Fish Oil for Anxiety: Why You've Never Seen an Anxious Fish

Fish Oil for Anxiety

Admit it. You haven’t seen an anxious fish. Even when they’re tightly confined within tiny glass boxes (i.e. aquariums) and have no reasonable means of escape, they still remain cool as a cucumber.

They’re also the least socially anxious of all creatures considering the close quarters they share with their peers, and how they just seem to float on by no matter how many people stand around gawking at them.

All kidding aside the omega-3 fatty acids, ALA, EPA and DHA have been associated with many joint, heart, and brain benefits.

Below are the acronyms for the three omega-3 fatty acids (with the realxly long names).

  • ALA: alpha-linolenic acid
  • EPA: eicosapentaenoic acid
  • DHA: docosahexaenoic acid

Fish get all the credit for their rich EPA and DHA content, but the fish don’t synthesize these themselves. Fish acquire fatty acids from their diets, mostly in algae.

Why Fatty Acids are Essential

ALA is an essential fatty acid, meaning that your body doesn’t produce this on its own. You must get it from your diet.

Although DHA and EPA are technically not essential as they can be made from ALA via the liver, this conversion is limited. Like fish, people need to acquire certain fatty acids from their diet.

DHA is the fatty acid that is found in abundance in the brain, and it’s believed to be involved in early brain development. While a specific amount has not been universally determined, adequate levels of EPA and DHA are necessary for healthy brain function.

Some governments suggest up to 500mg of combined EPA and DHA. Depending on which variety, this could be about 2 or 3 servings of fish per week. As you’ll learn later, the amount of EPA and DHA used in clinical trials was much higher.

Let’s review some key points.

  • Essential fatty acids must come from diet
  • ALA is an essential omega-3 fatty acid
  • EPA and DHA are produced from ALA in the liver

If omega-3 fatty acids are essential for a healthy brain, anxiety may be potential symptom of inadequate essential fatty acid intake. In a culture where fish is not a regular part of the diet, we have access to only the limited amount of EPA and DHA that our body produces from ALA.

For some who experience unexplained, daily anxiety, adding more omega-3’s to the diet, especially EPA and DHA, might be a big piece of the puzzle.

Other potential signs of inadequate omega-3 levels:

  • Poor Concentration
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Dry hair, skin, and brittle nails

How to Shop for Fish Oil

Official studies on fish oil for mood, stress and anxiety start at about 1000 mg of EPA and 400mg of DHA per day, with some studies using as much as 4000 mg of EPA per day.

The most recent meta analysis of several fish oil studies for anxiety found greater results with 2000mg of EPA or more, and that the EPA content of the product should be at least double the DHA content.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Try to get a supplement that contains twice as much EPA as DHA (or close to it) according to the label.
  • A brand that provides an adequate supply for the money. Some expensive products contain a measly few hundred milligrams per serving of EPA and DHA combined. If you’re aiming for the 2000 mark, this could cost you several dollars per day.
  • Use a product that’s been tested by an independent third party for purity and label accuracy.
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Super Omega-3 EPA/DHA is our best-selling omega-3 fish oil supplement. It delivers an optimal dose of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Inspired by the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, Super Omega-3 also contains potent olive polyphenols and sesame lignans for additional health benefits.

  • Omega-3s from fish oil promote heart and cognitive health
  • Highly concentrated formula packed with DHA and EPA omega-3s
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  • Also contains heart-healthy Mediterranean olive and sesame extracts

If you prefer a palatable, liquid form of fish oil with no big pills to swallow, try this brand.

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Barlean’s Seriously Delicious Omega-3 High Potency Fish Oil
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So consider adding a little more omega-3 oil into your life and see if it helps keep you calm as a kipper. Who knows–maybe fish were the most anxious vertebrates in the world until someone came along and told them about the omega-3’s in algae? Perhaps they’ve been eating their way to mental health ever since.

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Add a fish oil supplement to your daily routine. Take with food for best absorption.

Alternatively, eat 2 or 3 servings of fish each week to get adequate amount of omega-3’s recommended by health authorities.

At least that’s one school of thought.

To learn about other supplements that may be helpful for anxiety, check out the Anxiety Supplement Guide from examine.com

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