements are an ideal choice for you if you:

  • do not like consuming fish
  • are a vegan or a vegetarian
  • have congestive heart blockage or failure
  • are at risk of multiple heart diseases
  • are suffering from heart disease
  • want to lower your triglyceride

Taking fish oil supplements along with multivitamins is not necessary. However, together they complement a balanced diet. Multivitamin covers your mineral and vitamin needs. Fish oil covers your Omega-3 requirements.

The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of fatty fish oil in humans is:

  • Men: 1600 mg
  • Women: 1100 mg

It is safe for an adult to consume up to 3000 mg of fish oil daily. However, excess consumption can cause side effects. Therefore, healthcare professionals recommend their consumption in the prescribed quantities.

Types of Fish Oil Supplements

The omega-3 acid found in plant sources is Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. However, the omega-3 in fish oil supplements is more healthy than in plant sources. 

The types of fish oil supplements include:


Fish oil supplements are available in a liquid form. Pharma companies pack and sell them in bottles.

Softgel Capsules

The easy-to-swallow fish oil supplements capsules are a popular method of consuming fish oil supplements. 

Benefits of Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil supplements aid the body in many ways, from cardiovascular to bodily to mental health. Here are the significant benefits:

1. Improves Heart Health

Research shows that consuming fish lowers the risk of stroke. In addition, fish oil supplements contribute to a healthy heart in many ways. Some of them are:

  • As per research, fish oil supplements increase good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. An increase in good cholesterol results in the reduction of LDL cholesterol. As a result, it improves heart health.
  • Studies show that fish oil supplements lower triglycerides by 15-30%. Triglycerides are fats in our blood. Higher triglycerides increase the risk of heart diseases.
  • Studies also show that consuming fish oil supplements reduces events of fatal arrhythmia. Arrhythmia comprises irregular heart rhythms which result in heart attacks.
  • Elevated blood pressure levels are harmful to your heart. However, research proves that fish oil supplements reduce blood pressure. As a result, it prevents the heart from severe damage.
  • Fish supplements also prevent plaques. Plaques cause the arteries in our body to harden.

2. Mental Health

Several studies show that the omega-3 in fish oil supplements combat the symptoms of depression. The deficiency of omega-3 in the body can lead to mood disorders and depression. The study also suggests that EPA and DHA help in treating neuropsychiatric conditions like:

  • Dementia
  • Schizophrenia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder for PTSD
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • A decline in cognitive functions, including loss of memory

3. Eye Health

Our eyes need a healthy coating of tears. Without this lubrication, our eyes become red, scratchy and irritable. In addition, it can lead to a condition called dry eye.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology, omega-3 fatty acids have a definite role in dry eye syndrome. An analysis of 32,000 women found that those who consumed the most omega-3 fats from fish had a 17% lower dry eye risk than women who ate little or no seafood. 

Optometrists recommend taking fish oil supplements to support eye health. Studies prove that people with omega-3 deficiency are at greater risk of developing eye diseases.

4. Weight Loss

A randomised trial proves the role of fish oil in effectively reducing weight. It shows that fish oil supplements can aid weight loss. When taken in a balanced diet, it helps improve metabolism. These supplements also enhance the absorption of nutrients in the body, which results in better excretion and faster muscle development. That is how your body gets rid of fats.

Fish oil supplements can also improve body composition. It lowers the risk of heart diseases in obese people.

5. Healthy Pregnancies

Fish oil supplements may help boost the development of the fetus. Furthermore, it aids the growth of their eyes and brain. Therefore, it is recommended to consume fish oil supplements during pregnancy. However, pregnant women should avoid high levels of mercury in fish during this time. That makes fish oil supplements all the more important for pregnant women.

A 2011 research showed that consuming omega-3 or fish oil supplements during pregnancy also helps improve memory function in children. Therefore, prenatal vitamins also contain EPA and DHA. They are essential for the development of the fetus. Furthermore, a 2018 study, women with lower omega-3 levels during pregnancy or breastfeeding are more likely to develop postpartum depression. 

