The Healthy Bear’s Guide To Fish Oil Supplements

Hey there Guys,

Today I wanted to talk about fish oil, a supplement that has a good proven track record of health benefits and little in the way of side effects. If I was to recommend one single supplement, fish oil would be it. Fish oil is a fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids which contain two active components EPA: eicosapentaenoic acid and DHA: docosahexaenoic acid, both of which appear to offer many health benefits when given in combination.

What are the benefits of fish oil?

Helping improve lipids.

Fish oil has a range of benefits, but one of the most effective is a reduction in blood lipids, particularly triglycerides . Doses of 2-3g daily have been shown to help reduce triglycerides and to also help increase the levels of HDL’s (high density lipids), the “good fats” in the blood. When contrasted against other treatments for high triglycerides such as nicotinic acid, fish oil has much fewer side effects.

Reduction of atherosclerosis.

Supplementation with fish oil has demonstrated a reduction in the levels of atherosclerosis, the fatty plaques in arteries that can lead to blockages causing heart attacks. These effects are not limited to the arteries of the heart, and fish oil’s effects have also been demonstrated in the arteries of the neck where plaque development can lead to strokes. While the studies are limited there is good evidence that shows fish oil supplementation can help stop the progression of plaques and even help reduce their size.

Blood pressure reduction.

Whether it be from diet or via supplements, fish oil  has been shown to help reduce blood pressure. While the effect is modest it can be an effective treatment if blood pressure it only marginally raised.

Protection against sudden cardiac death.

Perhaps one of the most powerful findings was that supplementing with doses as low as 500mg daily was enough to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death and death by heart attack by 36%. This was found to be similar protection whether or not the person had pre existing cardiac disease or not. This is most likely due to helping reduce cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure, and lipid and plaque reduction as mentioned above.

Reduction of depression.

A number of studies have shows that mood improves with treatment with fish oil. Studies in children and adults with treatment resistant depression, adding 1-3g of fish oil daily helped reduce symptoms of depression. Studies of people suffering with manic depression also benefited from fish oil supplements, however it was only effective for the depression symptoms and not for the manic symptoms. For people suffering with depression adding fish oil can be a great start to treatment, but the effects are certainly not as strong as formal treatments for depression. Including fish oil supplements with antidepressant treatments could be useful.

Does fish oil have side effects?

While there are many benefits to adding fish oil supplements, there are some potential side effects that are worth considering before adding these to your diet.

One study has reported that fish oil can increase the risk of bleeding. In this particular study the participants were undergoing significant cardiac surgery and were also receiving more than 6g of fish oil daily. Other studies have shown that there was not an increased risk of bleeding, with the conclusion that as long as you are taking less then 6g daily there was little chance of bleeding.

There is some anecdotal evidence of mildly increased bruising so if you are considering getting a tattoo or having Botox™ treatments. It may be worth stopping your supplements one week before having any of these done.

Some people find that they have increased burping after taking fish oil and the fishy taste can be unpleasant. Some recommend freezing the capsules or trying different brands to reduce the taste.

Initially there were concerns that there was a risk of heavy metal exposure due to the ways that the fish oil was extracted. Mercury has been found in many of the “big fish” such as shark, tuna and sword fish, however almost all fish oil is now derived from smaller fish, reducing the risk of heavy metal exposure to almost nil.

As with all supplements there is always a risk of interactions with other medications. If you are currently taking any medications or supplements be sure to talk to your doctor before you add fish oil to your diet.

What is the best dose of fish oil to take?

After reviewing many of the studies the following doses are their recommendations:

For depression: One gram daily was used in these studies and showed good effect on lifting mood. Other studies of depression have used doses up to 12g daily, however these were patients currently admitted to hospital due to their extreme depression.

For blood pressure reduction: 3g daily appears to have the best response for reducing blood pressure. Doses higher than this did not appear to have more effect.

For reduction of triglycerides: To gain the benefit of reducing triglycerides and also increasing HDL (the good fats in the blood), doses of at least 3g daily are needed. Doses lower then this appear to have little effect.

For heart protection: Doses as low as 500mg daily have been shown to be cardiac protective however in majority of the studies people were taking at least 1g of fish oil daily.

Can you overdose on fish oil? Studies have shown that people taking up to 12g of fish oil daily did not have adverse effects. That said the current recommendations for taking fish oil are around 1-3g daily.

If you prefer to go direct to the source: For those who are not currently living with heart disease you can get your recommended dose of fish oil via 1-2 meals of oily fish on a weekly basis. The fish with the highest content of omega-3 fatty acids are anchovies, salmon and sardines. If you are not keen on regular fish meals 1-3g of fish oil daily is recommended.

In summary, fish oil can help:

  • Increase mood
  • Decrease risks factors associated with cardiac disease such as reducing bad fats in the blood, decreasing blood pressure and plaques associated with stroke and heart attack.
  • Fish oil has a demonstrated ability to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death and fatal heart attack.

Fish oil has been shown to be a safe with little side effects when taken in the recommended dose range of 1-3g daily. Doses as high as 12g daily have proven to be safe.

Guys, I hope you have found this introduction to fish oil helpful. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me or leave a comment in the boxes below.

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Yours in good health.

Dr George


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