Fish oil is now one of the most popular supplements out there. This is likely due to the vast body of research on it for supporting multiple diseases. However, it is not without some controversy. Recent data has shown mixed results regarding its effectiveness for longevity.
But like just about all health related topics, you can find results that swing either way. Personally, I think fish oil still can have incredible value to those who are deficient in omega 3 fatty acids due to poor diet, metabolic imbalances, or genetics. How can you know if you are deficient? Simple testing can be done such as with a finger stick sample or a blood draw.
When a supplement says "fish oil", it should contain the two primary components, EPA and DHA. These are omega 3 fatty acids and are the active ingredients that give all the health benefits.
You can think of EPA for "signaling" the immune system to reduce inflammation, and the DHA part for "structure" to support nerve tissue, such as in the brain. After all, the brain is made up of approximately 60% fat.
How does DHA support nerve tissue in the brain? All cells in the body have a fluid membrane, and DHA makes up some of that membrane so that the nerve cell has the proper fluidity to allow chemical messages in and out. If one has a deficiency of DHA, cells in the body, especially nerve cells, can get too "rigid" and not allow for proper messaging, leading to problems like poor memory, anxiety, or depression. Increased DHA intake has shown the ability to improve brain function, quality of life, and short and long term memory.
Additionally, fish oil supplementation with about 4 grams or so has been shown to reduce high cortisol levels and support lean body mass. For those of you that don't know, cortisol is a primary hormone in the body and a stress hormone. When it is chronically elevated, like due to stress, it can cause health problems such as poor memory or blood sugar imbalances.
Our modern diets are full of processed foods high in omega 6 fatty acids, which come from fats like sunflower or palm oil. While omega 6s are essential to health as well, balance is important between the omega 6s and omega 3s. The ideal ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in the body should be somewhere around 1 to 4. In many people nowadays this ratio has shifted to as high as 20 to 1.
Quality of supplements does matter. There are many good products out there, but not all are equal. Fish oil, being a fat that is liquid at room temperature, can become oxidized easily and go rancid. It is important to get a brand with the proper purity and stability as well as potency.
Reviews.com, an independent website, has done an excellent job at finding some of the best OTC brands of fish oil out there. Here is the link: Fish Oil Review.
Additionally, some good professional based brands I like to recommend to my clients are those by Designs For Health and Apex Energetics.