Monthly Archives: November 2013

What Are the Benefits of Fish Oil Pills?

what are the benefits of fish oil pills?

The basic question invariably arises when most people hear the praises of fish oil supplementation:  what is fish oil used for and why should I use it?  It’s a good question; the potential benefits of taking fish oil are numerous and are still emerging along with basic research. Sadly though, many of the benefits touted by websites are either speculative or simply provide no evidence of efficacy whatsoever.

Why Take Fish Oil at All? Omega 3 Fish Oil Benefits

For a reasonable, conservative discussion of what fish oil is most likely good for, we’ve consulted the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (“NMCD”), which has identified the following typical applications for which fish oil has been found (1) effective, (2) likely effective, or (3) potentially effective.

Most Established Benefits of Fish Oil Supplementation

Heart and Cardiovascular Health:  Probably the most often-cited and well documented benefits from taking fish oil concern the promotion of heart/cardiovascular health. For example, fish oil has been found effective for reducing blood pressure in hypertensive individuals and lowering blood triglyceride levels.  Similarly, fish oil is widely-known for being helpful towards preventing heart disease and even minimizing the risk of stroke when consumed at the appropriate dosage. But care must be exercised, and physician supervision is required to determine how much should be taken, since taking too much fish oil can have adverse effects, including increasing the risk of stroke. Likewise, taking fish oil in concert with blood pressure-lowering drugs can potentially cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure.

Mental Acuity & Mental/Developmental Health:  There are a number of reported “likely” benefits identified by the NMCD that center around enhanced brain function and improvement of mental health in individuals suffering from everything from simple depression and ADHD to Alzheimer’s and full-blown psychosis.  Consequently, fish oil has sometimes been characterized as a brain-enhancing supplement. Further, many of these benefits have been reported to accrue to children in utero due to maternal consumption of fish containing Omega 3.  For example, one UK study that found women who ate more than 12 ounces of fish per week during pregnancy gave birth to children who scored higher on tests for verbal I.Q., social behavior, and communication compared to children of  women who avoided fish during pregnancy.  Notably, none of the children of mothers who consumed were found to have suffered from the effects of Mercury or other chemical contaminants.  This is an important finding, since it calls into question the wisdom of the FDA’s blanket recommendation that pregnant women limit their consumption of fish to less than 12 ounces per week due to the threat of chemical (primarily Mercury) contamination.

Other “Potential” Omega 3 Fish Oil Benefits

Beyond the main uses noted above, there are many, many other reported possible benefits of taking fish oil supplements that show promise, but still don’t have the large body of evidence needed to broadly establish their efficacy pursuant to the conservative standards generally set by the medical community.  Here are some uses reported by the NMCD and National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) that fish oil might be useful for:

Treatment of Diabetes
Prevention of Miscarriage
Treatment of Glaucoma and Dry Eyes
Treatment of Menstrual & Breast Pain
Treatment of Kidney Disease
Treatment of Obesity
Treatment/Prevention of Asthma
Bipolar Disorder
Psoriasis

Weight Retention in Cancer Patients
Treatment of Dyslexia
Prevention of Transplant Rejection
Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Treatment of Osteoporosis
Prevention of Childhood Allergies
Endometrial Cancer
Treatment of Raynaud’s Syndrome

Fish Oil’s Benefit as an Anti-Inflammatory Agent

While the myriad of uses for fish oil may seem random, it is believed that its benefits stem from Omega 3’s ability to reduce inflammation. Indeed, many of the common, chronic diseases for which it is often recommended, such as asthma, depression, cancer, arthritis, etc. generally flow from effects of inflammation brought on by the excessive consumption of Omega 6 in modern diets – the same Omega 6 that is so abundant in modern foods like corn-fed, red meat and processed carbohydrates, such as cookies, crackers and other snack foods. It is believed by some researchers that the much greater ratio of Omega 6 versus Omega 3 being consumed today due to the prevalence of such foods inflames tissues, and that consumption of sufficient amounts of fish oils rich in Omega 3 can mitigate this effect and thereby possibly help control or reverse a large number of inflammation-based maladies.

We strongly encourage you to speak with your doctor or health care professional for more information about how fish oil can benefit you.

Featured (Top) Photo Credit: 7 Ways Running Can Improve Your Health….” by UrbaneWomenMag underCC BY 2.0

Omega 3 Dosage: How Much Fish Oil Should I Take?

