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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fish Oil

My father asked me about his Fish Oil supplement today, and after doing a considerable amount of research, here is my reply to him. I thought it might be of interest to others.
As you say in your note to me, the term “pharmaceutical grade” may indeed be a marketing ploy; I wasn’t aware of that. Your research disclosed valuable information.

In addition to purity and the absence of mercury and other contaminants, an important aspect of fish oil is the total omega-3 (DHA plus EPA) content. Your pharmacist’s recommendation of 3,000 mg a day sounds like it’s in the right ballpark. (For example, I use about 4,900 mg per day.) There’s no harm taking more because, as Andrew Stoll, M.D. points out in The Omega-3 Connection,“If you are using omega-3 fatty acids for health, mood, or cognitive enhancement, 1 to 2 grams (1000-2000 milligrams) daily of total omega-3 fatty acids (EPA plus DHA) is probably adequate. If you are using them for mood elevation or stabilization, a higher amount is sometimes required. . . . I have no experience using EPA in dosages exceeding 8 grams per day, but higher levels seem to be safe, since the traditional Greenland Eskimo diet consisted of up to 14 grams per day” (pg. 209) (emphasis supplied).

Nature’s Bounty (which you use) provides 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA = 300 total omega-3 per capsule. They recommend 3 capsules per day for a total of 900 mg omega-3. To get your pharmacist’s recommendation, simply take 10 caps per day. (As Stoll points out, there are a wide range of effective safe dosages and 3000 mg per day is probably well within the safe range.)

Nature’s Bounty doesn’t specify what kind of fish is used, where it’s from, or what the levels of mercury might be. They claim to meet the FDA’s standards. But the FDA’s standards are the least stringent of all regulating agencies (source: Environmental Defense Fund – (Accessed 2/28/09). They do, however, meet the standards of the Council for Responsible Nutrition – a trade association comprising many supplement companies – which established voluntary standards equal to or more stringent than those set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Because of the low cost of Nature’s Bounty it might be an acceptable choice for now. I would, however, keep my eyes open for other options too since at some point you may wish to consider the convenience of a liquid supplement.

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