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Fish Oil: Pros, Cons and Warnings

  
  
  

Is fish oil right for you?

People are snapping up more fish-oil supplements than ever. They're taking them to treat a long list of ailments: menstrual cramps, heart disease, asthma, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, depression, psoriasis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and pregnancy complications. But the supplements—made from mackerel, herring, and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA—aren't a cure-all. And based on our new tests, some of them aren't as pure as you might expect. So who should take fish oil? Here's the answer to that question, plus some other essential information.


Who should take fish oil?

It could help people who have high levels of triglycerides, an artery-clogging fat that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Fish oil may reduce those levels by 20 to 50 percent. People who have coronary heart disease should also consider taking it. Fish oil may lower their risk of a second heart attack, possibly because it slows or slightly reverses hardening of the coronary arteries.

How much?

Those with high triglycerides may need as much as 4 grams of combined EPA and DHA from capsules a day, used under a doctor's care. People with heart disease should consume 1 gram of those two fatty acids a day, either from eating 3.5 ounces of fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, or sardines, or from capsules after consultation with a physician. Healthy people should protect against heart disease by eating fatty fish at least twice a week. But women who are or may become pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid eating fish that is high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, and tuna, and should eat only up to 12 ounces of fatty fish a week.

Who else might benefit?

Although the evidence isn't overwhelming, the supplements may modestly lower high blood pressure, ease menstrual and rheumatoid arthritis pain, and improve the symptoms of ADHD and asthma in children. They might also help with osteoporosis, kidney disease, bipolar disorder, and Raynaud's syndrome, a disorder that affects the arteries to the fingers and toes.

Who shouldn't bother?

Fish oil is unlikely to lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes or help gum infection, liver disease, migraines, allergic skin rashes, and stomach ulcers. There isn't enough evidence to say whether it protects against Alzheimer's disease, heart arrhythmia, depression, dry eyes, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, pregnancy complications, or cancer.

Is fish oil fattening?

A capsule containing 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids in 1 gram of oil has about 13 calories.

Who should never take it?
Fish oil is probably safe for most people in doses of 3 grams or less per day. Higher amounts might increase the risk of bleeding, increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, and impair immune function. And talk to your doctor before taking it if you have liver disease, bipolar disorder, depression, or diabetes, or if you take a blood pressure-lowering drug or a blood-thinning drug such as aspirin, or if you're getting chemotherapy treatments for cancer. (It's always a good idea to tell your doctor about all the supplements you take, whether you have one of those conditions or not.) Skip fish-oil supplements if you're allergic to fish or seafood, or if you have an implanted defibrillator to prevent irregular heartbeat.

Fish oil supplements are popular for their heart benefits and other wellness-promoting properties. In fact, other than multivitamins, fish oil supplements are used more commonly by Americans than any other natural product, according to a 2007 National Health Interview Survey. Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats your body needs but cannot manufacture on its own. While these supplements have benefits, there are also drawbacks to consider.

Description

Fish oil supplements are made of the oils extracted from mackerel, herring, tuna, halibut, salmon, cold liver, whale blubber or seal blubber. The supplements also may contain small amounts of vitamin E to prevent spoilage and possibly other vitamins and minerals. Two important omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, are found in fish oil supplements. Fish oil supplements are sold as capsules and contain approximately 9 calories per gram of oil. They are available in supermarkets, drug stores and natural foods stores.

Pros

MayoClinic.com notes there is strong evidence that the EPA and DHA in fish oil capsules lower triglycerides, slow hardening of the arteries and reduce the risk of death from heart attacks and strokes. MedlinePlus reports that fish oil also may help ease rheumatoid arthritis and menstrual pain, reduce the risk of vision-impairing macular degeneration and protect pregnant women from a particular kind of miscarriage, although more research is needed to confirm these benefits. When taken in doses of 3 grams or less, fish oil supplements appear to be safe for most people, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Cons

An unpleasant aftertaste and fish-smelling burps are two common side effects of fish oil supplements. You also may experience bad breath, heartburn, nausea, mild diarrhea and a rash. High doses have more serious risks. Taking more than 3 grams a day could keep blood from clotting and increase the risk of bleeding, which can be particularly hazardous if you cut yourself or need emergency surgery. Although low doses of fish oil supplements may protect you from having a stroke, high doses actually can have the opposite effect, increasing the risk of stroke, cautions Medline Plus. High doses also may impair immunity. Consult your doctor before taking high doses of fish oil supplements.

Considerations

Freezing fish oil supplements or taking them with meals can reduce the chance of a fishy aftertaste and belching, and taking time-release fish oil capsules also may reduce these side effects. It's unknown whether fish oil supplements can be used safely by people with fish and shellfish allergies. Keep in mind that fish oil supplements are not strictly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and may be contaminated with mercury or other heavy metals and pollutants. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends buying fish oil supplements from a reputable source. Consult your doctor before taking high doses of fish oil supplements.

Don't get the 'fish burps'

To avoid this common fish-oil pill complaint, keep them in the freezer or take them with a meal.
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Comments

Awesome post!!! Really enjoyed this post. But I want more information on such valuable topic . 
Posted @ Tuesday, September 30, 2014 5:39 AM by Puritans Pride Coupon
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