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Do You Need Fish Oil Supplements If You Eat Fish?

author image Marek Doyle
A London-based personal trainer, nutritional therapist and allergist, Marek Doyle runs Blueprintfitness.co.uk and counts world champion athletes and TV personalities amongst his clientele. He has contributed to various publications, including Good Life magazine, Natural News and PTontheNet.
Do You Need Fish Oil Supplements If You Eat Fish?
Oily fish, such as sardines, can help reduce inflammation and improve fat burning. Photo Credit Paul Cowan/iStock/Getty Images

Eating oily fish is associated with a wealth of health benefits, as does the inclusion of fish oil capsules in your diet. They represent the most concentration source of both eicosapentanoic acid and decosahexanoic acid, often referred to as EPA and DHA respectively. Many people may question whether they should use fish oils if they already consume fish regularly.

Fish Oil

The primary benefit of fish oil centers around the long-chain fatty acids EPA and DHA, which you will find in concentrations of approximately 180 mg and 120 milligrams per gram. EPA and DHA belong to the sub-group of fats known as omega-3s, which take their name from differences in their molecular shape. Nutritionists classify omega-3s as essential oils, meaning that your body cannot manufacture them itself and must consume them on a regular basis for optimum health. Although omega-3s exist in plant foods such as flax seeds and walnuts, these items provide a different form called alpha-linolenic acid. This compound must undergo conversion inside the body into EPA and DHA, the active omega-3s, whereas the latter two come pre-formed in fish oils.

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MedLinePlus, a service provided by the National Institute of Health, points to omega-3s as an essential nutrient that can help in a variety of conditions. It notes fish oil's effects on lowering cardiovascular markers like triglycerides in the bloodstream and preventing heart attacks. It may even have positive effects on inflammatory concerns like arthritis, depression and weight loss. NIH recommends between 1 and 4 grams of fish oil per day.

White Fish

White fish include fish like cod, haddock, pollock and whiting. A popular inclusion to many meals, these fish have dry, white flesh, which gives rise to their generalised label. Although these fish do hold reserves of oil in their liver, their flesh offers very little fat content and minimal omega-3 oils. People who only consume white fish will likely require fish oil capsules to ensure a suitable intake of omega-3s.

Oily Fish

Mackerel, herring, salmon and sardines stand out as common forms of oily fish. These particular fish all offer a more impressive content of omega-3 oils. Gayla and John Kirschmann, nutritional researchers and the authors of “The Nutrition Almanac,” estimate that a typical 7-ounce fillet of salmon provides around 4 grams of omega-3 oil. A person consuming this, or a similar serving of oily fish, each day would not require supplements to meet official recommendations.


Although it appears that you can maintain a normal metabolic function with a smaller amount of oil, Coach Charles Poliquin believes that human health and athletic performance improves with an increased intake of fish oils. The Canadian strength coach, who has trained 16 Olympic medal-winning athletes, suggest that intakes in excess of 10 grams per day may be helpful; this applies especially to people in hard training or suffering from inflammatory conditions and also to those attempting to lose weight. Whereas most people can consider themselves well-supplied with either regular consumption of oily fish or fish oil capsules, this sub-group of individuals may want to include both for best results.

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