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Salmon Oil: Are There Health Benefits?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 17, 2020

Seafood is one of the best sources of health-promoting nutrients, including some that many people lack in their diet. Research shows that people who eat one to two servings fish like salmon per week reduce their heart disease risk by 36%.

However, only one third of Americans eat seafood weekly, and about half eat fish occasionally or never. 

Salmon oil is made from the fish’s healthy fats, known as omega-3 fatty acids. Taking salmon oil is an excellent way to get these essential nutrients if you don’t eat fish frequently or avoid it altogether. 

Salmon oil is available at many vitamin retailers. While clinical studies show that supplements like salmon oil are safe when taken as directed, all seafood has a risk of trace contaminants like heavy metals. Talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet and choose a reputable brand.  

Nutrition Information

A 3-gram serving of salmon oil contains: 

  • Calories: 25
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 3 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

It’s also an excellent source of both types of omega-3 fatty acids, which includes DHA and EPA

These omega-3s are only available in seafood. They can reduce the risk of heart disease and may promote healthy joints and brain function. 

Potential Health Benefits of Salmon Oil

Most people don’t get the recommended amount of omega-3s in their diet. Deficiencies are associated with a number of health problems, like heart disease, mood disorders, arthritis, and some cancers.

Adding salmon oil to your diet can help you get enough of these health-boosting nutrients. It may also offer other health benefits like:

Heart Health

Studies show that the omega-3s in salmon oil help lower triglyceride levels. High levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood, are a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

Salmon oil also increases good (HDL) cholesterol levels. This helps clear your arteries of bad (LDL) cholesterol that can build up in your blood vessels over time. HDL cholesterol also promotes strong and flexible artery walls. This supports healthy heart function and lowers disease risk. 

Lower Risk of Chronic Disease

Salmon oil’s omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties. While inflammation is your body’s natural response to stress and infection, high levels over time raise your risk of chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and arthritis

By helping to reduce inflammation, research shows a diet high in omega-3s can help protect against these and other inflammation-related diseases.

Better Circulation

One study found that the omega-3s in salmon oil can improve your body’s blood flow and oxygen circulation. The effect is stronger compared to other omega-3 sources. Scientists think this is because the body converts omega-3s into nitric oxide, a substance that helps your blood vessels stay relaxed, flexible, and strong. 

Cognitive Support

Salmon oil is one of the best available sources of DHA. While research is ongoing, studies show that this omega-3 helps repair and maintain brain cells. Getting enough of this fatty acid in your diet may reduce your risk of cognitive decline, including conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.   

Eye Health

The omega-3 content in salmon oil may support eye health as well. One study showed that omega-3 supplements lowered the risk of eye problems like glaucoma and age-related vision loss

Potential Risks of Salmon Oil

Salmon oil supplements are typically safe. However, you’ll want to choose a reputable brand to ensure a product is well-sourced and free from additives. Talk to your doctor before adding it to your diet. 

Salmon oil does come with some potential risks including:

Heavy Metal Contamination

All seafood has some contamination risk from toxins like heavy metals present in the water. Studies find only small or trace amounts in salmon oil, but only high doses may cause serious health issues. Some research suggests that farmed salmon may have less contaminant risk.

Seafood Allergy

Some people have an allergy to finned fish, including salmon. If you have shellfish allergies, you may be able to consume salmon safely. However, be careful to choose a salmon oil that has no risk of cross-contamination with shellfish.

Stomach Discomfort

In high amounts, omega-3 supplements like salmon oil can cause heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea. Take it only as directed.

Medication Interactions

Omega-3 supplements can interact with blood-thinning medications.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology: “Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and inflammatory processes: nutrition or pharmacology?”

Canadian Center of Science and Education: “Seafood Consumption and Components for Health.”

Consumer Lab: “Is fish oil safe? Is it contaminated with mercury and PCBs?”

EMBO Reports: “The inflammation theory of disease.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Salmon Oil.”

European Journal of Applied Physiology: “Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation enhances stroke volume and cardiac output during dynamic exercise.”

Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience: “Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA.”

Harvard Medical School: “Fish: Friend or Foe?”

Harvard Medical School: “HDL cholesterol: Protecting your heart and arteries.”

Harvard Medical School: “Omega-3 fatty acids: Does your diet deliver?”

JAMA: “Fish intake, contaminants, and human health: evaluating the risks and the benefits.”

Lipids in Health and Disease: “Docosahexaenoic acid regulates vascular endothelial cell function and prevents cardiovascular disease.”

Mayo Clinic: “Triglycerides: Why do they matter?”

Journal of the American College of Nutrition: “Omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune diseases.”

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth.”

National Institutes of Health: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

Nutrition Research: “Twice weekly intake of farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) positively influences lipoprotein concentration and particle size in overweight men and women.”

Translational Vision Science & Technology: “Oral Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Intraocular Pressure in Normotensive Adults.”

Washington State Department of Health. “Farmed Salmon vs. Wild Salmon.”

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