MEDICALLY REVIEWED

3 Common Misconceptions About Fish Oil

Fish oil is derived from the fatty tissues of fish and contains two important omega-3 fatty acids – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Marine fishes like tuna, salmon and herring are particularly rich in omega-3 acids, which provide the most health benefits. This article will look into three common misconceptions about this dietary supplement that has ben touted to manage cardiovascular conditions. 

fish oil

Figure 1. Capsules containing omega-3 fatty acids

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1. Is Fish Oil a Scam?

There are many types of such fish oil products available on the market. Due to its highly commercialized nature, and sometimes exaggerated advertisements, some people associate such supplements with being a scam. However, the main component of fish oil – omega-3 fatty acid, has been scientifically proven over the past decades to provide multiple health benefits, including: 

  • Support heart health by: 
    • Maintaining blood cholesterol levels
    • Lowering blood triglyceride levels
    • Reducing blood vessel plaque formation
    • Regulating heart rhythm 
  • Relieve symptoms of depression
  • Reduce unnecessary inflammation to:
    • Aid weight loss
    • Reduce symptoms of diabetes 
  • Support skin health
  • Support liver health by:
    • Reducing liver fat content
  • Delay the onset of dementia
  • Support bone health by:
    • Increasing bone mineral density 
  • Support pregnancy and early life

2. Can Fish Oil Treat Cardiovascular Conditions? 

In short, NO – it does not TREAT any disease. 

The most advertised function of fish oil is its benefits on the cardiovascular system. It has been promoted to reduce high blood pressure and its ability to reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. Although the above health benefits are correct, this supplement is not a treatment option for cardiovascular conditions. 

In fact, the general public are recommended to have 250-350 mg of marine-sourced omega-3 fatty acid per day. However, you don’t always need a fish oil capsule to achieve this – having 2-3 servings of fish per week can achieve the same target!

Doctors usually prescribe fish oil capsules together with other medications for patients with or at high risk of having cardiovascular diseases as a diet supplement. It has also been widely recommended for patients recovering from a heart attack. You should consult with your physician before consuming any of such supplements.  

3. Can You Have Too Much Of It?

Yes. Although fish oil can provide many health benefits, too much of this supplement could potentially have the following side effects: 

  • Excessive bleeding: fish oil dilates blood vessels to prevent unnecessary clotting. Taking too much of it can potentially diminish the clotting ability of your blood when there is an injury. 
  • Low blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Acid reflux
  • Insomnia

Some side effects have unknown mechanisms. Patients with cardiovascular conditions are usually recommended to consume a higher dosage of fish oil than the general public. People with a fish-based diet most likely obtain enough omega-3 fatty acid from their diet and there should be no need for supplements.

Like most other health supplements, fish oil does provide some of its advertised benefits. However, always remember that supplements are not certified medicine and should not be used as medicine. The majority of a supplement’s contents can be naturally obtained from food sources, therefore, a healthy diet is vital to our health. Before deciding on whether you should take any supplements, consult your physician for advice.

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