6. Improves Bone Strength

Age-related bone and muscle loss are major public health problems. Studies show that high omega-3 consumption results in better bone mineral density. Fish oil supplements also help in improving morning stiffness. It also relieves the pain and reduces tenderness of joints.

7. Combats Asthma

Asthma is a disease that leads to shortness of breath. It is primarily due to swelling in the lungs. Approximately 90% of patients with asthma are hyperresponsive to exercise, which is the leading trigger in asthma. As per research, dietary omega-3 PUFA supplementation may be a viable treatment modality and adjunct therapy in airway hyperresponsiveness. As a result, it can reduce symptoms of asthma. 

8 . Rejuvenates Hair

Omega fatty acids in fish oil supplements are high in nutrients and proteins and can help boost your hair from the inside out. For example, taking an omega-3 supplement with antioxidants can help to increase hair density and diameter. It also aids in the prevention of hair loss.

Possible Side Effects of Fish Oil Supplements

When taken in the prescribed quantities, fish oil supplements are relatively safe to consume. However, a high dose of fish oil supplements can lead to some side effects. These include:

  • Bad breath
  • Foul-smelling urine
  • Scaly skin
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhoea
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Fever chills
  • Body aches
  • Increased risk of bleeding
  • Rash
  • A fishy aftertaste
  • Uneven heartbeats
  • Increased risk of stroke

For most people who include fish or fish oil in their diet, there is no need to opt for fish oil supplements. However, as per research, fish oil supplements usually don’t have any severe adverse effects on an individual. On the other hand, omega-3 supplements can trigger side effects. These can cause gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion, diarrhoea or belching.

Precautions and Things to Remember

Fish oil supplements are generally safe for adults when consumed up to 3000 mg every day. 

DHA is necessary for the eyesight and brain development of a baby. You can obtain DHA through either fish or fish oil supplements. However, there are still some precautions you need to keep in mind while opting for fish oil supplements. They are:

  • People on medication should consult a medical professional before consuming fish oil supplements.
  • Non-fish-eaters can obtain omega-3 through fish oil supplements made from algal oil. Algal oil is a sea alga through which DHA is obtained.
  • People with diabetes should avoid consuming fish oil supplements in high doses. Instead, they should consult their doctor before opting for the same.
  • People who are allergic to shellfish or fish, in general, might face some complications if they consume fish oil supplements.
  • Fish oil supplements are omega-3 supplements. They can affect blood clotting in the body and interfere with administered medicines and drugs.
  • Some fish oil supplements such as cod liver oil are highly rich in vitamin A. However, this vitamin can be toxic to the human body when consumed in large quantities.


Fish oil supplements are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. They are vital nutrients for our bodies. Fish oil and fish oil supplements usually consist of DHA and EPA. These fatty acids in fish oil supplements help regulate brain function and inflammatory response and facilitate the functioning of various pathways for metabolic signalling. 

The best way to obtain fish oil is through the consumption of fish. However, if you do not prefer eating fish, fish oil supplements are best to fulfil your dietary needs. Fish oil supplements support heart health and the functioning of the brain. But as with all things, you should consume supplements moderately with a balanced diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the benefits of fish oil supplements?

A. Fish oil supplements prevent heart diseases by regulating blood pressure and cholesterol. The omega-3 acid present in fish oil supplements reduces the chances of various mental health disorders and eye problems. It supports weight loss, improves bone health, and reduces asthma symptoms. It is also beneficial for pregnancy and infant health. 

Q. Which is the best omega-3 or fish oil?

A. Fish oil is better as it contains more benefits than omega-3 on its own. Furthermore, fish oil itself is rich in omega-3. Therefore, it is an excellent addition to any balanced diet. Moreover, fish oil supplements generally have no severe side effects. In contrast, omega-3 fatty acids may lead to gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion, diarrhoea or belching.

