Is Fish Oil Good For You? Then How Much Fish Oil Should I Take?

by Cindy

Is Fish Oil Good For You?

wild salmon grilled on a cedar plank
Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks
Most people have heard by now that adding fish to your weekly dinner menu is important for good cardiovascular health.  Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and halibut are rich in heart healthy oils known as omega-3 fatty acids.  People will claim that fish oil can do everything from reduce your risk of heart disease, to lower your blood pressure, to reduce your stroke risk.  Although not all of the claims are true, it is true and well-supported by scientific research that omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil can help lower your triglycerides, slow the progression of artery clogging plaques, and lower your heart disease risk.  Fish oil is very good for you and your heart!

How Much Fish Oil Should I Take?

Omega-3 fatty acids are not synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet.  Including fatty fish, such as those listed above, is one way to incorporate these oils into your diet.  Currently, the American Heart Association recommends that all Americans aim to get two servings of fatty fish per week to help meet their metabolic needs for omega-3 fatty acids.  For patients with known heart disease, it is advised that they try to get one gram of fish oil every day.  This can often be difficult for people that do not like fish and for this reason there are many supplements available.

How Can Fish Oil Help Diabetic Patients?

Fish oil can help diabetic patients in many ways.  Studies have shown that fish oil supplements can:

  • Reduce Triglycerides:  Studies have shown that triglyceride levels can be reduced by as much as 30% when approximately 4 grams of fish oil is taken every day.
  • Improve LDL:  At a dose of 4 grams of fish oil every day, patients with hyperlipidemia may experience a drop in LDL of between 5-10%.
  • Raise HDL:  Patients taking fish oil supplements may see a slight improvement in their HDL levels if taking 4 grams/day.
  • Improve Blood Pressue:  High doses of fish oil may help lower blood pressure a small amount.
  • Lower the Risk of Heart Disease:  This is an important benefit of fish oil supplementation because diabetic patients are at an extremely high risk for developing coronary artery disease.  Numerous studies have shown that adding fish oil to the diet can significantly reduce the risk of coronary artery disease in both men and women.
  • Slow Atherosclerosis:  Studies have suggested that fish oil may be able to slow the progression of hardening of the arteries and formation of plaque build-up on the artery walls.

Studies have shown that fish oil supplements may raise fasting glucose levels in diabetic patients.  However, no profound effect on the hemoglobin a1c has been documented.

Fish oil supplements are composed of two types of oils, both of which occur naturally in fish.  These compounds are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).  Again, it is recommended that all Americans try to get a balance of both types of substances from natural food sources at least twice per week.  Patients with known cardiovascular disease should aim for up to 1 gram of fish oil per day.  Some patients may require higher doses of fish oil, particularly if this supplement is being used to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  It is best to discuss the use of this natural supplement with your doctor before you start taking it because high amounts of fish oil can have adverse side effects and can interact with medications.


Citation:  Penny M. Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD; William S. Harris, PhD; Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH; for the Nutrition Committee.  Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease.  Circulation. 2002; 106: 2747-2757.

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