Are Fish Oil Pills Worth Taking? A New Study Says You’re Better Off Eating Fish Straight Up
I have trouble consistently taking any vitamins unless they either immediately make me feel incredible (this has yet to happen, TBH) or taste indistinguishable from those fruit gummies. So something as weird as fish oil pills have always been a hard sell for me, especially because I can't stop imagining how they harvest that oil. I suppose if they were proven to make me live forever or something, I might give them a try. But are fish oil pills really worth taking? Lucky for me, and you, and your wallet, no, they're really not.
New research from the University of East Anglia (UEA) combined the results from over 79 trials — which in total involved more than 100,000 participants, all from various locations in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia — and found little to no evidence that taking fish oil supplements actually benefits heart health, which is basically the purported point of taking these types of pills in the first place. Throughout the study, participants were randomly assigned to either supplement their diets with omega 3 pills, "or to maintain their usual intake of fat for at least a year," according to the study's press release. The research found that those who added extra omega 3s didn't have significantly healthier hearts than those who didn't add those extra nutrients to their diet. In a statement, lead researcher Dr. Lee Hooper, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, explained,
The findings of this review go against the popular belief that long-chain omega 3 supplements, including fish oils, protect the heart. This large systematic review included information from many thousands of people over long periods. Despite all this information, we don’t see protective effects.
Instead, Hooper said, plant sources of omega 3s seem to be most effective in benefiting heart health. The study found some evidence that certain nuts — especially walnuts — and plant oils, such as rapeseed or canola oil, may be a better option than fish oil pills.
What's more, Dr. Hooper explained, eating actual, flesh-and-bone fish may still help keep your heart healthy.
Not only are you getting the straight-up omega 3s when you have a fillet of fish, but you're also getting an abundance of other good things to nourish your body. "You're also getting a protein source that replaces something else in your diet like saturated fat," Dr. Hooper told The Times, "and seafood has selenium, iron, and vitamin D. All of these are useful nutrients.”
If fish isn't a usual staple in your diet, or you're just not sure how to go about choosing the best kinds for your body, Lindsey Kane, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at Sun Basket, has you covered. While different types of fish are great for supplying you with different nutrients, Kane tells Elite Daily that if you're specifically looking to boost your omega 3s, you should try to eat fat-rich fish like salmon, halibut, or tuna. If, on the other hand, your priority is getting more calcium, fish like sardines or anchovies are great because of their tiny, edible bones (eek).
But how much fish do you need to eat in order to reap the benefits?
Kane says that, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should aim for at least two 4-ounce servings of fish per week, which is about the size of a deck of cards — that's just a minimum, though. "The best time of day to eat fish is whenever your heart desires," Kane tells Elite Daily.
She adds that eating raw fish (hello sushi) is great for your health, too, as it "preserves the most nutrients, since some nutrients are heat-sensitive," she explains. But before you go chowing down on grocery store salmon straight from the package, make sure you're choosing fish that's sushi-grade, if you intend to eat it raw. "Otherwise, go ahead and cook your fish," Kane says, "and keep in mind, a shorter cooking time and lower temperatures will preserve the most nutrients."
If you're looking to learn how to roast fish, Bon Appétit breaks down some great beginners' guidelines to help you get started. And of course, given that fish has a fairly neutral taste on its own, the flavor combinations for jazzing up a plate of the stuff are practically endless. If you really want to amp up the omega 3 power, try brushing your fillets with rapeseed oil or making a delicate walnut crust.
Honestly, roasted fish sounds much tastier than a pill full of fish oil anyway, so I'm considering this to be good news all-around.