Brain Health, Healthy Ageing, Heart Health, Nutrition

Is Fish Oil the same as Omega 3

We all know that eating fish is good for our health. The government advise us to eat at least 2 servings of fish a week, one of these should be oily fish (more on that later).

Seafood is the richest dietary source of Omega 3, a vital health promoting fat that we all need to eat to stay fit and well. The big problem is – 1 in 3 of us don’t like it1. It is likely therefore that many of us are deficient in Omega 3 which is why fish oil supplements are so popular.

Here we aim to talk about: what makes eating fish a good option; to understand what exactly Omega 3 is; to discuss oily fish, fish oil and fish oil supplements; and to identify possible symptoms of omega 3 deficiency.

Eating Seafood is Great!

For those of you who love eating fish, here is a list of all of the reasons to carry on eating more if it!

  • Seafood is delicious!
  • According to Seafish2 you could eat seafood every day for two months and still never eat the same meal! Brilliant! For some great fishy recipes visit:
  • Seafood is a great source of protein
  • It is low in saturated fat
  • The UK has over 100 edible species of fish in our local waters – so we are supporting our local economy too by buying UK fish!2
  • Seafood is a great source of vital minerals and vitamins
  • BUT most importantly fish, particularly oily fish and some shellfish, is the most important source of the essential, health promoting fat – Omega 3.
  • Excessive thirst
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Dry or rough skin (often small red lumps appear on the back of the arms)
  • Dry hair, hair loss or dandruff
  • PMS or breast tenderness
  • Eczema, asthma, joint pain
  • Some types of learning difficulties
  • Hyperactivity
  • Mental health issues including depression6
    And to help put this all into prespective we have produced this guide of how much Omega 3 is contained in different food stuffs, including fish.

What is Omega 3?

Our bodies are really very clever and when we eat our food we can reorder it by breaking it down and then rebuilding new formations. The reworked results of this enable us to live, breathe, repair ourselves, communicate between organs and body systems and to perform the millions of chemical or electrical changes that make us human. Despite this, there are some specific formations of fats that we have to eat in order for us to carry on being healthy and these are called Omega 3 and Omega 6. We simply can’t make them and HAVE to have them in our diet or we will have a deficiency (or not enough to keep us healthy). They are ESSENTIAL, hence the name Essential fats.

These fats are not called “essential” for nothing. Every cell in your body is made of them and a continuous supply is necessary for the body to function at its peak – if we don’t eat enough of them, we will become unwell. But in this article we are talking about Omega 3 only.

Having insufficient quantities of Omega 3 has been linked with an increased incidence of disease including poor heart and circulatory health, mental decline e.g. dementia, mental health including depression and schizophrenia, asthma, arthritis and some cancers2. In addition adequate intake of Omega 3 by pregnant women has been linked with better brain3 and eye4 function in their children.

Fish, Fish Oil and Omega 3

The oil from fish is very rich in Omega 3. So fish oil that has been extracted from the flesh or the livers of fish contains high levels of Omega 3 fats – and it is this that is widely sold as supplements, in capsules or liquids form.

Which Fish?

Eating fish is our best source of Omega 3… but here it gets a bit complicated. We need to choose fish with high amounts of oil in their body to get a good helping of these precious Omega 3 oils – these are called oily fish. Oily fish have oils in their fillets and belly cavity; white fish, such as cod or haddock, have a high density of oil in the liver but far lower amounts in their flesh. Common oily fish include: mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout and tuna.  Shellfish also contain Omega 3 fats in high quantities; see here for a handy chart .

For an excellent guide to how much Omega 3 in found in different fish species:

Omega 3 foods – are you getting enough?

Which Omega 3?

Oily fish contain two specific forms of Omega 3 which are used directly within our cell structures. We can make these ourselves, if we eat plant sourced Omega 3, but we need a good amount of supporting nutrients for their conversion. So eating oily fish not only provides the essential omega 3 – it provides the oils in the most useful form and saves your body from doing the work. It is these two chemical forms of Omega 3 that you can often see listed on the back of good quality fish oil supplements: EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Look for a good quantity of each in your supplement programme6.

