I’ve been taking fish oil nutritional supplements for several years because I don’t eat much food containing omega 3 fatty acids, which are “important for a number of bodily functions, including muscle activity, blood clotting, digestion, fertility, and cell division and growth” and other things (National Institutes of Health article Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth). When I tell doctors I take it, they nod in approval, sometimes saying things like, “Fish oil is good.”
It is a very popular supplement. The same NIH article says:
According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, which included a comprehensive survey on the use of complementary health approaches in the United States, fish oil supplements are the nonvitamin/nonmineral natural product most commonly taken by both adults and children. The survey findings indicated that about 7.8 percent of adults (18.8 million) and 1.1 percent of children age 4 to 17 (664,000) had taken a fish oil supplement in the previous 30 days.
Apparently there can be a big difference between over-the-counter (OTC) fish oil supplements and the grade approved by the FDA for medical prescriptions.
Here’s a video clip of a PBS Frontline report on efficacy and possible harm of over-the-counter fish oil supplements.
I should just eat a can of sardines and a can of tuna every week.
Find out why …
Amidst much more in their article on eating fish, the Mayo Clinic says …
For many years, the American Heart Association has recommended that people eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week. Doctors have long believed that the unsaturated fats in fish, called omega-3 fatty acids, are the nutrients that reduce the risk of dying of heart disease. However, more-recent research suggests that other nutrients in fish or a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients in fish may actually be responsible for the health benefits from fish.
As in other cases, eating the food can have more benefit than taking the supplement. There’s much more in the article worth knowing if you are interested in this fish/omega-3 thing.
I’d love to hear from you about fish oil and related concerns. Do you use a supplement? What do you think of the information presented here? Does it change or challenge your thinking on the matter? Will you alter your food/supplement habit? Considering it? Do you have other authoritative information sources to share?
- National Institutes of Health article Omega-3 Supplements: In Depth reports, “Evidence suggests that seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids should be included in a heart-healthy diet. However, omega-3s in supplement form have not been shown to protect against heart disease.”
- In the U.S. National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus article on Omega-3 Fatty Acids, they say — referring to eating the fish, not to taking the supplement — “These fatty acids [omega 3s and 6s] may also reduce the risks and symptoms for other disorders including diabetes, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, some cancers, and mental decline.”
… And it’s not just FISH. “These different types of acids can be obtained in foods such as cold-water fish including tuna, salmon, and mackerel. Other important omega 3 fatty acids are found in dark green leafy vegetables, flaxseed oils, and certain vegetable oils.” (The NIH article above says these vegetable oils are canola and soy bean.)
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) fact sheet: Omega-3 Fatty Acids. See how to contact ODS with questions.