Safe Omega-3s Deserve a Place in Your Kitchen

Topics: Drug Food Safety, Environmental Health, Vitamins and Supplements

The recent omega-3 lawsuit about reported PCB contamination (from the oil of farmed fish) of some omega-3s supplements raises 3 issues:
a. Are OTC omega-3 capsules safe?
b. Do their benefits outweigh their potential harms?
c. Are there good alternatives, such as food(!?) and prescription meds?

a. Omega-3s (which are EPA, DHA and ALA) from fish oil in modest doses are likely safe. Nearly all studies not done with fish have been done with OTC capsules, probably contaminated with PCBs. Omega-3s and fish clearly help some people, especially those deficient in omega-3s. EPA and DHA are found in fish and krill; ALA is found in plants.

b. Omega-3s prevent heart disease; in those with heart disease, they lower triglycerides, help prevent death, heart attack and stroke. They also probably help autism symptoms, brain development in infants, depression and bipolar disorder. Taking over 3 grams of fish oil daily can increase the risk of bruising and bleeding. Look for the “USP Verified Mark” on the label for safety guarantees.

Krill, a tiny shrimp-like organism, offers omega-3s with good research in PMS, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Plant-derived (canola, flax, walnut) ALA has a small amount of benefit, but does not equal DHA and EPA-rich capsules.

c. The best source of omega-3s is nontoxic fish: sardines, herring, and cold water wild Pacific salmon. Rich in omega-3s, canned salmon is wild, and still only about $2.50 U.S. per pound. Use as tuna. Unless you are buying a USP Verified omega-3 capsule, fish is probably the best non-Rx source.

I also recommend purified, concentrated prescription omega-3 Lovaza to lower high triglyceride levels, an underappreciated risk factor for heart disease, and for pancreatitis.