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Fish Oil vs Omega 3: What's the Difference?

by Chad Newman
Fish Oil vs Omega 3: What's the Difference?

When you go to the supplement section of your favorite store, you might feel confused because there are so many options to help your health. Two of them are fish oil and omega 3. They both have labels with different benefits, like helping you think better or improving your heart health.

Yet, the distinction between these two is frequently misunderstood.

It's important to know the difference of fish oil vs omega 3 supplements so that you can make informed choices about your health. This will help you understand which compounds your body needs.

Defining Fish Oil vs Omega 3

Fish oil vs omega 3 - is there a difference?

Fish oil comes from from the tissue of oily fish, containing various omega 3 fatty acids, including Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These help your body do important things like keeping your heart healthy and helping your brain work well.

On the flip side, "Omega 3" refers to a broader classification of polyunsaturated fatty acids that encompass a variety of compounds beyond those found in fish oil. These essential fats cannot be synthesized by the human body and therefore must be obtained through diet or supplementation. The spectrum of omega 3 fatty acids includes not only EPA and DHA, but also Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is found in plant sources such as flaxseeds and walnuts.

Fish Oil vs Omega 3

Some of the main differences of fish oil vs omega 3

Fish oil provides a complex blend of nutrients, including vitamins A and D, which support overall health and wellness.

Fish oil contains anti-inflammatory properties, contributing to its array of health benefits beyond omega 3 fatty acids. This is just one of the main differences of fish oil vs omega 3.

Fish oil also contains antioxidants such as astaxanthin, which can help combat oxidative stress and offer additional protection to cell membranes.

Apart from omega 3s, fish oil also delivers essential lipids that can enhance the integrity of neuronal membranes and support brain health.

Types of Omega 3: ALA, EPA, and DHA

There are 3 main types of Omega 3 fatty acids: ALA, EPA, and DHA. ALA is primarily derived from plant-based sources, whereas EPA and DHA are found in marine oils.

ALA (Alpha-linolenic acid) serves as a precursor to EPA and DHA. However, it has limited direct biological effects on its own.

The body is not very efficient at converting ALA to EPA and DHA - meaning these two more potent forms are needed in the diet. Fatty fish and algae are rich in EPA and DHA, directly supporting cardiovascular, cognitive, and ocular health.

EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) have been extensively researched for their contributions to the reduction of inflammatory responses and maintenance of normal brain function. They are considered "long-chain" omega 3s due to their more complex structures compared to ALA.

Health Benefits of Fish Oil vs Omega 3

Health benefits: fish oil vs omega 3

The differences in health benefits of fish oil vs omega 3 supplements are largely due to their specific omega 3 content and composition. Fish oil, being rich in both EPA and DHA, has been associated with numerous cardiovascular benefits, such as promoting heart health and potentially reducing triglyceride levels. Fish oil has also been studied for being able to help maintain proper brain function.

On the other hand, Generic omega 3 supplements, which can include ALA from plant sources in addition to marine-derived EPA and DHA, can also offer many potential health benefits.

These health benefits can range from supporting healthy skin and joint function to improving mood. Importantly, the efficacy of omega 3 supplements in delivering health benefits is closely linked to the bioavailability of EPA and DHA, both of which are typically abundant in fish oil.

Fish Oil for General Wellness

Potential benefits you might feel of fish oil vs omega 3

Fish oil supplements can offer a concentrated source of omega 3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, which have been observed in numerous studies to be crucial for overall health.

These nutrients can support cardiovascular function and can reduce inflammation throughout the body.

EPA and DHA from fish oil can promote cognitive health and may improve brain function.

Regular intake of these omega 3s has also been linked to better eye health and vision.

Including fish oil in your diet can also have a positive impact on your emotional well-being, potentially aiding in mood regulation and stress reduction.

Here at Feel Younger we stock a Krill Oil Omega 3 that is high in EPA, DHA & Astaxanthin. Keep reading to discover a further comparison of fish oil vs omega 3.

Specific Omega 3 Impacts

Omega 3 potential benefits

Omega 3 fatty acids are integral to cellular membranes, impacting fluidity, phase behavior, and the function of embedded proteins. Adequate levels can contribute to maintaining cardiovascular homeostasis and ensuring an optimal inflammatory response.

Deficient omega 3 intake can lead to impaired visual and neurological development in infants.

EPA, specifically, influences eicosanoids, signaling molecules that play critical roles in the body's immune and inflammatory responses.

DHA is essential for brain health, influencing neuronal membrane properties and facilitating neurogenesis, synaptogenesis, and neurotransmission processes critical to cognitive function.

Higher dietary omega 3 intake is associated with reduced risk factors for metabolic syndrome, including improved lipid profiles, insulin sensitivity, and blood pressure regulation due to their anti-inflammatory and endothelial-function effects.

Chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis may also see symptomatic improvement with omega 3s, due to their ability to modulate the immune response and reduce joint inflammation.

Sources and Extraction: Fish Oil vs Omega 3

Sources & extraction of fish oil vs omega 3

Fish oil is primarily derived from oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, known for their high omega 3 content.

Extraction of fish oil involves processes like cold pressing and molecular distillation, methods that preserve the integrity of omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.

The term "omega 3" signifies a group of fatty acids that can also be extracted from plant sources like flaxseeds and algae.

Harvesting Fish Oil

Steps that are taken to harvest fish oil
  1. Species Selection: Identifying and catching fish high in omega 3 content, such as mackerel, salmon, and herring.
  2. Oil Extraction: Techniques such as cold pressing or wet pressing are used to separate oil from the fish tissues.
  3. Refinement: The raw oil undergoes refinement steps to remove impurities and enhance purity.
  4. Concentration: Through processes like molecular distillation, concentration of EPA and DHA omega 3s is achieved.
  5. Quality Control: Extensive testing for contaminants and oxidative stability ensures the oil's safety and efficacy.

Subsequent steps are crucial to stabilize the extracted oil and ensure a high-quality end product.

Omega 3 Availability in Foods

Primarily, oily fish stand out as the most potent omega 3 sources. Salmon, mackerel, and herring are examples of fish with high omega 3 content.

Vegetarian options are also available, such as flaxseeds, walnuts, and chia seeds (ALA omega 3s being the main form found in these plant sources).

While fish provide EPA and DHA directly, plant-based omega 3s must first undergo conversion within the body, a process that can be relatively inefficient.

For individuals with dietary restrictions, such as vegetarians or those allergic to fish, algae-based supplements present a decent alternative.

Choosing the Right Supplement

How to find the right omega 3 or fish oil supplement for you

By now, I hope that you are more clued up on the differences of fish oil vs omega 3. When vetting supplements, consider purity, sourcing, and concentration of omega 3s.

Be sure to consult with your healthcare professional before taking a new supplement.

Always take the lowest dose recommended on the bottle, document how you feel and slowly increase the dose to the recommended amount on the bottle.

If you feel worse, stop using the supplement immediately and contact your healthcare provider.

Make sure read the labels of any fish oil or omega 3 supplements you look at, and be sure to check out the reviews of not only the product, but also the company as a whole.

A good supplement company will always be transparent with their customers.