What is Fish Oil?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Fish oil is oil that comes from the tissue of fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, and mackerel. It can also be produced by lake trout, herring, and sardines. This oil is of interest most people because it has been shown to provide a number of health benefits, and is recommended by many health authorities as part of a balanced diet. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

Mackerel is often used as the source for fish oil tablets.
Mackerel is often used as the source for fish oil tablets.

One of the health benefits linked to fish oil is a low risk of heart attack. Medical professionals often recommend that people eat fish that is rich in oil regularly to get the most benefit. There is also evidence that consuming the oil can reduce a person's risk of coronary heart disease as well.

Salmon fillets are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Salmon fillets are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Fish oil is also believed to be helpful for lowering and regulating cholesterol levels in the blood. Research has also shown a correlation between the consumption of the oil and lowered blood pressure. Though research is still underway, there is evidence to suggest that it may also benefit individuals dealing with lupus, arthritis, colitis, and asthma. Some experts believe that the oil may eventually be proven helpful in the prevention and treatment of certain cancers as well.

Fish oil may help lower cholesterol levels.
Fish oil may help lower cholesterol levels.

Not only has fish oil been shown to offer benefits in terms of physical health, but it may also be good for mental health, too. Many studies suggest that it may help to improve memory and concentration, as well as to combat depression. Some experts believe it may even be effective in treating bipolar disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and schizophrenia.

Sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Sardines are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Though many health experts recommend eating fatty fish to get the benefits unique to this oil, there is come concern that that the fish that provide the most benefit can also contain other, less healthy, substances. Certain types of fatty fish contain high levels of mercury and other toxins, which can be especially dangerous to pregnant women. To avoid the risk of consuming potentially dangerous contaminants, some people choose to use supplements instead of eating fish.

Researchers say that a daily dose of fish oil can be beneficial for children with hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder (ADD).
Researchers say that a daily dose of fish oil can be beneficial for children with hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder (ADD).
Eating fatty fish has the greatest benefits.
Eating fatty fish has the greatest benefits.
Fish oil supplements are rich in healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, commonly called DHA.
Fish oil supplements are rich in healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, commonly called DHA.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


Has anyone had good results using fish oil for asthma?

I have mild asthma which flares up from time to time. Currently I am not taking any medication for it and would like to avoid doing this if possible. If taking something like fish oil on a regular basis would help, I would much rather do that.


My mom began taking a fish oil supplement to boost her brain power and memory. She was also hoping it would help with the arthritis she has in her hands and fingers.

She feels like the fish oil has helped with her memory. She hasn't been taking it very long, but hasn't noticed a difference with her arthritis yet.

I am glad she feels like the fish oil is helping with her memory. Personally I haven't noticed much difference, but the important thing is how she feels about it.


I try to get the nutrients I need from eating food instead of relying on a supplement. I include fish in our diet 2-3 times a week. Both my husband and I like fish so this is pretty easy to do. I can't say that we have noticed any health benefits, but it may be preventing some health problems that we aren't even aware of.


I take a fish oil supplement instead of eating fish for a couple reasons. The biggest one is that I don't like the taste of fish. I am also concerned about the high levels of mercury as this article mentioned.

I think the best fish oil supplements are those that don't leave an aftertaste in your mouth. I tried buying some cheap supplements and all I did was burp up the taste of fish for several hours.

I was taking the supplement to avoid the taste of fish, so didn't even finish the bottle. I paid more money and found a fish oil supplement that didn't leave this taste in my mouth.


@pleonasm-- Yea, I think salmon has one of the highest levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. So it's definitely a good source of fish oil and Omega-3. Your grandfather was following his instincts and doing the right thing. They say that our body craves what it needs.

I've also heard however that the amount of Omega-3 supplementation we need in order to actually help treat health conditions like arthritis, we have to consume huge amounts of fish oil. I think that amount is much more than what we can consume through eating fish.

I'm sure eating fish helps too. But to get more benefits, it might be better to take fish oil in supplement form just because you can get more that way.


@feruze-- I believe in the benefits of fish oil supplements so I'm not surprised that you're feeling better. I would suggest that you also take vitamin E supplements with it though. Vitamin E actually helps absorb the beneficial fatty acids in the fish oil. So it's best to take them together.

Also, keep in mind that fish oil will thin out your blood. I know this because I am a diabetic. When I check my blood sugar on the days I take a fish oil supplement, my blood flows way more than usual and looks really watery.

So you have to make sure that you're not combining fish oil with other blood thinners like aspirin. If you do, you might have serious complications like internal bleeding so be careful about that.


There was a doctor on a TV program several weeks ago who was talking about the benefits of fish oil. She mentioned that a DHA deficiency is one of the main causes of depression and anxiety. Apparently, some people are born with this deficiency or just develop it over time. And taking fish oil supplements rich in DHA on a regular basis can help in treating depression and anxiety.

She didn't suggest to stop taking anti-depressive medications but just to add fish oil supplements to it. So I've been taking two 1000mg capsules of fish oil daily for the past two weeks. I'm also taking my anti-anxiety medication as usual. I don't know if this is a placebo effect or not but I actually feel better!

I have been feeling less anxiety and I also feel more energetic. I am loving this! I'm going to continue to take fish oil vitamins and see if my symptoms continue to lessen.


They say the benefits of eating fatty fish is the reason why the Japanese have a longer average lifespan than other nations. They also have lower risks of heart disease and so forth. On the other hand so do the French, which is attributed to red wine. So, we should all be eating more salmon and drinking more red wine.

Unfortunately, fish oil capsules aren't as effective as eating actual fish, but the fish tastes so good, I wouldn't want to give it up anyway.


Towards the end of his life my grandfather began to refuse to eat almost anything except salmon. I thought at the time it was just because salmon was always his favorite food.

But, now I wonder if he somehow craved a food that would do him a lot of good, with the benefits of fish oil. He lived for a long time and even once he started going downhill he remained vigorous almost until the end. Perhaps this was because he insisted on eating so much salmon.

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