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What is Salmon Oil?

By Tessa Jones
Updated May 17, 2024
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Salmon oil is a fish oil supplement extracted from salmon and produced either as a liquid or soft gel capsule. It is high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are essential fats your body needs to function properly. The human body doesn't produce these acids, so they must be absorbed through a well-balanced diet. Omega-3s can be obtained through several types of cold-water fish, as well as other types of foods such as nuts and beans, but salmon oil supplementation is preferred by many people.

The benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are well-studied and documented. Science has shown the acids can increase good cholesterol (HDL) levels, which in turn helps to keep the cardiovascular system healthy. Fish oil contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Studies have shown these acids to help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease. Some studies have also found evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can help improve mood and mental health as well.

There are a variety of ways to include omega-3s in a healthy diet. Eating various types of cold-water fish a couple of times per week may be enough for a healthy individual for disease prevention; however, fish oil supplementation may be a good solution if more concentration of EPA and DHA is required for disease treatment, if one does not like fish, or is concerned about contaminants. Salmon oil generally is a good fish oil choice due to the relatively short life span and smaller size of this fish species. Larger, longer-lived fish have generally accumulated a higher level of contaminants, such as mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) or dioxins.

Different companies process salmon oil differently and have varying concentrations of EPA and DHA. Product labels typically will specify the quantities of EPA and DHA, not just the total amount of omega-3 fatty acids. The production process may differ by company as well, which can have an effect on the quality of the supplement. Some companies, for example, use a high-temperature distillation process, while others employ a micro-filtration system.

Salmon oil also is highly sensitive to damage from heat, light and oxygen. It should be packaged in a dark brown or green glass jar and should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. If possible, choose salmon oil that contains vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, and when added to the salmon oil, can help prevent the fatty acids from becoming rancid.

Like all foods or supplements which contain omega-3 fatty acids, salmon oil should be used cautiously by people who bruise easily, have a bleeding disorder, or take blood-thinning medications. Discuss all medications, supplements and possible side effects with a knowledgeable health care provider.

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