Monthly Archives: January 2014

Fish Oil For Traumatic Brain Injury?

fish oil for traumatic brain injury

The interest in using high doses of fish oil to treat victims of mild to severe traumatic brain injury (“TBI”) has been mounting recently, as previously anecdotal accounts of efficacy are being replaced by a surge of new research and a continually improving basic understanding of the neurochemical pathways involved in TBIs. This focus is not surprising, since fish oil is widely-available and TBI is considered the leading cause of mortality for people under age 45, with approximately 52,000 deaths annually in the US alone.

Fish Oil For Traumatic Brain Injury & Inflammation.

Fish oil, a natural anti-inflammatory agent, seems a logical fit in terms of treating TBIs given the theory behind brain inflammation itself. While not well-understood, there is substantial evidence that brain injuries initiate a release of neurotransmitters that instigate an acute immune response that includes neuronal inflammation and impairment of mitochondrial function. Moreover, it’s been shown that these adverse reactions also occur in response to milder, sub-concussive injuries.

Fish oil, and more specifically, the DHA and EPA it contains, is one of several of the most promising natural supplements believed to be efficacious in treating patients following brain trauma. As discussed previously, these two fatty acids are vital for membrane function, particularly those associated with nerve cells. It is believed that these acids keep membranes fluid and help facilitate cell communication and control cellular inflammatory response.

Fish Oil to Treat Traumatic Brain Injury: The Data & Exciting Early Reports

The most conclusive data to date establishing a link between fish oil supplementation and the restoration of brain function post-TBI is from animal models. One of the most compelling studies published in the Journal of Neurosurgery seems to establish a clear link between brain trauma and the restorative effects of EPA/DHA in rats.

A total of 40 rates were separated into four groups. Three groups received a simulated impact injury and the fourth served as a control (non-impacted) group. Two of the three “impact” groups were given either 10 or 40 mg/kg of Omega 3, and the third impact (like the control) group was given no supplement. Supplementation was conducted for 30 days, after which time the animals were euthanized and a variety of brain/immunochemical analyses targeting markers for neuronal/mitochondrial damage were performed. The researchers found that that the rats receiving Omega 3 exhibited significantly lower levels of these damage markers compared to the impact groups not receiving supplementation. In fact, the treated rats had biochemical profiles no different than the rats that had received no impact at all. These data seem to confirm earlier 2007 study that also supported Omega 3’s restorative effect on neuronal homeostasis following rat-simulated TBI.

Similarly, a more recent 2013 trial published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience demonstrated that Omega 3 supplementation administered to rats before they were subjected to repeated, mild traumatic brain injuries (similar to those experienced by human athletes) resulted in faster body weight recovery and improved performance in cognitive testing post-trauma relative the control group.

While there is a comparative paucity of human research on the subject, the anecdotal reports of the effects of higher doses of fish oil for victims of TBI are extremely promising. For example the news reports of a 17 year old’s dramatic recovery after a near fatal car crash, and a 16 year-old’s miraculous turn around after a hit and run, both of whom received high doses of Omega 3 fish oil as a “last resort”, definitely fit within the data obtained from animal models and give new hope to a large demographic of patients that traditional science may have otherwise given up on.

Featured (top) photo credit: “human brain on white background” by _DJ_ under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Best Sources of Omega 3 – Compare Omega 3-Rich Fish

best source of omega 3

If you’re looking to get the biggest Omega 3 health boost you can from your diet, you ought to be aware of the richest sources of these fatty acids. However, before we get into the best sources of Omega 3, remember that this term encompasses three types of long-chain fatty acids, all considered “Omega 3” fats: 1) alpha-linolenic acid (“ALA”), docosahexaenoic acid (“DHA”), and eicosapentaenoic acid (“EPA”).

While some may claim that the type of Omega 3 is immaterial, they’d be wrong. As we discuss, the distinction matters.

Plant vs. Animal Omega 3 Fats – i.e., ALA vs. EPA and DHA

Understandably there are many people who are, for one reason or another, averse to eating animal products of any kind, and prefer to get their Omega 3 through such vegetable sources, such as several types of leafy greens (e.g., kale and spinach) or superfood seeds, like flax or chia.

Sounds good…but there’s a wrinkle.

