Fish Oil Supplementation 101

I tried, but I really don’t have a clever, humorous intro for this article. Instead, I’m going to randomly place funny things people have said to me in the pharmacy throughout this post. You’ll know it when you see it. Let’s learn about fish oils!

  • “You should shave your beard, then you may look handsome” -95 year old women
  • What’s a fish oil?
    • The term fish oil is used to refer to two different kinds of omega-3 fatty acids:
      • EPA and DHA.
  • What are omega-3 fatty acids?
    • They are unsaturated fats (aka the ‘good’ kind) which serve a lot of important beneficial functions in the body, such as: reduction in inflammation, blood pressure, triglycerides, soreness, increase in cognition, and other good stuff.
    • 3 kinds of omega-3’s are DHA, EPA, and ALA.
  • So where can I find these omega-3 things?
    • DHA and EPA are found in seafood and ALA is found in mostly flaxseed, vegetables, walnuts. About 2 servings of fatty seafood a week would get you your servings needed for DHA and EPA. Most people, though, don’t eat that much seafood.
  • “I used to look at maps…but now I look at girls. But that didn’t work. So now I’m going to go back to looking at maps.”
  • How much do I need to take?
    • Well, it depends. The recommendations vary depending on what you’re using it for and your health status. For example, the recommendation for a 56 year old who’s had a heart attack will likely be different for a 24 year old gym rat. I would say for most people reading this (a young-middle aged adult without a significant past medical history), if you’re taking fish oil supplementation, it’s for primary prevention. Primary prevention means, you haven’t had a heart attack but want to prevent one from happening and you don’t eat enough fish, so you’re supplementing with fish oil capsules.
      So, for you, a 400mg to 1gram of combined DHA/EPA is probably in the dosage range for what you’re looking for.
  • So does it actually work?
    • There’s plenty of evidence to show omega-3 consumption is correlated with less coronary heart disease (CHD) as primary prevention (primary prevention meaning you have no history of CHD).  A lot of this data comes from observational studies of looking at populations of people who have increased fish intake versus those that don’t. For example, they found that Greenland eskimos (who consume a whole lot of fish) had reduced rates of CHD, lower blood pressure, and better cholesterol compared to Westernized societies. They found that the eskimos had considerably high levels of omega-3 in their body. Are there other factors which contributed to this, such as, the likelihood of reduced McDonalds consumption and 44oz containers of soda? Yeah, probably, but the correlation is still there.
  • Conclusion.
    • Fish oil are often thought of as one of the best supplements to take, and for good reason. The benefits they offer are plentiful, and unlike the commonly consumed b-vitamins, omega-3 acids are something many people are likely actually deficient in. The best suggestion would be to start to incorporate seafood (salmon, tuna, flounder) into your diet, 2-3/week. If you really can’t find your way into doing that, then fish oil supplementation may be right to you.
    • If you want to learn more about the specifics, check the link on the second reference below. It has it broken down into each indication fish oil has been studied for and a description of it.

      Artham S, Lavie C, Milani R, et al. Fish Oil in Primary and Secondary Cardiovascular Prevention. Ochsner J. 2008 Summer; 8(2): 49–60.

      Fish Oil – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects. (n.d.). Retrieved August 29, 2015.

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