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Health & Wellness

Fish Oil's Healthy, But Are Supplements As Good As The Real Thing?


Fish oil is among the most widely used supplements in the U.S. An estimated 20 percent of Americans consume them, but some nutritionists recommend sticking with the real thing – an oily fish like salmon or tuna. 

Sharon Cox is a registered dietitian with Parkland Hospital System.

Interview Highlights:

Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil: “We’ve given fats a bad name, not being too healthy. But the omega-3 fats have been proven through science. They do benefit our health.  As far as persons with heart disease, it helps reduce inflammation. It may help stabilize heart rhythm and also decrease the chance of platelets clotting.”

How much we should consume each day: “If you have heart disease, 1,000 milligrams is recommended.  ut that would need to come from your doctor because that’s almost like a prescription. Or, if you’re a person who likes seafood, then if you could eat more of the omega-3 fatty acid fish like salmon, mackerel and tuna — that would provide you with some of the omega-3 that you need, and you need about 3.5 ounces twice a week. You could eight to 12 ounces. There’s still the concern about the contaminants that may be in some of our fish. But if you buy the wild caught salmon or either the canned or fresh salmon, then you’re less likely to get mercury or other contaminants in it.”

A third Omega-3 fat: “It’s called ALA and is from plant-based foods, like walnuts, flaxseed oil, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds. It’s still good, but it doesn’t do as the DHA and EPA Omega-3 fat.”

Fish oil in supplements vs. fish: “That depends on the supplement that you buy. If you look at your label (for supplements) and it has more of the EPA and DHA omega-3 fats in it, then you’re getting more of what you need. You don’t want to buy fish oil supplements that are just filler. You’ll see the milligrams of EPA and DHA that you’re getting.”

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