It’s true that both of these seeds provide a rich source of Omega 3; however, they, like all other plant sources, only provide ALA, not EPA or DHA. And while it’s also true that ALA is broken down by the body into EPA and DHA, the reality is that this conversion process is slow and extremely inefficient. In fact, once clinical study put the ultimate yield of EPA and DHA from ALA in the neighborhood of 6% and 3.8%, respectively. Furthermore, the study suggested that conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA was hampered even further, by roughly 45%, for those with a diet relatively rich in Omega 6 (which is typical for most people).

In other words, if you want the myriad of benefits associated with EPA and DHA, don’t look for Omega 3 in plant sources!

Compare Fish Sources of EPA & DHA: Use Our Comparison Matrix!

The most bang for your buck in terms of getting your EPA/DHA fix is to regularly consume fatty fish. It is generally recommended that adults (non-pregnant) consume a minimum of two (3 oz) servings of omega-3-rich fish each week.

To help you choose your fish wisely, we’ve prepared the following chart of fish species and their respective EPA and DHA content to help boost your Omega 3 levels in short order. Note that it is generally advised to avoid consuming swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark given their relatively high risk for mercury contamination.

This chart is sortable – just click on the column headings to sort by variable!

Species
EPA*
DHA*
Lake trout0.571.25
Mackerel (Atlantic)0.101.81
Salmon (Atlantic, farmed)0.681.36
Herring (Pacific)1.130.79
Herring (Atlantic)0.791.02
Tuna (bluefin)0.451.36
Sturgeon (Altlantic)1.130.57
Salmon (chinook)0.910.68
Anchovy (European)0.571.02
Tuna (albacore)0.341.13
Whitefish0.341.13
Salmon (coho, farmed)0.450.91
Bluefhish (Atlantic)0.450.91
Salmon (sockeye)0.570.79
Salmon (pink)0.450.68
Sardines (canned)0.450.68
Salmon (chum)0.450.68
Halibut (Greenland)0.570.45
Bass (striped)0.230.68
Smelt0.340.23
Pollock0.110.45
Trout (rainbow)0.110.45
Halibut (Pacific)0.110.34
Catfish (channel)0.110.23
Cod (Atlantic)0.230.34
Flounder0.110.23
Grouper (red)0.000.23
Haddock0.110.11
Snapper0.000.23
*EPA/DHA reported in grams per 4 ounce serving of edible fish.

Table data source: http://seafood.oregonstate.edu/.pdf%20Links/Omega-3%20Content%20in%20Fish.pdf

Remember When Enjoying Omega Rich Fish…

Preparing fish is obviously a matter of taste; however, it’s a good idea to opt for grilled or baked fish, rather than fried. In addition, take care not to overdo it with the condiments – you don’t want to nullify the benefits of Omega 3 rich fish by consuming a ton of saturated fats!

Featured (top) image credit: “Salmon on Ice” by Sharon Mollerus under CC BY 2.0

Fish Oil Weight Loss? Is It For Real?

fish oil weight loss

If you’ve considered taking fish oil to reduce fat, build muscle or otherwise get into shape, you’ve probably seen various blogs and videos praising the “fat burning” power of fish oil. You know, the catchy headlines and videos of gym rats telling you that fish oil is the next best thing to elevating your heart rate.

Like most things in life, however, the truth is not nearly as clear cut, nor convincing. Please read on for more information, and our humble opinion on the efficacy of fish oil for weight loss based on the clinical research currently available.

Weight Loss & Weight Gain Are Listed As “Potential” Benefits of Fish Oil.

As we explained in our article on the general benefits of fish oil, its potential beneficial effects on body weight have been noted in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. In fact, this database recognizes fish oil as a potential therapy for not only losing weight, but slowing weight loss in cancer patients. Note, however, that the dosage indicated for weight loss/weight gain were quite significant (> 6 grams Omega 3).

What Recent Clinical Research Says.

There are lots of claims floating around, and somewhat “grey” literature studies indicating that fish oil promotes weight loss. However, there is no clear and convincing data that it does so. Moreover, one of the most recent, clinical trials actually concluded that it had no affect on weight loss at all.

This 2011 study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, studied 128 sedentary and overweight individuals who were spit up into various groups, including one placebo control. The purpose of the study to was to evaluate whether Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation, coupled with exercise, resulted in elevated weight loss over a 6 month period.

