Safety and Benefits of Fish Oil

SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA. It is now well established that fish and fish oil are protective against coronary heart disease (CHD) and reduces the risk of dying from CHD by about 40%. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that patients with existing CHD consume 1000 mg/day of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) plus DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), the main components of fish oils. AHA also recommends that healthy adults consume at least two servings a week of fish (preferably oily). Considering that oily fish, such as sardines, mackerel, salmon and tuna contain anywhere between 800 and 1500 mg of EPA and DHA per 3-oz (85 grams) serving means that people eating two oily fish meals a week would obtain between 230 and 430 mg/day of EPA and DHA.

How Much Fish Oil Should I Take?

Researchers at the University of South Dakota believe it is time to issue an official recommendation for a minimum daily intake of EPA and DHA in the USA. They suggest that the minimum intake should be 400 – 500 mg/day of EPA and DHA. They point out that several other countries already have such recommendations with France specifying an intake of 500 mg/day of EPA and DHA (minimum 120 mg/day of DHA), the UK 450 mg/day, Australia and New Zealand 442 mg/day of EPA and DHA for men and 318 mg/day for women. Both the American and Canadian Dietetic Association recommend 500 mg/day with a minimum of 120 mg/day of DHA. The US FDA has set an upper limit of safe EPA and DHA intake at 3000 mg/day, so the 500 mg/day recommendation is well within generally accepted safe limits.

The researchers point out that some fish are very contaminated with methylmercury and should be consumed only rarely if at all. Among the worst offenders are tile fish, king mackerel, shark and swordfish, but the FDA also warns that albacore (white) tuna should be consumed no more than once a week by pregnant women. Finally, they suggest that if the recommended EPA and DHA intake cannot be achieved by fish consumption, then fish oil supplements may be used instead to achieve the recommended minimum target of 500 mg/day of EPA and DHA.
Harris, WS, et al. Intakes of long-chain omega-3 fatty acid associated with reduced risk for death from coronary heart disease in healthy adults. Current Atherosclerosis Report, Vol. 10, 2008, pp. 503-09

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