How does fish oil decrease inflammation?

I’ve been working on the most comprehensive video-training on supplements, vitamins, and herbs in IBD ever produced.

My general approach is always to never leave any stone unturned and to give my clients all the resources they need to craft their ultimate protocol in close collaboration with their robust medical and health teams.

I want to talk about one of the most lauded and probably most researched supplements of all time – especially in its ability to decrease inflammation.

Indeed a quick search on PubMed for the terms “fish oil,” or “omega 3” respectively illuminate about 30,000 results for each term.

The science is pretty incontestable that Omega 3s including ALA (found in plants) and especially EPA & DHA (found in marine animals) decrease inflammation, and while the evidence is a little weaker when it comes to IBD specifically, practitioners often advocate for this supplement as one component to a comprehensive anti-inflammatory protocol.

So, are all fish oil supplements created equal?

Heck no.

Omega 3 refers to the location of the double bond in the fatty acid chain on carbon #3 and there are quite a few mechanisms by which they decrease inflammation; in one recent paper for example, it is hypothesized that omega 3 activates autophagy in macrophages and thus helps to “clean up” the immune system. (I have an earlier post on autophagy btdubs). Omega 3 fatty acids are required for normal biological functioning and cannot be synthesized by the body, and thus getting them from our diet is critical.

When found in fish (often from the deep sea in the nordic regions), omega 3 fatty acids come packaged in “3s” attached to a glyceride backbone in their native “triglyceride form.”

When fish oil supplement companies purify and refine the omega 3 fatty acids they do so without the glyceride backbone, and usually, don’t reattach the fatty acids in this manner. This also contributes to the “fishy smell.” This probably makes them less bioavailable.

So! Here is what I do:

For my own protocol, I stick with brands that respect the native triglyceride. Right now I like Nordic Naturals for several reasons. 1) all their products are in triglycerides. 2) they publish all safety/third party testing. 3) They’ve been in the game for a long time. (And no I have zero relationships or incentive with them – I think there are probably a lot of good brands out there). Lastly just a little tip I like to keep my fish oil in the fridge. I notice that capsules stay firmer and the product stays fresher.