Fish Oil and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Fish Oil Capsules

What are omega-3 fatty acids?

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are omega-3 fatty acids. They are found in fish and sometimes called “fish oil.” Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is also an omega-3 fatty acid. It is found in soy, canola oil, flaxseed, and walnuts.

For what problems are omega-3 fatty acids helpful?

Foods that have omega-3 fatty acids, mainly fish, might prevent heart disease and stroke in some patients. Fish oil also lowers triglycerides. There is less proof that fish oil helps other problems.

What is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids?

The best source is fatty fish. Salmon is a fatty fish. Try to eat a serving of fatty fish (not fried) twice each week. Also eat foods rich in ALA. Fish oil capsules are another source. Ask your prescriber if fish oil capsules are right for you.

Should I worry about mercury in fish?

Fishes low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna (not albacore), salmon, pollock, and catfish. Fish oil capsules are often low in mercury and other pollutants. Women who are pregnant (or may become pregnant) and children should not eat as much fish as others. They should also avoid eating certain fish. For more information, see  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/chem-chim/environ/mercur/cons-adv-etud-eng.php (Canada).

Are there side effects or drug interactions with omega-3 fatty acids?

Fish oil can cause nausea, heartburn, or loose stool. It can leave a fishy taste. Taking the capsules with meals or refrigerating them may help. Throw out capsules with a very strong or spoiled taste. People allergic to fish might react to fish oil capsules. There is a small risk of bleeding or bruising. Check with your prescriber before taking fish oil at a dose over 3 grams per day. Also check with your prescriber if you are taking aspirin or a “blood thinner.”

How do I choose a fish oil product?

Nonprescription fish oil is not regulated as a drug. Quality and content varies. Choose products with the “USP Verified Mark” (or Natural Product Number [NPN] in Canada) on the label. These have good quality. Look for the amount of EPA and DHA on the label. The omega-3 content is the amount of DHA plus EPA. Stay away from cod liver oil. It contains a lot of vitamin A. Large amounts are unsafe. Krill oil has EPA and DHA. But krill oil has smaller amounts than fish oil. If you are taking fish oil for high triglycerides, ask your prescriber about prescription fish oil capsules (available in the U.S. not in Canada). Fewer capsules are needed daily. They are costly. But your health insurance might help with the cost.

Should children take omega-3 fatty acid supplements?

Fish oil might help kids with some mental health problems. In these cases, fish oil supplements are mostly used in addition to (not in the place of) medication. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for brain growth. But there is no proof that omega-3 supplements make kids smarter. Most kids should get omega-3s from diet, mainly fish.

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