Fish oil and flax oil are both dietary supplements that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are vital for body function and have to come either from the diet or from a dietary supplement. Fish oil and flax oil contain different types of omega-3s, which are thought to have health benefits for many people. While you can take both oils, you don't necessarily need to consume both to reap all of the potential benefits.
Like its name suggests, fish oil is pressed from the flesh of fatty fish, such as salmon. Fish oil is available over the counter in the supplement aisle and does not require a doctor’s prescription. It comes in a variety of dosages and may contain the oil from a single fish or from a combination of different types of fish. What matters most, per the University of Maryland Medical Center, is the dosage level of its two main omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, because are the oil's active ingredients. They are both thought to improve cardiovascular health, and also contribute to cognitive functioning.
Flax Seed Oil
Not surprisingly, flaxseed oil comes from the seeds of the flax plant. While you can also find flaxseed supplements that contain whole or ground flax seeds, the oil contains concentrated amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Flax oil is high in the other important omega-3: ALA. Like DHA and EPA, ALA may contribute to heart health. Once the ALA in flax oil is absorbed by the body, some is converted into the other essential fatty acids DHA and EPA, making it a secondary source of these nutrients as well. In addition, flaxseed oil that also contains ground flaxseed also provides lignans, a family of nutrients similar in structure to human estrogen. Lignans offer health benefits, including antioxidant activity and the ability to regulate estrogen signalling in the body.
Intake Recommendations and Considerations
Theoretically, you can take both fish oil and flax seed oil; however, you must be mindful of your total omega-3 intake for safety. Per the UMMC, adults should not exceed 3 g of total supplemental omega-3s daily. Omega-3s are considered safe for use by the average person in moderate amounts; however, some doctors may recommend you take more based on your particular diagnosis. Some of the potential drawbacks of excessive omega-3 supplementation include digestive upset and excessive bleeding. These could happen if you take both supplements at the same time.
Alternatives to Supplements
There are other ways to get all three important omega-3s without resorting to multiple supplements. Eating fish twice a week offers many of the same heart-healthy benefits for the average person as taking a fish oil supplement, per the UMMC. Alternatively, you can add flax seeds to your diet, which has the added benefit of boosting your fiber intake. You can also increase your intake of ALA-rich foods, which include nuts -- especially walnuts -- as well as chia and hemp seeds.
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Omega-3 Supplements: An Introduction; August 2010rel="nofollow"
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Flaxseed and Flaxseed Oilrel="nofollow"
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Omega-3 Fatty Acids; June 2009rel="nofollow"
- Linus Pauling Institute: Lignansrel="nofollow"
- fish oil capsules image by Flashon Studio from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.