Consumption of fish is important as it is a good source of protein. It is recommended to consume one fish per day, according to the Malaysian food pyramid. This is because the consumption of fish in Malaysia is rarely equated with a risk of contamination with mercury, etc., unlike in western countries. This might be due to the types of fish and sizes of fish that we are consuming here as compared to other parts of the world. It is said that the bigger the fish, the more contamination it has; hence, there is a recommendation for pregnant mothers to consume small fish rather than big fish to avoid the risk of contamination.
Research on the benefits of fish oil supplementation also varies greatly, which is why in this article we are going to list out who might need a fish oil supplementation in their daily lives!
The benefits of ingesting fish oil can differ significantly between studies. A study found a connection between these omega-3 fatty acids and mental health disorders and that EPA and DHA can speed up brain development even in young children. Additionally, studies have demonstrated that it can help treat cardiovascular diseases, joint pain, and eczema. The question is, is it true that all of these effects can be obtained from fish oil consumption? (1)
Individual with mental health problems/disorders
In three lengthy studies spanning the years 1988 to 2008, researchers looked at the relationship between fatty acid intake and suicide risk among more than 205 000 participants. They discovered no proof that eating fish or fatty acids reduced the risk of suicide. "The vast majority of earlier research on whether fatty acid intake has any positive effects on mental health has been based on results from depression screening. The only time this relationship has been studied with concrete data on suicide mortality is in our study, which is also the largest of its kind.” (2)
While a study found that eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly are better for brain health than taking fish oil or omega-3 fatty acid supplements, A study of 3073 elderly people at risk of macular degeneration, an age-related cause of vision loss, found little benefit from omega-3 supplements on memory. Omega 3 supplements or a placebo were given to study participants at random for a five-year period. According to the researcher, a healthy diet cannot be replaced by a supplement; therefore, if you eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and marine fish, you probably don't need to take a fish oil supplement. According to this study, the overall dietary pattern is more important than a single nutrient (2).
Individuals with cardiovascular disease
Recently, there have been many studies suggesting that Omega 3 will not lower the risk of heart problems. To answer this, Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist from Harvard Medical School, said that he gathered 20 previous studies involving more than 68, 000 patients since 1989 and found that, overall, fish oil supplements did neither harm nor good since they did not significantly reduce people’s risk of mortality, cardiac death, heart attack, or stroke. But according to him, the research link between fish oil supplementation and heart problems is rather complex since it does not only take fish oil to shield the heart from various problems and diseases; it also takes weight status, exercise frequency, cigarette or substance use, and many more (3,4,5).
Which is why, interpreting the study, we would still recommend customers and patients consume more fish as a first-line measure. But if you do not like fish, or you feel like your consumption of fish is not enough, or you simply want to be sure that your body is getting omega 3, there is no harm in taking fish oil; it will certainly help with the essential nutrient, since omega 3 is a nutrient that your body cannot produce and can only get from diet (3,4,5).
Individuals with skin problem
A systematic review for the treatment of atopic dermatitis or eczema using fish oil supplementation is very scarce; the studies available are all small-sample studies. Not only are these three studies small, but they are also described as poor methodological studies by the reviewer, as they have many confounding factors. However, the outcomes of these studies show positive outcomes for eczema and overall daily living as compared to placebo (6, 7).
Another convincing relationship between consumption of fish oil and skin health is that in a study where pregnant women were given fish oil during pregnancy and followed up for 6 years, it was found that consumption of fish oil during pregnancy led to a positive skin health outcome for babies skin. The study also concluded that maternal supplementation with fish oil might have prophylactic potential for long-term prevention of asthma in offspring (6, 7).
In conclusion, consumption of fish oil has mixed results in studies depending on what kind of problem we are looking to solve with fish oil. Since there are various factors influencing a particular health problem, There is no magic pill in this world, honey! You need to, however, eat healthily, consume a lot of vegetables and fruits, and exercise, but if you think that you do not get enough omega 3 from your diet because you dislike fish, are afraid to consume fish regularly due to contamination, etc., or simply would like to make sure that your body has enough omega 3, then there is no harm in taking fish oil supplementation. It's just that in order to make sure you get the right omega 3 for your body, buy it from a pharmacy, make sure the product has a Ministry of Health (MOH) notification number, and simply ask a healthcare professional which omega 3 supplementation suits you, simply for the dosage and perhaps current medication that you are on, and you are good to go!
Harvard T.H Chan. School of Public Health. Fish: Friend or Foe? https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/fish/
Harvard T.H. Chan. School of Public Health. No mental health benefit from fish oil. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/no-mental-health-benefit-from-fish-oil/\
Harvard T.H. Chan. School of Public Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/fish-stroke-risk-mozaffarian/
Harvard T.H Chan. School of Public Health. Major Meta Analysis in Clinical Trial Omega 3 Supplemeny link with lower risk of CVD. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/in-major-meta-analysis-of-clinical-trials-omega-3-fish-oil-supplements-linked-with-lower-cardiovascular-disease-risk/
Harvard T.H. Chan. School of Public Health. Fish Oil Supplementation and Heart Health. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/mozaffarian-fish-oil-supplements-heart-health/
Schlichte, M. J., Vandersall, A., & Katta, R. (2016). Diet and eczema: a review of dietary supplements for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Dermatology practical & conceptual, 6(3), 23–29. https://doi.org/10.5826/dpc.0603a06
Huang, T. H., Wang, P. W., Yang, S. C., Chou, W. L., & Fang, J. Y. (2018). Cosmetic and Therapeutic Applications of Fish Oil’s Fatty Acids on the Skin. Marine drugs, 16(8), 256. https://doi.org/10.3390/md16080256