How Much Fish Oil?

There are many websites offering seemingly authoritative opinions on how much fish oil should be consumed and what the proper omega 3 dosage is for various people and uses. However, they can often be conflicting, or at least confusing for most consumers.  Nevertheless, there is some rough consensus across some reputable sources, with some more specific dosage information for particular medical/health conditions.

How Much Fish Oil? How Much is Too Much?

While opinions vary, the following information has been gleaned from various agencies and health resources, and thereby represents a relatively conservative approach to fish oil dosages. As always, we recommend you have any supplement plan approved by a licensed physician or medical professional.

General Fish Oil / Omega 3 Dosage Recommendations For Healthy Adults

The National Institutes for Health (“NIH”) states that “low doses” of fish oil – i.e., up to about 3 grams per day – is “probably” safe for most adults, even women who are pregnant and breast-feeding.  And the World Health Organization (“WHO”) actively encourages adults to consume anywhere from 0.3 to 0.5 grams of EPA, in addition to 0.8-1.1 grams of DHA and alpha-linolenic acid, each day. But it notes that for children under the age of 18, consumption of fish should be limited (due to possible contaminants) and that fish oil supplementation occur only under physician supervision.

Likewise, the American Heart Association (“AHA”) is strongly in favor of fish oil, and recommends that healthy people consume 2 servings of oily fish per week.  This translates roughly to 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day. For those with heart disease or heart health issues, the AHA suggests 1000 mg of EPA and DHA per day be consumed.

Taking Higher Doses of Fish Oil?

And while consuming low doses of fish oil as outlined above is widely considered quite safe for most people, the NIH cautions that some “safety concerns” do arise when taking fish oil supplements at high doses.  Among the most notable of these are the risk of interfering with blood clotting and the potential for impairing the immune system’s activity, thereby leaving an individual more vulnerable to infection. Obviously, this would be of particular concern for the elderly, people with HIV/AIDs, and those on steroid therapy to treat autoimmune disorders or prevent organ transplant rejection, since these individuals will already have greatly suppressed immune function. Consequently, the NIH instructs that higher doses of fish oil should be taken only under appropriate medical supervision. Good advice.

And while you may think that getting large doses of fish oil by gorging on dietary sources is comparatively free from risk, think again.  Consuming large amounts of certain types of oily fish can be problematic not because of the fish oil they contain, but rather because of possible mercury or other chemical contamination. Contamination is possible with various fish species, but be especially wary of your consumption levels of farm-raised salmon, shark meat and king mackerel, since these are known to be in a relatively high-risk category for contamination.  Fortunately, in contrast, most fish oil supplements are generally free from mercury and other chemical contaminants.

Specific Fish Oil Dosage Precautions

As with most supplements, there is a long list of potential side effects from taking fish oil, many of which are arguably remote or are associated with high doses that don’t apply to the majority of consumers. However, the NIH has identified some “special precautions” that you should be aware of, which include the following.

People With Seafood Allergies:  Although there is currently not much data to support this, it is believed that people who suffer from seafood allergies may be more likely to be allergic to fish oil as well. Consequently, it is generally advised that seafood/fish allergy sufferers experiment with fish oil very gradually to avoid being surprised by an acute reaction to a typical or higher dose.

Those With Mental Health Issues:  Although fish oil has been used to treat depression and prevent the onset of full psychosis, it is also poses a potential risk to individuals with bipolar disorder and depression, as consuming fish oil is thought to potentially exacerbate the severity of these conditions in some people.

People With Diabetes:  High doses of fish oil are reputed to potentially interfere with the regulation of blood glucose levels, which could be particularly dangerous to diabetics or those with pre-diabetes, where the maintenance of safe glucose levels is of paramount concern.

Those Undergoing Hypertension Treatment:  Ironically, another one of fish oil’s main benefits – the ability to lower blood pressure – can also be a hazard to some people who already are undergoing treatment with medications designed to reduce blood pressure.  The combined, syngergistic effect of these two treatments can potentially cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure.

People with HIV/AIDS and Suppressed Immune Systems:  As discussed above, higher doses of fish oil can lower the body’s immune system response, which may not be a problem for healthy adults with strong immune responses, but can create serious risks for people whose immune system is already compromised weak due to disease, old age, or treatment with steroids.

