Health Benefits of Fish Oils

Coastal Medical Clinic - Myrtle Beach, SC.

Scientists first learned about the many benefits of fish oils in the 1970s when they observed that Greenland Eskimos had very low rates of heart disease despite a diet high in fats. Since then we have learned that two of the fats (oils) they consume in large quantities, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), do much more than just reduce the risk of dying from heart attack by 40%. Research shows that fish oils (EPA and DHA) also prevent atherosclerosis, stroke, depression, cancer and even Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials have proven that fish oil supplementation is effective in treating many disorders including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and autoimmune disease. Fish oils prevent blood clotting, reduce blood pressure, prevent cardiac dysrhythmias and reduce inflammation. Now research is showing that fish oil supplementation reduces the risk of breast, prostate and colon cancer.

It is clear that consuming a diet rich in oily fish or taking fish oil supplements is one of the best ways to prevent chronic illness and slow the aging process. However, pollution is now so extensive that many species of fish contain large amounts of methyl mercury and other industrial pollutants. Among the worst offenders are tile fish, king mackerel, shark and swordfish, but the FDA also warns that albacore (white) tuna should be consumed no more than once a week by pregnant women. Fresh, wild pacific salmon is still a safe source of fish oil, but if that is not available then a high quality fish oil supplement is the best source of EPA and DHA. Only fresh, highly purified fish oils (pharmaceutical grade) stabilized with vitamin E should be consumed.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that patients with existing heart disease consume 1000 mg/day of EPA plus DHA, and that healthy adults consume at least two servings of oily fish a week. Both the American and Canadian Dietetic Association recommend 500 mg/day with a minimum of 120 mg/day of DHA. Despite overwhelming research and the positions of the AHA and the American Dietetic Association, the US FDA still has no official recommendation for a minimum daily intake of EPA + DHA. Several other countries already have such recommendations with France specifying an intake of 500 mg/day, the UK 450 mg/day, Australia and New Zealand 442 mg/day for men and 318 mg/day for women. The US FDA has set an upper limit of safe EPA + DHA at 3000 mg/day, so these recommendations are well within generally accepted safe limits.

You are likely not getting enough EPA and DHA for optimal health unless you eat fresh, wild pacific salmon at least twice a week. Until then the safest way to boost your EPA and DHA is with a highly purified fish oil supplement. As an anti-aging medicine physician I tell my patients to take 1000 mg twice a day for maximum benefit. By increasing consumption of EPA and DHA, it is likely that many common, serious health disorders will lessen in frequency and severity.