What is the benefit of taking fish oil capsules?

Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Fish oils are fats found in fatty fish (e.g. mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon) that have been shown to have many potential benefits related to maintaining cardiovascular, brain, eye and hearing health. The goals of fish oil capsules are to provide a source of these important fatty acids in a mercury-free, easy-to-ingest form for people not consuming fatty fish at least 2-4 times per week.

Fish oils are a rich source of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, better known as omega-3 fatty acids. The two most studied omega-3 fatty acids are the 20-carbon eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the 22-carbon docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Due to current dietary habits, the median intake of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA for Americans is approximately 128 mg/day, well below any level of benefit. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data reveals that fish intake is approximately three ounces per week and, moreover, from seafood that is not high in omega-3 fatty acids. A recent published review concluded that there is extensive evidence from three decades of research that fish oils, or more specifically the omega-3 fatty acids contained in them, are beneficial for everyone. This includes healthy people as a supplement for disease prevention as well as those with heart disease -- including post myocardial infarction (MI) patients and those with heart failure, atherosclerosis, or atrial fibrillation. If you are seeking the potential benefits of fish oils, look for fish oil capsules containing ~600 mg of omega-3's made up of 360 mg of EPA and 240 mg of DHA. Take 1 capsule daily if not consuming 2 to 4 servings per week of fatty fish unless a qualified health professional advises more for a specific condition.
Kate Geagan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Watch as Nutritionist Kate Geagan discusses the health benefits of taking fish oil capsules or supplements. 

Continue Learning about Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplements

Whether you're visiting the drug store, grocery or natural food shop you'll likely find an aisle where there are jars and bottles of things for you to put in your body that are neither foods nor medicines. Ranging from vitamins an...

d minerals to fiber and herbal remedies, these supplements are not regulated in the same way as either food or medicine. Some of them are backed by solid research, others are folk remedies or proprietary cures. If your diet does not include enough of certain vitamins or minerals, a supplement may be a good idea. Natural treatment for conditions like constipation may be effective. But because these substances are unregulated, it is always a good idea to educate yourself about the products and to use common sense when taking them. This is even more true if you are pregnant or taking a medicine that may be affected by supplements.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.