Q. Is it good to take fish oil every day?

A. It is safe for an adult to consume up to 3000 mg of fish oil daily. However, excess consumption can cause some side effects. Therefore, it is essential to consult a medical professional before taking fish oil supplements and consuming them only in the prescribed quantities.

Q. Does fish oil make you gain weight?

A. No. Fish oil supplements, when combined with proper diet and exercise, can help in rapid weight loss. They aid metabolism, which helps the body lose waste faster. Fish oils also help build muscle and reduce fat.

Q. What are the side effects of taking fish oil?

A. Fish oil supplements usually don’t have any severe adverse effects on your health. However, a high dose of fish oil supplements can lead to mild issues like bad breath and skin, urine with a fishy smell, heartburn, diarrhoea, chest pain, etc.

Q. How many fish oil pills should I take a day?

A. It is safe to consume up to 3000mg of fish oil daily for an adult. The doses for a child, an adult, and an infant will differ. Nevertheless, there are no fixed amounts of pills you can take in a day. 

Q. Upto what age can people consume fish oil?

A. People of any age can consume fish oil. However, the doses are different for all age groups, and you should consult a medical professional before consuming fish oil.

Q. Does fish oil make you smell down there?

A. An excess of fish oil consumption can lead to bad breath and body odour. Also, armpits, groin and feet are regions susceptible to foul smell.

Q. Are fish oil pills good for your hair?

A. Omega fatty acids, present in fish oil supplements, are high in nutrients and proteins and can help boost your hair from the inside out. Taking an omega supplement with antioxidants can help to increase hair density and diameter. It also aids in the prevention of hair loss.

Q. Does fish oil help skin?

A. Omega-3 fatty acids, present in fish oil supplements, may help to protect your skin from sunburns, minimise the severity of skin redness after UV exposure, and alleviate the symptoms of photosensitive diseases.

Q. Does fish oil help nails and hair?

A. Yes. Fish oil leads to a significant reduction in triglyceride levels, which can make nails and hair shiny.

Q. Can I take multivitamins and fish oil together?

A. It is not necessary to take both multivitamins and fish oil supplements together. However, taking them together can significantly improve the quality of your diet. That is because a multivitamin covers nutritional gaps for nutrients that you don’t receive through meals.

Q. Can I take vitamin C and fish oil together?

A. Combining fish oil and vitamin C supplementation can have a higher anti-inflammatory impact. Therefore, consult a medical professional before taking multiple supplements together.

Q. Is fish oil good for men?

A. Fish oil has many benefits because of the omega3 fatty acids. For example, it increases fertility and improves heart health in men. Fish oil supplements reduce the chances of various mental health disorders and eye problems. 

Q. Can you take fish oil if you have diabetes?

A. People with diabetes should avoid consuming fish oil supplements in high doses and should consult their doctor before opting for the same. Supplementing high doses of omega-3 fatty acids can raise blood sugar levels in diabetics. That is because excessive amounts of omega-3 can increase glucose synthesis, leading to high long-term blood sugar levels.

Q. Does fish oil reduce blood sugar?

A. No. There is no scientific evidence to prove that fish oil helps reduce blood sugar levels. However, it helps boost immunity and prevent several diseases in diabetics.

About the Author

Parul holds a Masters of Medical Science in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and has worked across the globe from the U.K to New Zealand (NZ) gaining her License with the Health Professionals Council (HPC, UK) and the NZ Nutrition Council. From being a Gold medalist in Clinical Nutrition to being awarded an internship with World Health Organisation (WHO, Cairo, Egypt) and Contracts with CDC Parul has had a wide spectrum of work experiences. She is very passionate about Nutrition and Fitness and holds strong to her guiding mantras ‘ Move more’ and ‘Eat Food that your grandmother can recognize’!

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