© 2018 by Sanford Severin, MD

Dr. Sanford L. Severin

San Ramon, CA 94582 USA


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How Much Fish Oil Do you Need? Part III

November 28, 2017

We have discussed the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids and the importance of maintaining a healthy ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in almost all snack foods, baked goods, cereals, eggs nuts, poultry and most vegetable oils such as palm, canola, soy, sunflower and corn oil. This list includes so many of the foods that we eat daily. You can understand why most of us are have such high levels of Omega-6l fatty acids and why our society is plagued by heart disease and inflammatory conditions.

On the other hand the sources of Omega-3 fatty acids is limited. The best source is fatty fish. High on the list are anchovies, bluefish, carp, catfish, halibut, herring, lake trout, mackerel, pompano, salmon, striped sea bass, white tuna and whitefish. Krill is also high in Omega-3 fatty acids.

There are some vegetable sources of the Omega-3 ALA. The most popular of these is flaxseed. The ALA in flaxseed is converted in the body to the Omega-3 EHA; however, the process of conversion is inefficient and only 7 to 15% of the ALA  can be converted.

The problem is very clear and very simple. Omega-6s are almost ubiquitous and we get  way too much in our daily life. There are few sources of Omega-3s and most of us do not eat two to three serving of fish a week. The answer is to take fish oil supplements.

When taking supplements or when eating fish we need to be aware of the possibility of ingesting too much mercury. It is a contaminant in some fish especially bottom feeders. The same potential problem exists in fish oil supplements. We recommend that you research carefully before buying.

There is no universal agreement on the amount of EHA and EPA to take. Most authorities recommend that you do not exceed 3 grams a day because higher doses increase the risk of bleeding. Remember that Omega-3 fatty acids reduce blood clotting. You should also consult your physician if you are on an aspirin regimen or if you are taking other blood thinners. The other health precaution that you should take is to decrease your intake of Omega-6 fatty acids.


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