Fish Oil – Benefits and Contraindications

In recent years, many people have turned to fish oil supplements.

Fish oil supplements are high in Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients that are important for preventing and controlling diseases that affect the heart and brain.

In addition, fish oil may have other benefits, such as improving fetal health for pregnant women and reducing inflammation.

This article details the benefits of fish oil, its possible contraindications, and side effects.

What is fish oil?

Fish oil is the fat or oil that is extracted from fish tissue.

It usually comes from blue fish, such as herring, tuna, anchovies, and mackerel. However, it can also be obtained from the livers of other fish, such as cod liver oil.

About 30% of fish oil is made up of omega-3s, while the remaining 70% is made up of other fats. Additionally, fish oil generally contains some vitamin A and D.

The main omega-3s in fish oil are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).


Fish oil benefits

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating 1 or 2 servings of fish per week. (1)

This is because the omega-3 fatty acids in fish provide many health benefits, such as protection against heart and brain disease.

However, if you don’t eat 1–2 servings of fish per week, fish oil supplements can help you get enough omega-3s.

Here are 7 benefits of fish oil.

1. Can help improve heart health

Fish oil can improve bad cholesterol levels, triglycerides, reduce high blood pressure and arterioclerosis.

According to studies, taking 500 mg of Omega-3 fish oil per day could help prevent the risk of heart attack and sudden death by up to 18%. (2.3)

These benefits are primarily attributed to EPA and DHA. Two types of omega-3s found in fish oil in greater amounts than in plant sources.

Recommended: DASH diet for people with hypertension

2. Improve brain health

50-60% of the solid matter found in the brain is fat and the quality of this fat is the most important for your health.

Unlike the fat that is deposited in the buttocks and abdomen, brain fat is mainly composed of Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in the brain.

Therefore, the omega-3s in fish oil can affect everything from mood to learning.

Some studies suggest that people with certain mental disorders have lower levels of omega-3s in the body. (4)

Others suggest that fish oil supplements can prevent the onset or improve cognitive abilities and improve some symptoms of mental disorders. (5)

Additionally, high-dose fish oil supplementation may reduce some symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Recommended: 8 Foods That Help Strengthen the Brain

3. It can reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system

Inflammation is your immune system’s way of fighting infections and trying to heal injuries.

However, having chronic inflammation is associated with serious illnesses, such as diabetes, depression, and heart disease.

Because fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties, it can help treat conditions associated with chronic inflammation.

A systematic review has found more than 5 studies confirming that fish oil can help reduce type I inflammation in older adults. (3)

This is apparently because fish oil can reduce the production of inflammatory molecules called cytokines.

Recommended: How to strengthen the immune system?

4. It can reduce fatty liver

Fatty liver disease is becoming more and more common these days. Its main cause is a poor diet, in particular due to excess poor quality fats and sugar.

Fish oil supplements can improve liver function and inflammation, which can help reduce the amount of fat in the liver.

If your doctor has detected that you have fatty liver syndrome, ask if it is appropriate to take fish oil capsules.

Recommended: Fatty liver diet

5. Benefits for pregnant women

During pregnancy, a high demand and rapid accumulation of Omega-3 fatty acids occurs in the baby. These fats are used for the formation of the eye and the brain. (3)

Because the mother is the only source of DHA, it is essential that a pregnant and nursing mother consume enough omega-3s. Taking fish oil can be a safe and healthy source of these nutrients.

Additionally, taking fish oil supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding can also help reduce the risk of allergies.

6. It can help you lose weight

Globally, about 40% of adults are overweight and 12% are obese.

Obesity and being overweight can significantly increase your risk for other diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

Fish oil supplements can improve body composition and heart disease risk factors in obese people.

Also, some studies indicate that fish oil supplements, in combination with diet or exercise, can help you lose weight. (6)

Recommended: How to lose weight? – Methods that do work

7. It can help prevent cancer

Several investigations have studied the effects and benefits of omega 3 fatty acids in fish oil in treating cancer.

In fact, a positive relationship between omega-3 intake and cancer has been confirmed. This is apparently due to a protective effect
of fatty acids on healthy cell membranes. (7)

There are studies with cells and animals in which it was confirmed that omega 3 fatty acids inhibited the growth of breast, pancreas, lung and colon tumors as well as metastasis.

In fact, today doctors and researchers propose new therapeutic strategies that combine conventional chemotherapy with omega-3 treatment.

While more studies are still needed to confirm these benefits, the preliminary results are promising.

Side effects and contraindications

Taking up to 3 grams of fish oil supplements is considered safe. However, some may experience any of these side effects:

  • Fishy taste and breath in the mouth.
  • Nausea and upset stomach
  • Change in taste
  • Heartburn and belching
  • Taking more than 3 grams of fish oil a day can increase the risk of bleeding.

If you want to take higher doses of omega-3 fish oil supplements, talk to your doctor first. Some medications such as blood thinners may intensify side effects. For people with very high triglycerides, there are also prescription omega-3 supplements.


  • Allergy to seafood, vitamin D or E
  • Some blood thinning medications: warfarin, colistazole, cropidogel, propanolol
  • Diuretics
  • Contraceptives and estrogen therapies


Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds are associated with several health benefits.

Some of the benefits of fish oil are improving heart and brain health, reducing inflammation, and enhancing fetal development.

Also, while more studies need to be done, research suggests that taking 500 mg of fish oil per day may help prevent certain types of cancer.

Although fish oil supplements are considered safe, taking more than 3 grams per day could cause certain side effects and contraindications. Always consult your doctor before taking these supplements.

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