Skip to main content

We’ve updated our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy. By using this site, you agree to these terms.

There’s nothing fishy about this supplement that may boost brain health, protect your heart and more.

Looking for a way to get a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids? You could try eating fish. But if you’re not a fan of seafood, fish oil is a simple and effective substitute.

Taking fish oil is a great and inexpensive way to get your daily value of key nutrients. Here’s what to know about this powerful supplement.

What is fish oil?

Fish oil is a dietary supplement that contains high levels of omega-3s. It’s widely available at drug or grocery stores or online.

“Fish oil can support muscle activity, overall heart health and so much more,” explains Matt Gerhart, ambulatory clinical pharmacist at LIFE Geisinger in Lewistown.

Whether you prefer capsule, liquid or pill form, fish oil supplements contain two forms of omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)

“These omega-3s are typically found in fatty fish, including salmon and trout, and also other seafood, like crab,” says Gerhart.

What does fish oil do?

Their full names may twist the tongue, but these two omega-3 fatty acids are great for the rest of your body. DHA can boost brain health, while EPA has anti-inflammatory benefits. Together, they can improve or even prevent certain chronic conditions. Taking fish oil can:

Help lower blood pressure

Taking fish oil is believed to reduce blood pressure — especially if you have moderate to severe high blood pressure.

And while fish oil can’t prevent heart attacks or strokes, it can reduce the risk factors associated with both, including:

  • Increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • Lowering triglycerides (fat in your blood)
  • Slightly lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing the buildup of plaque, which hardens and blocks arteries
  • Reducing the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)

Boost brain and mental health

Omega-3s play a huge role in brain development and function and are even helpful in improving mild memory loss. They can also help improve symptoms of depression.

“If you’re living with depression or have mild memory loss, talk with your doctor about treatments that may be best for you,” says Gerhart.

Relieve rheumatoid arthritis

Feeling achy? If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), try fish oil to help treat its symptoms, including joint tenderness, morning stiffness and swelling.

“People with RA are at an increased risk of having a heart attack, and taking a fish oil supplement may also help lower their risk,” says Gerhart.

Protect your eyes

The essential fatty acids in fish oil supplements may play a big role in eye health. Fish oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent dry eyes. It can also reduce your risk of developing eye conditions like macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Give your skin a healthy glow

Want to get that perfect, dewy skin? Take a fish oil supplement. The omega-3s can hydrate your skin, regulate production of oil and help minimize breakouts. “Fish oil also helps soothe dry, irritated skin,” Gerhart says.

How much fish oil should you take?

“Fish oil doesn’t have a recommended daily dose,” says Gerhart. When comparing supplements, start by reading the label. The recommended daily dose of fish oil for women is 1,100 mg. For men, it’s 1,600. That dose can change if you’re pregnant or have a medical condition.

Before you start taking fish oil, have a conversation with your healthcare provider to find the right dose for you.

Side effects of fish oil

Fish oil supplements are generally considered safe, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

“Too much fish oil may increase the risk of bleeding,” says Gerhart. “And it might affect your immune response as well.” It's also unclear if fish oil is safe for those with seafood allergies.

Other side effects may include:

  • A fishy aftertaste (a “burpless” formula can avoid that)
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash

“As with any medication, you should speak with your doctor before taking it,” says Gerhart. “They’ll know your medical history and possible interactions with medications, and they can help you choose supplements.”

Next steps: 

Does aspirin really help your heart health?
Here’s how supplements can help your overall health.
Get to know Geisinger Pharmacy

Content from General Links with modal content