Of the 81 people who completed the study, no significant differences were found between the placebo group and Omega 3-supplemented group in terms of weight loss, the desire to eat, or other metabolic and psychometric indices that were also tracked during the study. In a nutshell, this study concluded that fish oil did not do anything for individuals trying to lose weight through exercise.

The Verdict: Does Fish Oil Help Lose Weight?

What the study above does not close the door on is the possibility that fish oil may help people lose weight who are not engaging in any appreciable physical activity. So, perhaps between two equally sedentary individuals, fish oil may still have some weight loss effect. There is no convincing data to prove this either, of course. Further, it makes little sense to avoid traditional modes of weight loss, such as exercise, especially when physical activity comes with a whole host of other benefits.

In conclusion, based on the clinical research currently available, we’re very skeptical that fish oil, particularly when taken at moderate doses, will help you lose weight. But, given its many other health benefits, there is certainly no harm in taking it as part of boosting a healthy lifestyle. Further, simply feeling better about yourself and taking control of your health is like to help fuel any exercise plan, which also doesn’t hurt!

Featured (top) photo credit: “dno1967b” by Daniel Oines under CC BY 2.0

Krill Oil vs Fish Oil: And The Winner Is…

krill oil vs fish oil

Krill Oil vs Fish Oil – this is a very hot debate these days with passionate supporters on either side. While both of these Omega 3 sources have their pros and cons, we definitely find a winner after all things are considered.

Please keep reading for a our detailed breakdown of the battle between krill oil and fish oil and what, in then end, swayed us to conclude one way or another.

The Reported Benefits of Fish Oil vs Krill Oil

Krill oil, as it is also rich in the anti-inflammatory agents EPA and DHA, is believed to have similar benefits to fish oil. Yet, among the testing done to date, krill oil has been found or is believed to be potentially effective for treating only a handful of health issues, the most notable of which being heart disease and to help prevent stroke and heart attacks. In addition, there is some good support for krill oil’s use for those suffering from arthritis and the discomfort (pain, primarily) associated with premenstrual syndrome.

Beyond these more established benefits, preliminary animal testing suggests that krill oil may have the same brain-enhancing effect as fish oil, but these data remain to be duplicated for human test subjects. Given its promising start, it’s likely that the virtues of krill oil will continue to unfold as research continues, but due to the relative newness of this supplement, the overall benefits of krill oil are very much still uncertain.

On the other hand, fish oil has been found actually or potentially effective for numerous health concerns. Even staunch krill oil junkies will have trouble denying the comparative wealth of research that is available to demonstrate the efficacy of fish oil supplementation. While many of the theoretical benefits of krill oil still have no support based on human trials, fish oil is currently accepted by the vast majority of healthcare professionals to be useful (or potentially useful) for a wide range of issues; such as, for example:

  • heart conditions and promoting cardiovascular health;
  • mental acuity and mental/developmental health;
  • blood pressure/triglycerides;
  • asthma;
  • arthritis;
  • cancer;
  • kidney disease;
  • body weight;
  • transplant rejection;
  • childhood allergies;
  • bipolar disorder, A.D.H.D.;
  • diabetes

In short, based on the data available today, fish oil has a much broader and accepted use than does krill oil.

Potency & Assimilation of Krill Oil vs Fish Oil

Like fish oil, krill oil is rich in two important long-chain fatty acids, namely eicosapentaenoic acid (“EPA”), and docosahexaenoic acid (“DHA”). And while krill oil is believed to be somewhat higher in EPA, the big distinction is the way these components are assimilated when obtained from krill oil vs fish oil.

The Omega 3 in krill oil is present primarily in a phospholipid form, compared to the Omega 3 found in fish, which is associated predominantly with triglycerides (fats). As a result, it is believed that krill oil may be more easily absorbed – ie., more “bio-available” – and therefore more potent compared to a similar amount of Omega 3 derived from fish oil. The jury is definitely still out on this claim; however, preliminary human research appears to be supporting this posited benefit.

Benefit as an Antioxidant

If you’ve read anything comparing the two oils, you probably know that krill oil has an added potential benefit that fish oil lacks – a potent antioxidant. To be more precise, krill oil contains the carotenoid astaxanthin, a pigment naturally occurring in some fish, microalgae, crustaceans (including krill) and the plumage of certain bird species. This is the same pigment that renders lobsters bright red when boiled, and gives the reddish/pink hue to cardinal and flamingo feathers, as well as the flesh of salmon and some trout.

