Questions about the benefits of fish oil supplements


Cambridge (Massachusetts): “Asharq Al-Awsat” *

Perhaps no nutritional supplement ever garnered as much attention, and it did not provoke as much confusion and confusion as fish oil, because some research indicates that taking fish oil supplements daily can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, evidence based on this level remains fragile.

Fish oil

In addition, there are many types of fish oil supplements that can be bought directly from pharmacies or online – are they safe? Is it a better option than eating fish?

In this regard, Dr. Howard Lewin, associate professor of medicine at Harvard School of Medicine and editor-in-chief of Harvard Men’s Health Watch, said he believed that “fish oil is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential nutrients that the body cannot produce on its own. However, the odds are that taking over-the-counter fish oil supplements does not provide additional heart health benefits than a balanced diet can achieve.

However, many questions remain unanswered so far. Here’s a quick look at the most frequently asked questions (and the most straightforward answers) regarding the relationship between fish oil and heart health, which is sometimes complicated.


> What is “Omega-3”? There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ). Both EPA and DHA are found naturally in fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines. These fatty acids are available in stores over the counter.

Moreover, nuts, seeds, and some beans are rich in ALA, which the body converts into DHA and EPA.

Omega-3 and the heart. On the other hand, although omega-3 acids are associated with many health benefits, such as improving the brain’s ability to function and reducing inflammation, they are most of the time specifically linked to improving heart health.

Studies have revealed that individuals who eat fish regularly, especially as part of the Mediterranean diet, face a lower risk of heart attacks and strokes compared to those who do not eat fish.

However, the science is not clear about what the effect of omega-3 acids specifically will improve heart health or protect against heart disease. About that, Dr. said. Lewin: “Omega-3 acids are not a type of superfood for heart health. There is a consensus that omega-3 acids should be consumed as part of a healthy, complete diet that benefits the heart, but the exact nature of the benefit that they provide, and the size of the amount that one needs are still in dispute.

Food and supplements,

does food replace supplements? This is a golden question, and the answer may be worth millions of dollars.

Food is the best food. The advice provided by nutritionists and cardiologists in this regard focuses on the fact that it is always better to obtain omega-3 acids from food. About that, Dr. said. Lewin: “That way, you’ll also get vital nutrients from fish, nuts and seeds.”

Limited supplement benefit. However, we find that most research studies do not reveal significant benefits to the heart from taking omega-3 supplements for the average person. For example, the study conducted on vitamin D and omega-3 at Harvard Medical School and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, on January 3, 2016, concluded that taking one gram daily of supplement Omega-3’s, over an average of about 5 years, does not reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke among men 50 years of age or older and women 55 years of age or older.

Dietary meals

How much should you eat? In 2018, the American Heart Association reaffirmed its advice that you should eat a 3-ounce (29-ounce) high-fat fish meal twice a week. This is equivalent to between 2 and 4 grams of omega-3s per week. (One 3-ounce serving of fatty fish provides between 0.5 grams to about 2 grams of omega-3.

Vegetarian meals. Now, what do you do if you aren’t a fan of fish or a vegetarian diet? You can still get enough omega-3s from plant sources rich in ALA acids. Because the body converts ALA into EPA and DHA, ultimately the amount of omega-3 in your body is usually less than what you get from eating fish. Some estimates suggest that only between 10% and 20% of ALA is being converted to EPA and DHA.

However, the majority of individuals get about 10 times more ALA in their diets than they do in DHA and EPA, especially if they stick to a plant-based diet, which compensates for The small conversion rate, according to what Dr. Eric Rim, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University.

Taking Supplements

> Should you take an omega-3 supplement? The only exception to the “eat rather than supplement” advice is if you are having trouble eating fish because you do not like the taste, have dietary restrictions or health safety concerns. In this case, taking a daily omega-3 capsule might be a good idea. And if you do decide to take a supplement, you should look for a product that is certified by a trusted authority.

In this regard, Dr. said. Lewin: “As with foods, dietary supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, primarily to ensure safety. However, they are not subject to the same degree of deep scrutiny as drugs for levels of purity and potency. ”

In fact, many of the omega-3 products do not contain the amounts of DHA and EPA mentioned on their outer packaging.

Omega-3 dose. On the other hand, determining the appropriate dose is pivotal, as consuming an excessive amount of omega-3 may increase the risk of bleeding, especially for people who are taking anticoagulant drugs, including warfarin and low doses of aspirin.

The basic idea here is that consuming omega-3 acids from fish and plant foods should form part of a heart-healthy diet. Food is always the best source of omega-3, but if you are concerned that you are not getting an adequate amount of it through food, you should discuss the idea of ​​taking a supplement with your doctor.

If you meet certain criteria, your doctor may suggest that you take a specific type of “omega-3” supplement that can only be dispensed with a doctor’s prescription.


When is the time to take an omega-3 supplement based on a doctor’s prescription? People who have dangerously high triglyceride levels, as well as those with moderately high levels of these fats and are at risk of heart attack or stroke, may benefit from taking an omega-3 drug.

It is worth noting in this regard that a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 3, 2019 examined more than 8,000 people suffering from heart disease or diabetes who had high levels of triglycerides despite taking statin drugs to lower cholesterol levels. .

Half of the participants took 4 grams of icosapent ethyl (Vascepa), a supplement containing just EPA, daily for five years. Next, the researchers found that triglyceride levels decreased by 18 percent in the people who took the supplement. This group also faced lower rates of heart attack and death than the group that did not take the supplement.

* Harvard Message “Monitoring Men’s Health”, “Tribune Media” Services


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