You may have heard that fish oil supplements are a good way to reap the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. But should you start taking fish oil, or is it better to load up on these healthy fatty acids through your diet? Health's medical editor weighs in.
I’m all about getting those omega-3s, but I’m not quite convinced that fish oil supplements are worth the money for the average healthy person. The fish oil hype comes from the fact that omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to offer many health perks, including lowering blood pressure, as well as helping with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Some research also indicates that omega-3 intake may help protect against some cancers, but there’s not yet enough evidence to know that for sure.
Our bodies can’t produce omega-3s on their own, so many people assume that consuming supplements is necessary to get a sufficient amount. But you can get plenty through your diet by eating fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, three or four times a week. Heart disease patients, on the other hand, may benefit from supplements; newer research shows that ingesting a high dose of omega-3s from fish oil daily after a heart attack may help the heart heal. The caveat: Doses of 3 grams or more per day may increase risk of bleeding, so check with your doc before taking supplements, particularly if you’re on blood-thinning medication.
Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.