But this carotenoid isn’t just for show, as an antioxidant it can neutralize free radicals (which itself provides a whole host of benefits) and also help prevent the spoiling (i.e., oxidation) of the EPA and DHA in the supplement. This is important, because fish oil is always at risk for spoilage, and must be protected from light/air/heat to maintain its salutary benefits until consumption.

Potential for Mercury & PCB Contamination

As we’ve explained before, the fact that krill feed on the lowest trophic ladder – typically marine phytoplankton and zooplankton, there is comparatively less risk for the bioaccumulation of toxic metals (e.g., mercury) and polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”). Fish, on the other hand, which feed on a multitude of smaller fish and prey items, are more at risk of concentrating and storing these toxins in their tissues. This is precisely why many apex marine predators, such as sharks, swordfish, dolphin and whales, have some of the highest concentrations of these contaminates in their tissues. The comparatively lowly krill, in contrast, doesn’t magnify toxins because it feeds at the lowest rungs of the food chain.

Sustainability of Krill Oil vs Fish Oil

While they might be small individually (around a half inch usually), krill as whole make up a tremendous amount of biomass, with some reports estimating a total of 500,000,000 tons globally – twice the biomass of all of humanity. This is precisely why baleen whales – the largest animals on the planet – can support themselves almost entirely on this food source.

Krill’s ubiquity, which is in part due to its ability to feed on marine plankton (which is even more prevalent in terms of biomass), also makes it inherently more sustainable than deriving oil from fish stocks. Again, it’s a simple consequence of harvesting lower on the food chain. For example, harvesting plants from a field is always more sustainable than harvesting cows fed by the same field of plants.

Capsule Size

Krill oil pills are generally much smaller than fish oil pills, and therefore may be preferred by some who have trouble with the large fish oil softgels.

Expense of Fish Oil vs Krill Oil

This is a difficult metric to compare, since the difference in potency between krill oil vs fish oil is still a very live topic of debate. If you believe that krill oil is significantly more potent, gram for gram, than fish oil, it’s close. However, if you are more skeptical about its proponents’ claims that it delivers more usable EPA and DHA compared to fish, it’s substantially more expensive if you want a similar dose of these fatty acids!

The Verdict: Krill Oil vs Fish Oil

There is a lot to like about krill oil, particularly the added benefit of the antioxidant astaxanthin; its relatively low risk for mercury/PCB contamination; and its overall greater sustainability in terms of commercial harvest for oil production. Given these virtues, and if additional research continues to prove up its efficacy, it’s very possible that krill oil will someday be the Omega 3 supplement of choice.

However, in our opinion, as a relatively new source of Omega 3, it still does not have the large body of proof that fish oil does for the majority of health benefits Omega 3 supplementation is typically noted for. In addition, the claims of significantly increased potency touted by krill oil vendors, which may someday validate its higher price tag, to date still do not have sufficient evidentiary support from the scientific community to make it a reliable, cost-effective choice for most consumers compared to fish oil.

The Truth About Krill Oil Benefits?

benefits of krill oil

Krill oil has enjoyed a tremendous surge in popularity lately, and for good reason.

This natural supplement holds precious long chain Omega 3 fatty acids and, given the natural history of krill, a relatively low risk of chemical contamination. But that’s not all that’s noteworthy about this new source of Omega 3.

Please read on for a more detailed discussion of the more widely-accepted krill oil benefits, and what a proper supplementation regime can do for you.

Krill Oil Benefits, in a Nutshell

So what are the benefits of krill oil? Krill oil contains the highly-lauded Omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, and therefore theoretically provides the same anti-inflammatory benefits as Omega 3 from fish oil. And while krill oil does not have the same level of evidentiary backing fish oil does, the research that has been performed thus far is very promising.

For example, published researched with the last five years suggests that krill oil is effective for treating arthritis and promoting cardiovascular health – the same core indications fish oil sources are well known for. Likewise, other researchers have found that krill oil may have the same brain/mental health-enhancing effects too, with one study in Norway finding that rats treated with krill oil scored higher in intelligence testing. However, aside from the usual benefits, krill oil is reported to have some unique properties that do set it apart.

