A lot has been said, and written, about Omega-3 fatty oils and the benefits for the heart. However, the never ending questions are: what is better for my heart, fish or fish oil capsules? Can I replace fish with fish oil capsules? Well, here is the answer.

Omega-3 fats consumption is recommended by the American Heart Association and several other groups to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, there has been little research on whether the body processes fats from fish oil capsules and fish in the same way. To investigate the matter, Dr. Harris, from the University of South Dakota and his team had a group of 11 women eat two servings of tuna or salmon each week, while another group of 12 women took the same amount of omega-3s, an estimated 485 milligrams daily, in capsule form.

After 16 weeks, the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the red blood cells of women in both groups had risen by 40 percent to 50 percent, while omega-3s in the plasma, the liquid portion of the blood, had risen by 60 percent to 80 percent.

We went into the project assuming that fish would be better, based on some previous literature from other studies, Dr. Harris indicated. Based on the current findings, he added that it doesn’t make any difference whether we get our omega 3 fatty acids from a concentrate in a capsule or in fish — they have the same effect as far as enriching our tissues with omega 3s.”

Nevertheless, Dr. Harris emphasized that he would encourage people to eat fish rather than relying on fish oil capsules. Fish contributes proteins, vitamins, and minerals to our diet that the fish oil capsules don’t bring.

Benefits of Omega-3s for the Heart

Improved heart rhythms
Uncontrolled heart rhythms are responsible for nearly half of all cardiac mortality. By affecting the electrical activity of the heart, Omega-3s from fish help maintain stable heart rhythms.

Improved heart rate
Heart rate is the number of beats your heart pumps per minute at rest. Heart rate is lower in people who are physically fit and higher in the obese. Normal heart rate is between 60 and 80 beats per minute and usually increases with age. Consumption of marine omega-3s is associated with lowering heart rate, a condition that lowers the chance of heart attacks.

Reduced blood clotting
Some blood clotting is essential for life, but an excessive tendency towards clotting increases the risk of blocked arteries. These can be fatal when a clot completely closes a blood vessel in the heart, lungs, or brain. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish or marine plants reduce platelet clumping, improve blood flow, and make red blood cells more flexible so they pass through small blood vessels more easily. Omega-3s do not pose a serious risk to blood clotting unless a person consumes very large amounts of them (roughly 10 grams a day) or is already taking blood thinners (anti-coagulants) and consuming large amounts of omega-3s

Less inflammation
Although we can not notice it, low-level inflammation of the blood vessels is linked to heart disease and impaired blood vessel function. High levels of the protein CRP in the blood are linked to the inflammation observed in heart disease. Some studies have reported that consumption of omega-3s reduces CRP in people with heart disease. Omega-3s are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

Final thoughts
Remember that although fish and fish oil capsules can provide the same benefit as far as Omega-3 fats is concerned, eating fish will contribute to much more than just Omega-3s. Fish, whether fresh, frozen or canned, will provide you with iron, needed to prevent anemia; phosphorus, needed for the brain; iodine for the thyroid; as well as good quality protein. Best source of Omega-3s from fish: salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and trout. If you do not have a heart condition, 2 or 3 portions of fish a week will contribute with the needed omega-3s, 2 grams a week.

If you already have had a cardiovascular episode, you can add some capsules of fish oil to your diet. Do not exceed 1 gram a day of Omega-3s.

Author's Bio: 

Emilia Klapp has a bachelor in Nutrition Science. She is certified as a Registered Dietitian by the American Dietetic Association and the author of the book Your Heart Needs the Mediterranean Diet. The book is a must in the prevention of Heart Disease and Diabetes. For more information about the author and the book and to get a FREE list of the 10 Top Mediterranean Curative Foods, go to: http://www.MediterraneanHeart.com