Weighing the Risks and Benefits of Fish Oil Supplements

Dr. Jeffrey Maehara Discusses the Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

March, 2011 - More and more, you hear about the limitless health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. But are the benefits worth potentially exposing yourself to toxic heavy metals? According to Honolulu bioidentical hormone therapy expert, Jeffrey Maehara, M.D., the best way to ensure that you're getting quality omega-3's is to opt for a pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement.

Most people are aware by now that certain fish contain high quantities of environmental toxins such as mercury, PCBs and dioxins. However, from a general standpoint, most fish oil supplements on the market today don't contain these contaminants. This problem mainly pertains to larger fish? they have a longer lifespan and eat smaller, contaminated fish, so the toxins accumulate over the years. Most fish oil supplement manufactures use smaller, younger fish, so the risk of contamination is minimal. Still, not all supplements are created equal.

"It's important to understand that we have different grades and qualities of supplements that are available to the public. Quality is important because these supplements are only effective if they're absorbed properly," explains Dr. Maehara. "When it comes to omega-3 fish oil supplements, the benefits outweigh the risks by a long shot. You just have to make sure you're taking a quality supplement."

Studies have found that not only can fatty acids found in fish, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies, help prevent certain cardiovascular ailments, but also reduce the risk of cardiac failure in patients suffering from pre-existing heart conditions. Additionally, researchers say that omega-3s can help break down triglycerides - which over time can increase the likelihood of stroke and heart attack.

"Fish oil also has great anti-inflammatory properties," says Maehara. "Inflammation is a serious problem and is at the root of many different diseases and medical conditions, including heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases and Alzheimer's. So by increasing your intake of omega-3s, you can effectively reduce your risk of a age-related diseases."

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), other than promoting good cardiovascular health, omega-3 fish oil can help regulate blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure). There is also evidence that fish oil supplements might help reduce stiffness and joint pain in women and men suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. So, talk to your doctor today to see how you could benefit from taking a pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplement.

More about Dr. Maehara

After receiving his undergraduate and medical degrees at Tulane University, Dr. Maehara served an internship and completed his residency and a fellowship program at the university's Department of Ophthalmology. He went on to complete a fellowship at the American Academy of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Maehara is the recipient of Tulane's Award of Excellence Clinical Subject and Award of Excellence in Science, as well as the 2000 Bausch & Lomb Travel Grant Award for Young Investigators in the Field of Contact Lens/Ocular Science Research.

Contact Physician