By Dr. Deborah Field

People who consume a diet high in Omega-3 oils have a significantly reduced risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and stroke.

Fish oil capsules are a potent source of marine Omega-3's EPA & DHA. In fact they are so important that the Australian Heart Foundation recommends a minimum intake of 500mg per day of combined EPA & DHA. 

What are Omega-3's?

Omega-3's are polyunsaturated fats, or fatty acids that we can obtain in our diet from plant and meat sources. Omega-3's are also known as Omega-3 triglycerides, Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, Omega-3 oils. 

  • EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are Omega 3's found primarily in naturally oily fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. These marine sources of EPA & DHA are the active ingredients in “fish oil”. 

  • ALA (alpha linolenic acid) is a plant source of Omega 3's found primarily in soybean oil and linseed oil. Some other sources are canola oil, soybeans and all nuts and seeds, especially walnuts and linseeds (flaxseeds). It is difficult to obtain enough Omega-3's from plant sources alone. 
  • DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) is present in animal sources such as free range eggs, beef and chicken, along with smaller amounts of DHA & EPA. 

Not All Fish Oil Capsules Are Created Equally

It's not the size of the fish oil capsule, it's the active ingredient in it that counts. Although fish oil capsules come in various sizes such as 600mg and 1000mg, it's the amount of EPA & DHA in the fish oil that actually matters.  So, it's important that you read the bottle carefully to make sure your fish oil contains adequate strengths of EPA & DHA. 

A capsule with low EPA & DHA will result in you having to consume large numbers of capsules to reach the recommended daily dose. A quick comparison of popular brands shows potencies ranging from EPA of 120mg to 590mg and DHA of 80mg to 370mg. 

Generally speaking, a ‘standard’ 1000mg fish oil capsule contains 300mg active Omega-3s. For example, a label that states EPA/DHA 180/120 means it contains 180mg EPA & 120mg DHA for a total of 300mg Omega-3s.

A high quality fish oil capsule such as the 1000mg Omega 3 max is more concentrated with EPA/DHA 300/200. It contains a total of 500 mg Omega-3s which means less capsules to swallow per day. 

How Does Fish Oil Reduce Heart Disease? 

Studies have shown that marine Omega-3s can reduce triglycerides (bad cholesterol) by 25-30%, and increase HDL (good cholesterol). They have an added effect on lowering cholesterol when taken with statins (cholesterol lowering drugs). 

How Many Fish Oil Capsules Per Day Should I Take? 

For cardiovascular health, recommendations depend on whether you are healthy and want to reduce your risk of heart disease, have heart disease or have high cholesterol.

Let’s cut to the chase.  Almost everyone can benefit from 2 - 3 servings of oily fish per week plus 2 slices of soy and linseed oil bread daily.  But, if that’s not part of your regular diet...

  • consider 1000mg /day combined EPA & DHA to reduce the risk of heart disease
  • consider 2000 mg /day combined EPA & DHA If you have heart disease
  • consider 2000mg /day combined EPA & DHA gradually increasing to 4000 mg per day If you have high cholesterol

If fish is part of your diet then remember to grill, bake, steam or fry the fish in a non-stick pan without oil to get the most health benefit.  Ifyou're dinning out, fried fish such as that found in Fish & Chips is generally low in Omega-3's. And, it is usually fried in inferior oils that are high in trans-fats that raise cholesterol. 

Of course, if you’re allergic to seafood, then do not take fish oil. And remember that fish oil capsules can sometimes have adverse effects so be sure to discuss your supplements and cardiovascular health with your Doctor. Your doctor is an important part of your overall healthcare and can provide continuity of care while monitoring your cardiovascular health in relation to your other health factors and risks.

Have a Pharmacist send your prescription to you.