Despite its popularity, I had never really considered taking a fish oil supplement, mostly because I think the pills are huge and hard to swallow. But one day, my mom quite literally showed up at my doorstep with a bottle in hand and I decided to give it a go.
I'm vegetarian and I don't always get the nutrients I need. Many of those nutrients come from fish, and Mom thought the supplements would be a good way to stay on top of my health. OK fine, I'll be honest, I actually had no idea what those nutrients were, what they did or whether my body was being affected by their absence. But I tried the pills nonetheless and I went in blind.
For exactly one month, I took one pill a day with water in the morning before leaving the house for work — and before making breakfast on weekends — and waited for something to happen. And ... nothing happened. Was it working? Did someone give me a placebo? Was I being Punk'd? I had only ever heard of pregnant women taking fish oil to nurture their growing babies, so halfway through my experiment, I turned to Google for answers.
Here's the scoop: Fish oil is jam-packed with omega-3 fatty acids that play an important role in brain function, growth, development and inflammation. Our bodies don’t have the ability to produce these fatty acids on their own, so we have to get them from fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, or by taking a supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids are touted as helping with depression and anxiety; eye, brain, liver, bone, joint and heart health; ADHD; metabolic syndrome; inflammation; asthma; autoimmune diseases like Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis; psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; age-related mental decline; menstrual pain; and sleep.
The World Health Organization recommends one to two servings of fish per week, but if you don’t eat seafood, you can take a supplement. A person’s daily intake of omega-3s depends on a number of factors, but according to the National Institutes of Health, 1,600 milligrams are adequate for men and 1,100 milligrams are suggested for women 14 and older. To decide what’s best for you, consult a doctor.
I, however, did not, and went with a dosage of 1,400 milligrams because, well, that's what my mom showed up with. The brand was Finest Nutrition, and the bottle came with 90 large, softgel tablets. You can find this or something similar at your local drug store or online through retailers like Amazon.
Like I said earlier, I didn't really know what to expect from this. I'm a relatively healthy 25-year-old who has never worn prescription glasses — only the ones that block those awful blue light rays from the computer screen. My brain is fine, I think, though I should really read more, and my bones and joints feel just as they always have. I am, in a sense, what my grandfather might call a "spring chicken."
But, like 40 million other adults in America, I do have anxiety. I didn't experience relief from the fish oil, and I wasn’t exactly expecting to given all the other influences that contribute to these emotions. So after considering my options, I figured there were two things that I was hoping to get from the experiment.
The first was healthier skin. Mine is miserably dry year-round. Admittedly much of it is my fault because I don’t always drink enough water and I only moisturize my face, but still. I started the experiment during cold-weather months and was the dryest I had ever been in my life. The back of my hands felt like sandpaper and three of my knuckles were cracked. My skin was begging for mercy, but it didn’t get any from the fish oil. Is this how my house plants feel? That they could turn to dust at the drop of a hat? It's time to subscribe to lotion, I guess.
My second hope was in regards to my heart. Over the past couple years, I developed premature ventricular contractions, or PVCs — a type of abnormal and uncomfortable heartbeat. According to my cardiologist, mine are caused by unnatural adrenaline provoked by undetermined factors like alcohol, coffee or stress, to name a few. Because omega-3s protect the heart, I was curious to see if fish oil would give me any relief. Studies show that it has very little effect on people with this issue. Now I, too, can confirm that.
So basically, I didn’t notice any differences, but I could be experiencing things blind to the human eye. Research suggests that omega-3s support the prevention of larger complications like heart disease, cancer (colon, esophageal, oral, rectal, breast and prostate) and dementia. Also, it could take anywhere from six weeks to six months to see a significant change, so I’m going to keep taking it. To learn more about the potential benefits of this supplement, here’s everything you need to know about fish oil.