fish oil

Are Fish Oil Supplements Healthy For Us?

How food, and its component molecules, affect the body is largely a mystery. That makes the use of supplements for anything other than treating a deficiency questionable. Fish oil is the fat or oil that’s extracted from fish tissue.

Omega-3 fatty acids play important roles in brain function, normal growth and development, and inflammation. Deficiencies have been linked to a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, some cancers, mood disorders, arthritis, and more. But that doesn’t mean taking high doses translates to better health and disease prevention.

Fish oil supplements have been promoted as an easy way to protect the heart, ease inflammation, improve mental health, and lengthen life. Such claims are one reason why Americans spend more than $1 billion a year on over-the-counter fish oil. 

A study on Fish oils and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer

Funding source: The U.S. National Institutes of Health.

A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements did nothing to reduce heart attacks, strokes, or deaths from heart disease in middle-aged men and women without any known risk factors for heart disease. 

Who: 25,871 healthy, racially diverse individuals, including 12,786 men ages 50 and older and 13,085 women ages 55 and older.

What: A daily 1-gram omega-3 prescription supplement that included a combination of two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). A 1-gram dose was chosen because it is a moderate amount that is unlikely to produce side effects. A control group took a placebo.

It’s more than likely that we need the entire fish with fats, vitamins, minerals, and supporting molecules, rather than the lone molecules of EPA and DHA. 

If you’re already taking fish oil at a recommended over-the-counter dose, and you’re doing well on it, there’s no research that says you should stop. 

If you’re not taking fish oil, try to get it from your plate first. The American Heart Association recommends two servings — that’s about 7 ounces — of fish a week. Preferably the fatty kind that’s rich in omega-3s.  

Key Takeaways:

  • Omega-3 supplements likely won’t benefit people who eat at least 1.5 servings of fish per week.
  • These supplements may benefit people with low fish consumption or those with African American heritage.


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