In terms of absorption, krill oil is reputed to have the edge over fish oil. Unlike Omega 3 from fish sources, krill contain these acids in the form of phospholipids. While the chemistry of this distinction might seem academic, the result is reportedly a more easily assimilating form of Omega 3 compared to the fish counterpart. And as a result of this benefit, you may be able to get the same amount of Omega 3 from krill, but at a significantly lower dose.

In addition to bringing a high assimilation rate, there is another perk of oil from these tiny shrimp – a potent antioxidant. Specifically, krill contains a substance called astaxanthin, an antioxidant in the carotenoid family that is believed to provide its own health benefits in neutralizing free radicals and potentially prevent the spoiling (i.e., oxidation) of the EPA and DHA in the supplement itself.

And if all of these virtues weren’t enough, there is another very important benefit of krill oil – it’s relative safety from the bio-accumulation of chemical contaminants, such as mercury.

As we’ve explained elsewhere, the traditional concern about chemical contamination in fish stems from the fact that fish feed higher on the food chain. And by doing so, they tend to accumulate and “biomagnify” all of the toxins ingested by their prey. So the concentration of toxin at each level rises. For example, shrimp that may contain only trace amounts of mercury in their tissues will translate into fish predators that have much higher levels, since they eat and store these toxins. And larger fish that eat these fish will concentrate contaminants even further. This is the reason why sharks, swordfish and large aquatic marine mammals (e.g., porpoise, seal, whales, etc.) can contain some of the highest amounts of toxins in their tissues, such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

With the diminutive krill, in contrast, there is little chance of biomagnification since they feed at the lowest rung of the food chain (e.g., phytoplankton/zooplankton primarily).

Krill Oil Dosage – How Much Do You Need?

According to some sources, including WebMD, there is insufficient data to determine the “appropriate ranges” of dosages for krill oil. Nevertheless, it is believed that krill oil’s more easily assimilating properties may provide the same benefits of fish oil, at a lower dosage.

And there is some support for this. One 2007 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded that just 300 milligrams of krill oil per day – the typical recommended dose for adults – was sufficient to bring about significant relief for test subjects suffering from arthritis and cardiac conditions.

Krill Oil Benefits: The Early Verdict

The benefits of fish oil are indeed promising, and it’s unique properties, such as its high assimilation rate and the antioxidant it contains, make it a potentially viable alternative to fish oil. However, the comparative lack of study of krill oil, especially on human, makes it much less understood and established than the Omega 3 traditionally derived from fish oil.

Featured (top) photo credit: “Omega-3 krill oil capsules in blister pack” by Health Gauge under CC BY 2.0

So What Is Krill Oil & Why Is It Special?

what is krill oil

So what is krill oil?

It’s a common question that comes up when people start researching the various sources of Omega 3 fatty acids and the benefits of krill oil vs. fish oil. Krill oil is believed to be very similar to fish oil in that it packs lots of Omega 3 and its constituent long chain fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA. However, krill and fish are, quite literally, different animals. Find out more about krill and why the oil derived from them may be safer than that obtained from fish sources.

What the heck are krill?

The common term “krill” is used to refer to tiny marine shrimp (arthropods), typically those in the genus Euphausia, which holds the largest number of krill species and includes the two most commercially important and wide-ranging members of the group, Euphausia superba, the Antarctic krill, and Euphausia pacifica, the Northern krill.

Krill swarms have been harvested commercially for a variety of products since the 1960s, mainly for aquaculture and a cheap source of fish food in the western world, yet they have always been a staple in the diet of many peoples and other animals, including small fish, penguins, seals and even the largest mammals in the world – the baleen whales.

Why it’s good that krill are low on the food chain

One of the most important aspects of krill biology, besides their Omega 3 content, is where they lie on the trophic ladder – i.e., the food chain. Unlike most Omega 3 rich fish, such as salmon, krill feed on the the tiniest of marine animals, which compose the first link in the food chain. We are talking about plankton. As they perform daily vertical migrations through the water column, krill filter feed through the water column with modified legs to capture these microscopic (or nearly microscopic) organisms. Indeed, at a total body length of roughly a half inch, there’s really nothing else a krill can overpower!

