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Nutrition > Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fish and Nut Oils

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fish and Nut Oils

fish-oil-Web-size.jpgOmega-3 fatty acids are found in fish oil and some plant/nut oils. Fish oils include both DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). Nuts and some vegetable oils (such as canola, soybean, flaxseed, and olive oil) contain ALA (alpha-linolenic acid).

Benefits

Fish oil has been shown in many studies to benefit many conditions, including high blood pressure, high triglycerides, infant eye and brain development, and even possibly preventing some cancers and treating behavior and mood disorders, such as ADHD and depression. 

Fish oil contains vitamin D, of which many people are deficient. Learn more about Vitamin D.

Dosing

No standard recommended dose for fish oil exists currently. Fish oil is available in capsule, chewable, and liquid formulations. Finding a flavor that suits a child is important.

Many health care professionals recommend 1000 mg DHA+EPA daily for children and 2000mg daily for an adult.

A combination capsule (fish oil 400mg + evening primrose oil 100mg) at 6 capsules per day has shown effectiveness for ADHD.

Other recommendations are based on age or weight:
  • Infants 1-18 months: 32mg/pound EPA+DHA (for instance a 20 pound baby= 32 mg x 20 pounds= 640 mg) per day
  • Infants 0-12 moths: 0.5 g/day (note the change from mg/pound above)
  • Children 1.5-15 yrs: 15mg/pound EPA+DHA per day
  • Children 1-3 years: 0.7 g/day
  • Children 4-8 years: 0.9 g/day
  • Children 9-13 years: 1.2 g/day
  • Males 14- adult: 1.6 g/day
  • Females 14- adult: 1.1 g/day
  • Pregnant: 1.4 g/day
  • Breastfeeding: 1.3 g/day
  • Adults: 500 mg EPA+DHA (minimum 220mg EPA and 220mg DHA) per day
  • Lactating women: 300 mg DHA per day
  • For an antidepressant effect in adolescents/adults: 1000 mg EPA + 500 mg DHA per day

Risks

Fish oils can increase bleeding, so anyone with a family history of bleeding disorder should discuss fish oils with their physician prior to starting regular fish oil supplements. Also, prior to any planned surgery or dental work fish oil should be discontinued for at least 2 weeks.

Some species of fish carry a higher risk of environmental contamination, such as with methylmercury. The mercury tends to accumulate in the muscle of fish, and very little is found in the oil, so it appears that taking fish oil is safer than ingesting large quantities of fish.

Fish oil contains vitamins A and D, so additional supplements with these vitamins may lead to overdose. In addition, long term supplementation with fish oil might lead to deficiency of vitamin E. Intermittent supplementation of vitamin E or routine dietary sources of vitamin E (wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, peanuts, spinach, and broccoli) is recommended.

Anyone with an allergy to fish should avoid fish oil. People with a nut allergy should avoid products made from nuts.

Indigestion, heartburn, fishy taste in mouth, and diarrhea are common gastrointestional complaints with starting fish oil. Taking smaller doses initially and building up to a full dose often helps these symptoms. Using pharmacy grade purified fish oils may also ease some of the fish aftertaste.

Resources:

Note: We cannot be responsible for information found on other sites, but offer these suggestions as reliable sources.


The International Fish Oil Standards Program is an independent testing and accreditation program for omega-3 fish oil products. Their site reviews several brands of fish oil, offers dosing advice, and discusses fish oil contaminants.

Effectiveness ratings and dosages proposed for various indications are found at MedLine Plus. Dosages listed vary based on diagnois or condition, such as asthma, ADHD, or triglyceride management. It also gives a great list of what conditions fish oil is likely to benefit, and which it isn't.

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database has supporting evidence for and against various natural treatments, including fish oil. Look under the diagnosis/indication.

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