Good vegetarian sources of Omega 3 are nuts and seeds which contain higher levels of fats, in particular linseeds (otherwise known as flaxseeds) and hempseeds. These contain forms of Omega 3 that are then converted inside your body to other types of Omega 3 fats.

Are you lacking in Omega 3?

Unless you are eating the recommended amount of fish or have a diet rich in seeds and nuts – you have a high chance that you are not getting the right balance of essential fats in your diet. It has been suggested that the average person eats one sixth of the Omega 3 in their diet of the average person living in 18506. This is mainly due to a high consumption of processed foods, which rarely contain high levels of Omega 3 fat as it is unstable and can quickly become rancid making it taste unpleasant. This problem then reduces shelf life of foods making food manufacturers less profit. The modern, Western diet does not typically contain enough Omega 37 so it is worth looking out for the symptoms that could mean you are low in Omega 3.  Below is a list of some symptoms that have been associated with low levels of Omega 3:

Fish, Fish Oil and Omega 3 is a vital part of our diet

We have been bombarded with messages from the media, food manufacturers and the supplement industry about the benefits of: good oils; fish oils; Omega 3, essential fats.

Here we have explored the relationship between eating fish and the essential fat Omega 3 and how to choose fish that is most likely to contain high levels of this valuable health-promoting oil. The importance of having enough Omega 3 in your diet can not be under estimated. If you do not eat fish at least 2 times a week or Omega 3 rich seeds daily, it is so important to supplement your diet to make sure that you protect yourself and your children from the degenerative diseases and poor performance associated with a lack of Omega 3.


More Omega-3 articles

Omega 3 -What is Omega 3

Omega 3 Benefits – Health Benefits Of Omega 3

Omega 3 Fish Oil? - Is fish oil the same as Omega 3

Omega 3 Foods - Are you gettin enough – infographic


1 Seven Seas Picture of Health Survey. 3,000 surveyed.November 2010-January 2011

2 Seafish. Sponsored by the four UK government fisheries departments; promotes good quality, sustainable seafood.

3 Lands B, 2008, A critique of paradoxes in current advice on dietary lipids, Progress in Lipid Research, 47:77-106

4 Willatts C, Forsyth JS, DiModugno MK, Varma S, Colvin M, 1998, Effect of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in infant formula on problem solving at 10 months of age, Lancet, 352:688-691

5 Williams C, Birch EE, Emmett PM, North K and The ALSPAC Study Team, 2001, Stereoacuity at age 3.5 y in children born full term is associated with prenatal and postnatal dietary factors: a report from a population based cohort study, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 73:316-322

6 Holford, P 2004, New Optimum Nutrition Bible, Piatkus, London (Chapter 9)

7 Freeman MP, Hibbeln JR, Wisner KL, Davis JM, Mischoulon D, Peet M, Keck PE, Marangell LB, Richardson AJ, Lake J, Stoll AL, 2006, Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Evidence Basis for Treatment and Future Research in Psychiatry, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 67:1954-1967


Erasmus U, 1993, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill, Alive Books, Canada

Lecture: Fatty Acids, The Institute for Optimum Nutrition, 06.11.05, Dr G. Mouton, London

Holford, P 2004, New Optimum Nutrition Bible, Piatkus, London (Chapter 9)

Lecture: Omega 3 and Fish Oils, 22.03.11, Dr L Lindmark, Manchester

Disclaimer: Seven Seas Life is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The articles are based on peer reviewed research, and discoveries/products mentioned in the articles may not be approved by our regulatory bodies, you will find no mention of Seven Seas products within the pages of the Seven Seas Life Section..Read more

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  1. SevenSeasLife says:

    Seven Seas Life cannot offer medical advice, but please read our other articles on eating well and controlling high blood pressure. You should also speak to your GP or Healthcare Professional.

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