The good news is that being relegated to the low end of the food chain means there is little risk of the biomagnification of chemical contaminants, such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”). Biomagnification occurs when small organisms, such plankton and small invertebrates, ingest or otherwise take up a toxic material and are then eaten by larger organisms, which are then eaten by still larger organisms. At each step up the chain, the amount of these toxins increases in predators as they consume and sequester all of the chemicals contained in their prey items. This explains why swordfish and shark meat is on the EPA’s list of items women should not consume during pregnancy. Krill, on the other hand, don’t biogmagnify toxins like fish do since they feed primarily on the planktonic level, and no higher.

Featured (top) photo credit: “A Northern krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica)” by Øystein Paulsen, Wikimedia Commons under CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

What’s The Scoop on Fish Oil For Kids?

fish oil for kids

Fish oil is widely praised as one of the most important natural supplements you can take, but what about for kids? It’s natural to take extra precaution when using any supplement with children; however, fish oil can be an extremely safe and vital source of Omega 3 that many kids simply would not get via dietary sources alone. Ever try to get a kid to voluntarily eat a healthy serving salmon, anchovies or sardines at least once a week?

Please read on for more information about what fish oil can do for your loved ones and how to go about providing it.

Why Give Fish Oil to Kids?

As discussed for use with adults generally, fish oil is widely accepted as being a potent supplement for promoting heart/cardiovascular health. However, in addition to lowering blood pressure, reducing blood triglycerides, treating arthritis and being effective for a variety of more “grown-up” problems, there are some very important potential benefits for children that are believed to exist, but don’t currently have quite the same level of scientific evidence to back them up.

Although there are many salutary aspects of taking Omega 3, perhaps the most relevant potential benefits for fish oil supplementation for kids relate to improving mental health and fostering strong neurological and brain/eye development. Specifically, it is believed that fish oil enhances mental acuity and reduces hyperactivity when taken at the appropriate dosages. It has also been found by some to treat asthma, skin allergies, depression and a wide variety of other childhood psychological conditions, including A.D.H.D.

Of course, there are many reputable sources that question these purported benefits.  For example, a 2001 study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that no improvement of A.D.H.D was achieved after four months of supplementation. Nevertheless, other researchers and medical professionals point to more recent data that do tend to support fish oil’s efficacy in terms of enhancing/treating mental health, such as a 2005 Oxford study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics that found significant improvements in spelling and reading ability after children received treatment with fish oil. This is not an isolated case. A more recent study by Oxford University discussed in the DailyMail seems to confirm and support these results, finding an improvement in reading age in some of the worst performing school students between the ages of seven and nine.

Is Fish Oil Safe For Kids?

There is a lot of apparent controversy among blogs and other web sources on this topic, but some of the most reputable authorities widely agree that fish oil supplement is safe – and considerably less risky than obtaining Omega 3 through dietary sources alone.

The reason for this is because the common fatty fish which are particularly rich in Omega 3 (e.g., salmon, mackerel, swordfish,  anchovies, etc.) tend to concentrate more chemical contaminants relative to other species, primarily Mercury.  As such, high levels of consumption of these types of fish raise concerns not typically found when taking fish oil supplements at typical doses. For example, the Mayo Clinic’s literature on fish oil states “safety concerns may apply to eating fish, but likely not to taking fish oil supplements.” Likewise, the FDA advises that EPA and DHA dietary supplements are safe and lawful, when taken at moderate doses, i.e., one to three grams per day.

On the other hand, fish that don’t raise as much concern about Mercury contamination – and which are often more palatable for kids – such as cod/flounder filets, canned tuna/albacore, and other white meat fish don’t provide the requisite amount of Omega 3.  Consequently, a good fish oil supplement is often the most practical option for delivering sufficient levels of EPA and DHA to kids.

Whatever you do, you should always consult with and obtain approval from your child’s treating physician before treating your child with fish oil. As we’ve explained elsewhere, there are a variety of side effects reported for fish oil, particularly when taken at higher doses.

Specially Made – Tastier – Fish Oil For Kids

Ok, so fish oil has profound heath benefits for kids, and it’s safe for kids – arguably safer than getting the same amount of Omega 3 from fatty fish.  But there’s just one thing, it’s not tasty and the large pills and fishy flavors and smells of adult-oriented fish oil are sure to turn many kids off.

Fortunately, there is a large variety of fish oil supplements especially made for kids. These oils often come in liquids or gummy vitamin form, and are flavored with citrus or other more palatable tastes/odors that will prevent your child from rejecting them, and may have them asking for more.

