What are omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a category of fats that are vital for your cells to function properly. The only way to obtain omega-3 fatty acids is through your diet or through supplementation, because the body doesn't produce these important compounds. Fish oil is an excellent source for omega-3 fatty acids.

Two of the most crucial omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These two compounds are primarily found in so-called "oily" fish such as salmon, tuna and trout.

Unfortunately, most people don't consume enough of the right kinds of fish to provide their bodies with the necessary amounts of these two vital omega-3 fatty acids.

Should I consider taking a fish oil dietary supplement?

Omega-3 fatty acids support a wide variety of health functions. Some of the better research shows that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can improve cardiovascular health.* In addition, they can help maintain proper brain and nerve function, and they provide support for healthy joints and eyes.* There's also some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids can help manage weight.*

Individuals who find it difficult to get enough omega-3 fatty acids through diet alone may wish to talk to their health care professional about taking a fish oil dietary supplement.

What are the dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids?

Dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Cold-water "oily" fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna
  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts

Fish is your best dietary source for omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish a week. A serving of fish is 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or three-fourths of a cup of flaked fish.

Certain types of fish, such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish, are more likely to contain toxins such as mercury. Each state's health department will usually issue an advisory regarding the safe amount of locally caught fish that can be consumed. Women who are pregnant or nursing should be especially careful about following their health care professional's guidance regarding fish consumption.

How can fish oil affect my health?

  • They support already healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels*
  • They promote cardiovascular health*
  • They help maintain already normal blood pressure*
  • They promote joint health*
  • They can support a weight management program*
  • They promote eye health*
  • They support a healthy respiratory system*
  • They promote mental focus*
  • They help maintain muscle mass in older adults*
  • They promote a healthy immune system*

How much of a fish oil dietary supplement should I take?

Omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplements come in multiple forms, including liquids and capsules. Most individuals can take 3 to 4 grams (3,000 to 4,000 milligrams) of an omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplement daily without experiencing any adverse side effects. Taking more than this amount might increase the risk of bleeding.

Are there any side effects from taking a fish oil dietary supplement?

When taken as a dietary supplement, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil can cause a fishy after-taste and possible digestive problems such as heartburn or diarrhea. To help prevent these side effects, a fish oil dietary supplement should be taken with meals.

Is it safe to take a fish oil dietary supplement with other medications?

Because high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids might increase the risk of bleeding in individuals taking a blood-thinning medication (that is, medications that slow clotting, such as warfarin, aspirin, ibuprofen or Plavix), those individuals should consult their health care professional before taking an omega-3 fatty acid dietary supplement.

In addition, if you're allergic to fish or shellfish, talk with your health care professional before taking a fish oil dietary supplement.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Aug. 04, 2016