Question

Dietary Supplements

What is fish oil used for?

A Answers (2)

  • AStacy Wiegman, PharmD, Pharmacy, answered

    Fish oil has been tested in humans and animals and the results have been varied. The most common use of fish oil is as a treatment of hypertriglyceridemia by lowering triglyceride levels in the body. Triglycerides are a type of fat that circulates in your bloodstream and stores excess calories for later use. High triglyceride levels mean that your heart may be unhealthy. Regular ingestion of the combination of docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic fatty acids in fish oil has been associated with lower levels of triglycerides. Although the effects of fish oil are still being tested, it has been known to help people with the following conditions:

    • Secondary cardiovascular disease (such as heart attacks) or high blood pressure. Combined with heart medication, fish oil seems to lower mortality rates in people with heart conditions.
    • Heart and kidney transplant. People taking cyclosporine to help prevent transplant rejection reported less high blood pressure and better kidney function when given fish oil supplements.
    • Rheumatoid arthritis. Combined with anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, fish oil is thought to reduce joint stiffness and tenderness.
    • Atherosclerosis or “hardening of the arteries”,
    • Cardiac arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms. Fish oil is believed to help regulate heartbeat, which can prevent conditions such as heart attacks.
    • Colon cancer. Fish oil intake has been linked with reduced growth of cancer cells in the body, although its overall effects are unknown.
    • Dysmenorrhea, or painful menstruation. Research is being done on how fish oil may benefit women with painful menstruation.

    As the effects of fish oil on the body are still being tested, it may be used to treat other conditions. Ask your doctor about other possible benefits of fish oil.

     

  • ALucette Talamas, RD, Nutrition & Dietetics, answered on behalf of Baptist Health South Florida
    Fish oil is a good source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). Omega-3 PUFAs are essential fatty acids, meaning that they cannot be made by the human body and need to come from one’s diet.

    The human body uses omega-3 PUFAs in many ways. They are considered a ‘good’ unsaturated fat, while saturated fat is associated with increased levels of cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

    Once consumed, omega-3 PUFAs are further metabolized into compounds that are used at a cellular level, resulting in beneficial health effects including heart health.

    Omega-3 PUFAs are also important for brain development and function. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, research supports the beneficial impact of omega-3 PUFAs in cardiovascular disease, as well as heart function by ensuring a regular heart rate and coronary blood flow.

    Omega-3 PUFAs have also been shown to decrease triglyceride levels and lower blood pressure slightly, reducing the risk of heart disease. Evidence to support beneficial effects of omega-3 PUFAs on other conditions, such as dementia and other neurological diseases, have been insufficient or inadequate.

    The National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) notes that the research findings are inconsistent as far recommending omega-3 PUFA supplements, but it is clear that including fish rich in omega-3s is beneficial as part of a heart-healthy diet.
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What is fish oil?