Fish Oil Dosage For Kids

Currently there is no broad consensus about general child-specific dosages of fish oil supplement, while some sources indicate that the conservative, adult fish oil dosage indications can be applied. Consequently, a medical professional should always be consulted when planning a supplementation regimen. Nevertheless, there are some specific dose recommendations for kids, which address conditions like childhood asthma, A.D.H.D and skin allergies.

Featured (top) photo credit: “Kids playing” by Nir Nussbaum under CC BY-ND 2.0

Fish Oil For Dogs: The Benefits & Proper Dosage

fish oil for dogs

Fish oil is not just good for dogs – it’s great for them! In fact, most canine nutritionists would agree that fish oil with the proper amounts of EPA/DHA is probably the single most beneficial natural supplement you can provide man’s best friend. So why aren’t your giving your dog the same health boost you provide yourself?

Please keep reading as we discuss the role of fish oil in a dog’s diet, and how much to administer to reap its enormous benefits.

What Does Fish Oil Do For Dogs?

The benefits of fish oil for dogs are virtually identical to those we previously described for cats, although its efficacy for treating dogs is even more firmly-established.  As we discuss below, the potent anti-inflammatory agents in fish oil (Omega three long chain fatty acids) can prevent and treat a wide variety of canine maladies.

On the more cosmetic side, fish oil can promote a supply, shiny coat of fur and reduce or treat skin irritation and dandruff.  It can also lessen shedding, a huge bonus for most housedogs and particularly their owners.

It’s beneath the surface however where fish oil really works wonders. Supplementation for dogs is widely accepted to treat many conditions, including allergies, arthritis, GI disorders, auto-immune disorders, heart disease, kidney problems, hypertension, high blood cholesterol, and even cancer.  Moreover, fish oil supplementation has also been reported useful towards maintaining a proper bodyweight, increasing activity, and heightening cognitive function in both older dogs and puppies. Importantly, this “mental enhancement” effect observed from dosing with fish oil is believed to also accrue to fetuses (and carry over to puppies) when this supplement is ingested by their mothers – a finding that’s been corroborated in at least one human study!

How Much Fish Oil ?

As far as dosing, this is very easy and does *not* require mathematical precision. While you should always consult with a licensed vet before proceeding with any supplementation regime, most reputable sources agree that for both cats and dogs, you should aim for providing a minimum of about 20 milligrams of EPA and 12 milligrams of DHA per pound of body weight each day.  In other words, if your dog is 5 pounds, you’d need roughly 100 mg. of EPA and 60 mg of DHA. If fluffy is closer to 50 pounds, then you’d be shooting for 1000 mg/600 mg of EPA and DHA, respectively.

Administering Fish Oil to Your Dog

Some dogs take to fish oil taste/smell more easily than others, but most will accept the pill stuffed into a food or a treat. For dogs averse to pills, just puncture the gel cap and squeeze out the amount of oil needed over food. Or better yet, buy fish oil liquid to add to the food so you aren’t popping caps each day. Doesn’t get much easier than that!

Fish Oil Side Effects?

Don’t freak out if you’ve slightly overdone the dose! The two most likely side effects of going overboard are mild diarrhea and halitosis – i.e., a common case of bad breath. Nevertheless, keep things within the ballpark and watch out for particular conditions that may require closer attention. For example, since fish oil tends to thin the blood and can suppress immune function (albeit at much higher doses), make sure your vet approves any supplementation for dogs that are weak, immune-suppressed naturally or due to steroid treatment, or are at risk for bleeding.

Which Fish Oil is Best?

Although you can certainly purchase fish oil made specifically for dogs and cats, such as Nordic Naturals Omega-3 Pet 180 Soft Gels, the pills made for humans are just as good but may be more tedious to dose for smaller dogs that need very little oil. In any event, just remember to avoid fish oil with vitamin D added, as this is reported to exceed the amount of vitamin D they can handle and subsequently cause unwanted soft tissue and bone mineral deposits.

Featured (top) image credit: “the rainbow dog” by Enrico under CC BY 2.0

Fish Oil For Cats: What Does it Do & How Much?