Liver Disease Sufferers:  If you suffer from liver disease, please take note that consumption of fish oil has been suggested to potentially increase the risk of bleeding, since one of the effects of fish oil is to reduce the efficacy and function of blood clotting factors.

Condition-Specific Fish Oil Dosage Recommendations

The following dosages are suggested for particular conditions or applications.  However, as with any supplementation regimen, it should first be approved by your consulting physician before starting.

Please note that in some cases dosages are reflected as “mg/kg,” which refers to the milligrams of the substance indicated per kilogram of bodyweight.  For those not used to metric weights, simply divide your bodyweight in pounds by 2.2 to obtain kilograms, than multiply this by the milligrams specified to calculate the milligrams you should consume.

Control of Triglycerides & Treatment of Hypertension:  The recommended dose for the most common application for fish oil – i.e., the reduction of high blood triglyceride levels – is between 1-4 grams/day.  And for those suffering from hypertension, a dosage of either 4 grams of fish oil, or a combination of 2.04 grams of EPA and 1.4 grams of DHA, per day.

Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation:  Although the NIH does not specify a fish oil dosage, it indicates that consuming baked or broiled (not fried) fish containing omega-3 fatty acids once or twice per week can be effective for patients suffering from this heart condition.

Maintenance of Kidney Transplants:  Consuming fish oil to mitigate problems associated with using cyclosporine and the  prevention of  transplant rejection is reported effective at a dosage of roughly 12 grams per day, of which 2.2 grams of EPA and 1.4 grams of DHA should be provided.

Reducing Risk of Sudden Death in Coronary Heart Disease Patients:  For these individuals, fish oil is recommended that contains between 0.3-6 grams of EPA and 0.6 to 3.7 grams of DHA.

Reducing Asthma Symptoms in Children: For children with asthma, it’s advised to consume fish oil containing 17-26.8 mg/kg of EPA and 7.3-11.5 mg/kg of DHA. Interestingly, it is reported that pregnant women who consume 4 grams of fish oil daily (containing 32% EPA and 23% DHA with tocopherol) toward the later phase of the pregnancy can help prevent the development of asthma in children.

Preventing Childhood Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis:  The recommended dosage for mothers to help prevent these conditions is approximately 4 grams (containing 32% EPA and 23% DHA with tocopherol) daily during late-phase pregnancy.

General Treatment of Asthma:  For asthma sufferers generally, the recommended does is between 17-26.8 mg/kg of EPA and between 7.3-11.5 mg/kg of DHA, daily.

Prevention and Reversal of Hardening of the Arteries:  The generally recommended dosage for helping/reversing hardening of the arteries is reported to be 6 grams of fish oil  per day, for the first three months, and 3 grams per day thereafter.

Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis:  For the many individuals plagued by Rheumatoid arthritis, the suggested dosage is 3.8 grams of EPA and 2 grams DHA each day.

Treatment of  ADHD: – For the treatment of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, it is advised that approximately six capsules of 400 mg of fish oil and 100 mg of evening primrose oil (- in Eye Q, Novasel) be taken daily.

For Preventing Miscarriage:  It is reported that women with antiphospholipid antibody syndrome and a history of past miscarriages may benefit from taking approximately 5.1 grams fish oil that contain EPA and DHA at a 1.5 EPA to DHA ratio.

Reducing Menstrual Pain: –  Women may obtain some relief from the cramping associated with menstruation when 1080 mg of EPA and 720 mg of DHA is taken daily.

To Help Lose Weight:  To stimulate weight loss in otherwise healthy individuals, the recommended daily dose is 2-7 ounces of fish containing approximately 3.65 grams omega-3 fatty acids (of which 0.66 gram consists of EPA and 0.60 gram is DHA).

To Slow Weight Loss: – For those trying to slow weight loss, particular for cancer patients seeking to maintain a healthy body weight, it is advised to take 7.5 grams of fish oil containing roughly 4.7 grams of EPA and 2.8 grams of DHA per day.

To Fight Depression / Onset of Full Psychosis:  Along with using traditional antidepressant therapy, a dose of 9.6 grams of fish oil per day is recommended for patients suffering from depression.  And to help prevent the onset of full psychosis in cases where individuals are exhibiting mild symptoms, a dose of 1.2 grams of fish oil per day is advised.