For clearer skin, reduced anxiety and better sleep, fish oil is the one capsule you shouldn’t skip
From magnesium to vitamin D, chances are you already take a selection of supplements daily, but one you definitely shouldn’t miss out on is omega 3, which helps with everything from reducing inflammation, to supporting immunity to moisturising the skin.
“We don’t naturally produce omega 3, which means it’s crucial that we serve our bodies these vital fatty acids through a balanced diet or supplements,” says Jennifer Rock, dermal facialist and founder of skincare brand Skingredients. Sardines, mackerel, salmon and trout are good sources from food, while vegans can get their fill through flaxseed oil and dried chia seeds.
Many of us aren’t getting enough omega 3 though and deficiency makes itself known in many ways, including dry hair, skin and nails, brain fog, low mood, difficulty concentrating, joint stiffness and fatigue. “Studies have shown that between 70 per cent and 98 per cent of people require an increased omega 3 intake through their diet,” says registered nutritional therapist Aliza Marogy, who works with supplement brand Inessa.
There’s not actually a recommended daily amount of omega 3, but the NHS advises one to two portions of oily fish per week, or a 500mg supplement per day. Why are we talking about it now though? “It’s particularly important that we get enough omega 3 at the moment as we’re still under more stress than usual post-pandemic, and more people are experiencing low mood or anxiety – two conditions that respond well to omega 3 intake,” says Aliza.
What are the benefits of omega 3?
It helps reduce inflammation
“Omega 3s help to reduce inflammation in the body which means that many inflammatory concerns, such as issues with our joints and heart, may be improved,” says Shabir Daya, pharmacist and founder of online pharmacy Victoria Health.
According to registered nutritionist Charlotte Faure Green, the anti-inflammatory properties can help with everything from heart health, sleep troubles, pain prevention, bone preservation and even cancer prevention, all of which are affected by inflammation. “Omega 3s have been shown to decrease some of the substances released during an inflammatory response that can lead to chronic health conditions,” she says.
Prolonged stress, as many of us have experienced over the last year, can lead to inflammation too, so now is the perfect time to embrace those omega 3s.
It soothes the skin
Keeping on the subject of inflammation, omega 3s can calm down inflammatory skin concerns such as eczema, acne and psoriasis, according to Shabir. “They’re also good for protecting the skin from general ageing since inflammation in the body is the most widely accepted theory of ageing of the body, including skin,” he adds.
It supports immunity
Over the last year there’s been much talk of immunity, and omega 3s have been shown to be beneficial to immunity, says Charlotte. “The fats in omega 3 are an important part of our cell membrane, making up the outer layer that surrounds each cell. This influences what comes in and out and acts as an important signaller to immune response.”
It moisturises the skin
For soft skin, omega 3s are an essential in your supplement routine. “Studies have shown that omega 3 plays a role in the production of sebum which keeps your skin moisturised and hydrated, creating a barrier to keep potential irritants out,” says Charlotte.
Shabir agrees on their barrier-boosting power, adding: “Omega 3s are required for the manufacture of ceramides in the skin, which are responsible for preventing the skin from losing water.” In fact, a 2015 study showed that fish oil supplementation increased hydration, decreased transepidermal waterless and alleviated itching caused by dry skin.
It can provide sun protection
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better! According to Charlotte, research has emerged into the sun-protecting powers of omega-3 against UV rays. “They might mitigate damage (therefore ageing!) and reduce sunburn,” she says. “Don’t bin your sunscreen though, it’s still very much needed and more research is required.”
It can soothe anxiety
“Omega 3 fish oils contain a fatty acid called DHA, which is required for nerve function within the body including in the brain,” says Shabir. “The essential fatty acids in omega 3 fish oils are known to interact with chemicals in the brain responsible for mood, so may enhance mood as well as improve cognitive function.”
It can support brain function
On the topic of brain function, omega 3s are the building blocks of a baby’s growing brain when you’re pregnant, making them a vital nutrient for expecting mums, says Charlotte. Children need omega 3s too to help with brain development and Charlotte suggests kids have the same intake as adults per week.
It keeps hair healthy
By curbing inflammation in the body and the scalp, omega 3s prevent hair thinning and hair loss, along with supporting hair growth.
Vegan omega 3 sources
If you’re plant-based, Charlotte recommends taking algae oil supplements. While flaxseed and hempseed are often used as alternatives for omega 3, they can’t be readily converted into the fatty acid that the body needs
What to look for in omega 3 supplements.
The purity of omega 3 supplements is an issue for some people. “We know fish is increasingly becoming contaminated with heavy metals which can wreak havoc on our health,’ says Charlotte. “The only third-party testing program for fish oils is the International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS) and they check potency, freshness and purity. I only recommend fish oils with a five-star rating.”
Look at the label of supplements and search for ones that say they’re made with five star IFOS certified oil.
Sustainability is also something to look out for with regards to omega 3 supplements. “When looking for sustainably harvested omega 3, look out for the MSC label and do some research into the practices of the brand,” says personalised vitamin brand Vitl. “Make sure your supplement successfully prevents by-catch of birds, marine mammals and fish.”
Our pick of omega 3 supplements
Both Shabir and Charlotte’s omega 3 supplement of choice, these are made with five star IFOS certified oil and contain the same amount of omega 3 as a whole tin of sardines! The capsules are made with wild, sustainably caught fish from Norway from small wild fish which are right at the bottom of the food chain, meaning they contain fewer heavy metals. They’re easily digested too, so you won’t be able to taste them all day after taking.
Made from sustainably sourced anchovies, this contains the recommended daily dosage of omega 3 and has been purified and tested for freshness and contaminants (it’s five star IFOS certified)
Launching into the UK soon, these capsules are coated in vanilla to banish the fishy aftertaste often associated with fish oil. They have 900mg of omega 3 and are Friends of the Sea certified and use the purest mackerel and sardines and are heavy metal tested.
Beauty Pie launched its supplements range last year and this is the star of the show. Made from wild, sustainably caught sardines, mackerel and anchovies, four of these per day give more than the suggested intake of 500mg per day.
As recommended by Charlotte, these vegan alternatives to fish oil contain algae oil, which can be converted into the essential fat needed in the body.
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