Fish Oil For Cats

Fish oil’s constituent active long-chain fatty acids, Eicosapentanoic Acid (EPA) & Docosahexanoic Acid (DHA), are some of the most well-studied natural health supplements around. Therefore, it’s not surprising that its potent health effects have been found to accrue not only to humans. Among mankind’s other furry companions, cats can also benefit from its anti-inflammatory powers as well. Moreover, it’s powers go much further than merely promoting a shiny coat. Read on for a better idea of the virtues of fish oil for cats and how to go about administering it.

What Does Fish Oil Do For Cats?

Since the most medically established uses of fish oil are related to human cardio-vascular health, you may be thinking:  what can fish oil do for my cat anyway?

As we’ve explained elsewhere, the wondrous properties of fish oil’s two key Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are believed to stem in part from its ability to reduce inflammation. The consequences of this cannot be understated, since there are so many diseases/conditions associated with inflamed tissues – many of the same conditions that affect cats and people alike.  For example, human and feline conditions such as allergies, autoimmune/skin disorders, osteoarthritis – and even cancer – are believed to have their genesis in some type of inflammation.

Of particular note are the results of a 2012 double blind study conducted in the Netherlands and reported in the Journal of Animal Physiology regarding the efficacy of fish oil for the treatment of feline osteoarthritis. Over 10 weeks two study groups of cats were given food supplemented with either fish oil containing Omega 3 (EPA & DHA) or a vegetable oil infused with a fish odor (i.e., the placebo). Neither the cats  – or their owners – knew to which group they belonged.

After the data were analyzed, the researchers concluded that cats that consumed the fish oil were more active, showed greater flexibility, were more outgoing and demonstrated a greater jumping ability compared to the placebo group.

In addition, there are other potential benefits that may not be as profound but are also advantageous for your cat and you.  These include things like promoting cardiovascular health, maintaining/improving kidney and bladder function, strengthening/adding luster to the coat, preventing urinary problems, treating dandruff and reducing hair loss.

Finally, as with fish oil testing on humans has demonstrated, the benefits of Omega 3 on central nervous system function and fetal development may apply to cats as well. This only makes sense, since Omega 3 has been associated with improved verbal scores in human children whose mothers consisted of Omega 3 rich fish.

Recommended Fish Oil Dosage For Cats

Any fish oil supplementation for your cat should be prescribed and/or supervised by a licensed veterinarian.  However, it appears that the consensus of sources indicates delivering at least 20 milligrams of EPA and 12 milligrams of DHA per pound of body weight daily to your cat to reap the majority of the benefits of fish oil.  So, for example, for a 5 pound cat that would be at least 100 mg of EPA and 60 mg of DHA; and for a 10 pound cat, 200/120 mg of EPA and DHA would be recommended, respectively. Please take note that supplements vary significantly in the amount of EPA and DHA they actually deliver, so pay close attention to how much of each your pills/tablets contain so you deliver the recommended dosage of these two components.

Please also be careful when purchasing supplements to avoid those containing vitamin D.  According to an article by Petmd, the vitamin D levels in many fish liver oil supplements can be far in excess of the limits deemed safe for both cats and dogs; as such, the usage of these D-fortified oils may result in deleterious mineral deposits in the kidneys and other soft tissues, in addition to causing bone disorders.

Administering Fish Oil to Cats

Giving fish oil to your cat is easy. You can either embed a gel cap in food or a tasty treat, or if your cat is a bit more finicky, you can pierce the gel and simply pour it over its food. And if you get tired of popping soft gel caps every day, you can always purchase fish oil in pure liquid form.

Fish Oil Side Effects For Cats?

While it’s advisable to work up to the recommended dosage of fish oil gradually, there is little threat to dosing slightly more than needed, so don’t panic. Indeed, the most likely side effects from supplementing with fish oil for cats are generally limited to a cases of mild diarrhea and bad (fishy) breath. However, given its tendency to interfere with blood clotting factors and suppress immune function (albeit at higher doses than those mentioned here), you should make sure to consult with your vet for any cat that is already immuno-compromised, is being treated with steroids,  is being given blood thinners, or is otherwise at risk for excessive bleeding/infection.

Do I Need Fish Oil Specifically For Cats?

While there are fish oils available that are specifically marketed for dogs and cats (these usually come in handy if very low doses are needed), the kind made for humans is just as good and may be more economical in the long run. Just remember to cut the human-sized dose where necessary to avoid wasteful over-supplementation.

Featured (top) image credit: “Cat Show: Form” by Tomi Tapio K under CC BY 2.0