Fish is probably not found on too many people's lists of their all time favorite foods. For this reason and also due to the concern of possible mercury contamination in fish, often fish oil capsules are substituted as a source of the omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Here's what you should know about these supplements.
How much is recommended? The main nutrients in the supplements are EPA (eicosapentaeonic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). To keep it simple we'll focus on the EPA. Look at your bottle's ingredients and see how much EPA (eicosapentaeonic acid) is contained in each pill. The recommendations are to take 1200 mg EPA per day.
Is any specific brand recommended more highly? Omacor is the only fish oil supplement approved by the FDA. It contains 465 mg EPA per pill. The USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia) -verified fish oil supplements such as Kirkland or Nature Made contain about 180 mg EPA per pill. Omacor is more expensive than the other supplements. There has not been any evidence of contamination with mercury in these products.
What is the benefit of omega-3 supplements? Recent studies have shown that these supplements can decrease the triglyceride level, and decrease the risk of major coronary events especially in those who are recovering from a recent heart attack. There have also been some reports which indicate the supplements may have a benefit in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthirits and psoriasis, and possibly even in depression. Although the data for the latter conditions is limited.
Are there any side effects? There has been some concern that they may trigger abnormal heart rhythyms in patients with chronic coronary disease. Other side effects include burping and indigestion, and a bad after taste. In large doses, bleeding time may be prolonged, but this has not shown to be of any clinical significance.
Does taking fish oil capsules reduce the chances of developing heart disease in an otherwise healthy person? Although eating fatty fish may be beneficial, there has been no evidence to show that a healthy person with out any of the above mentioned conditions may benefit from taking the supplements.
Reference: The Medical Letter, Volume 48, July 17, 2006. Please see links for specific references.
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