Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the overall health of the human body. Fish oil is the most popular, well-studied and effective form of omega-3 supplement, according to the National Institutes of Health. It contains naturally high quantities of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), two omega-3 fatty acids linked to cardiovascular health. Vegetarians may prefer flaxseed oil supplements, which provide omega-3 fat in form of alpha linoleic acid, or ALA. Sold as either a liquids or capsules, omega-3 supplements vary in their cost and side effects.
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Liquid omega-3 oil supplements tend to have strong flavors. Flaxseed oil has a somewhat acrid, bitter taste which many people find unpleasant. Unrefined fish oil can also be overpowering; its powerful "fishy" flavor may be off-putting to people with sensitive palates. Some firms sell liquid fish oil that has been heavily processed to remove unpleasant taste or odor. Remnant fishy tastes may be masked with lemon, orange, peach, strawberry or apricot flavorings.
Because liquid omega-3 supplements are absorbed quickly, they may be more likely to cause side effects. The National Institutes of Health reports that belching, bad breath, heartburn and reflux. If you are prone to these side effects, you should select omega-3 capsules instead of liquids. Most manufacturers offer omega-3 capsules that are enteric coated, meaning that they remain intact until they are in the intestines. These are far less likely to cause fishy reflux, belching or nausea than unpurified liquid fish oil. The NIH recommends taking fish oil with meals or freezing the capsules to reduce upper-digestive side effects.
No evidence exists that liquid omega-3 supplements offer different health benefits than omega-3 capsules. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that fish oil's benefits are related to the amount of DHA and EPA in each dose, not the volume or weight of the fish oil itself. If omega- supplements offer the same amount of DHA and EPA, they will provide similar or identical health benefits. These include reduced triglyceride levels, a lower risk of heart disease and less inflammation throughout the body.
Liquid omega-3 supplements tend to cost less per dose than omega-3 capsules. For this reason, liquid products can be viewed as a more economical alternative to enteric coated capsules. Additionally, liquids can be blended with food, smoothies, milk shakes and pet foods, so they are more versatile and easier to give to children and animals. People who have difficulty swallowing pills may prefer liquid omega-3 supplements because it is easier or more comfortable.
Regardless of the form of omega-3 supplement that you choose to take, it is prudent to consult your health care provider before using the product in large doses or for extended periods of time. The NIH warns that fish oil can worsen the symptoms of some conditions, including liver disease, bipolar disorder and diabetes. In large doses, fish oil can weaken immune function and increase the risk of bleeding. Use nutritional supplements and natural medicine only under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.