Are all fish oil pills equally effective in helping to prevent heart disease? The simple answer: No. With so many options available for increasing your omega 3s it is easy to be mislead into buying something that is ineffective or not scientifically proven to work.
The facts: For people with existing heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends 1000 mg each day of these two essential fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). For people who just want to improve their overall health and do not have existing heart disease, 500 mg of DHA and EPA should be enough.
DHA and EPA are the two types of omega 3 that are important in reducing your risk for heart disease, and are naturally found in fatty fish like: salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna. Eating at least 2, 3.5 ounce portions per week of any of the above fish should help you increase your amount of DHA and EPA without having to take fish oil pills. However, if you have significant heart disease or high triglycerides, you may need to discuss a supplement with your doctor.
Fish oil is anti-inflammatory and has blood-thinning properties, so check with your doctor before starting fish oil pills to make sure you are not taking any other anti-coagulants such as coumadin or aspirin.
Mega doses of fish oil, in excess of 3,000 mg per day have been linked to an increased risk of bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke; so too much of a good thing is possible. To avoid taking too much fish oil, try to find a brand that has a more concentrated amount of DHA and EPA in it to meet the requirements without going overboard on the total amount of fish oil taken.
The amounts of DHA and EPA in your fish oil pills are listed on the back of the pill bottle. Simply add the milligrams (mg) together and see how much DHA and EPA are in the pill, then look at the serving size. For example: if the serving size on your pill bottle is 1 pill and the DHA and EPA together add up to 320 mg, you would need to take 3 to 4 pills to get the recommended dosage of 1000 mg. If you were only aiming to consume 500 mg, you would need to take 2 of these pills.
To increase absorption of fish oil pills, and if you are taking multiple pills in one day, you should spread them out and take them with meals. For example, if you need to take 3 of your fish oil pills, take one with breakfast, one with lunch and one with dinner.
Recently red crill pills have come on the market claiming to work better than fish oil pills. However, scientific research has not confirmed this claim to be true as of yet. Until research may or may not prove red crill to be effective, it is prudent to follow current recommendations to go with typical fish oil pills with the correct amount of DHA and EPA according to your health status.
For more information on heart healthy eating and increasing your omega 3s naturally, contact EJGH Outpatient Nutrition to schedule an appointment at: (504) 849-6801.