DR. MOHLER: Holy mackerel! Another fish story | PostIndependent.com

DR. MOHLER: Holy mackerel! Another fish story

Phil Mohler, M.D.
Free Press Health Columnist

Fish oil remains one of the most popular dietary supplements with annual sales of almost $1 billion a year. Health organizations and physicians recommend fish oils both for treating and preventing heart disease. Besides belching, bad breath and heartburn, what can you expect from these products?

Fish oils are derived from the tissues of cold water, oily fish — salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies and sardines. They contain the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which break down to products that fight inflammation in the body.

The myth that omega-3 fatty acids prevent heart disease has finally been deep-sixed. A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association last September added to the large body of evidence supporting that fish oil supplements do not prevent cardiovascular disease. The research looked at 20 studies involving more than 68,000 patients and concluded that omega-3 supplements are not associated with a lower risk of cardiac death, sudden death, heart attack or stroke.

The other significant concern with fish oils, as with all dietary supplements, is that you do not really know what you are consuming. The FDA does not routinely monitor the content of fish oil products, but independent labs have documented contamination with mercury, inaccurate labeling of omega-3 quantities and spoilage. Finally, for patients on blood thinners of any type, taking fish oils may increase the risk of bleeding.

Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 38 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans.

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