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Quiz: The Facts About Fish Oil and Omega-3s

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Taking fish oil supplements is as good for you as eating fish.

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Taking fish oil supplements is as good for you as eating fish.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

Fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and fish oil capsules all have heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

But adding fish to your diet carries healthy bonuses that you won't get from a supplement: calcium and vitamins B2 and D. It's also an excellent source of protein.

So try to eat fish more often. Have it two times a week instead of meat.

If you have heart problems, though, you may need to boost your omega-3s with a supplement or a prescription if you have very high triglycerides. Talk to your doctor.

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Fish oil is good for your heart because it:

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Fish oil is good for your heart because it:

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  • Correct Answer:

Omega-3s like DHA and EPA in fish oil and other sources can lower triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood. But to lower high triglyceride levels you need 2-4 grams of DHA/EPA a day.

You'd have to take a lot of fish oil supplements to get that amount. And you can't be sure how many omega-3s are actually in a supplement, because the FDA doesn't regulate them as closely.

You have a couple of options, both of which involve your doctor. You can take high doses of non-prescription fish oil under your doctor's care. Or there are prescription medicines available with high doses of fish oil.

If you don't have high triglycerides? Find a favorite fish to eat!

If you don't eat fish, where else can you get omega-3s?

If you don't eat fish, where else can you get omega-3s?

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  • Correct Answer:

Fish is still your best bet for omega-3s. While organ meats, like liver, do have some omega-3s, you can't rely on them to give you all you need.

Walnuts can provide the omega-3 known as ALA, which your body doesn't make. ALA is also found in:

  • some vegetable oils, especially flaxseed oil
  • green vegetables like kale or spinach

Your body can turn ALA into small amounts of two other types of omega-3s, EPA and DHA. These are the kinds of omega-3s found in fish. There's more proof that they protect against heart disease.

Vegetarians and vegans can look at algae oils as a source of omega-3s.

None of these substitutes packs the omega-3 power of fish.

Krill oil contains fewer omega-3s than fish oil.

Krill oil contains fewer omega-3s than fish oil.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

Krill oil, made from shrimp-like creatures, has about as much DHA as fish oil. Plus, it has even more EPA. Some experts think krill oil is at least as good a source of omega-3s as fish oil is for lowering triglycerides and improving cholesterol.

How much fish should most people eat?

How much fish should most people eat?

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  • Correct Answer:

Eat fish -- preferably oily fish like salmon, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna -- twice a week. A serving is 3.5 ounces, or about 3/4 cup of flaked fish.

It's generally safe to eat up to 12 ounces of fish or shellfish a week, if they are the lower-in-mercury types.

Fish that are low in mercury:

  • shrimp
  • canned light tuna
  • salmon
  • pollock
  • catfish

 

Which of these is lowest in mercury?

Which of these is lowest in mercury?

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  • Correct Answer:

Wild Alaskan salmon is rich in omega-3s and has low levels of chemicals, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

However, swordfish and mackerel are fish that are high in mercury. Mercury can damage the nervous system of an unborn baby or young child. So, women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children should avoid fish that are high in mercury. Also high in mercury: shark and tilefish.

If you're pregnant, you should take fish oil supplements to help your baby's brain develop.

If you're pregnant, you should take fish oil supplements to help your baby's brain develop.

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  • Correct Answer:

DHA in a mom's diet has been linked to a brainpower boost in her babies. However, studies haven't always found that same benefit from taking fish oil supplements.

Pregnant women should eat some, but not a lot of, fish that's low in mercury. In most cases you should try to get the same amount of omega-3s as other healthy adults. That means having low-mercury fish twice a week -- just don't eat more than 12 ounces a week. DHA helps your baby's brain and eyes develop. Remember, your body can turn healthy fats in dark leafy greens or flaxseed oil into this important nutrient.

With non-prescription fish oil supplements, you can cut down on "fishy" burps by taking them:

With non-prescription fish oil supplements, you can cut down on "fishy" burps by taking them:

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Some people who take non-prescription fish oil supplements are bothered by fish burps or a fishy taste in the mouth. Often there's a simple answer: Take them with meals.

A fishy aftertaste may not be a problem if you take prescription fish oil. Check the label or ask your doctor.

If you already have heart disease, fish oil won't help.

If you already have heart disease, fish oil won't help.

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  • Correct Answer:

Fish oil supplements seem to help prevent more troubles for people with heart disease. Heart patients should get about 1 gram of EPA and DHA combined, preferably from fish, every day. Supplements might also be helpful, but check with your doctor.

If you take aspirin, warfarin, or other drugs for heart patients, know that fish oil can thin the blood. At high doses it might cause too much thinning.

Omega-3s may

Omega-3s may

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Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids lower high triglycerides, a common problem in people with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association says people with diabetes should get more omega-3s, preferably by eating two or three 3-ounce servings of fish a week.

Research hasn't shown consistently that omega-3s help asthma. Research on Alzheimer's and dementia patients has found a link between low levels of DHA and those diseases, but taking more omega-3s hasn't been found to improve the conditions. Studies have shown that adding DHA does improve memory and learning in older healthy adults.

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Congratulations! You handled this quiz swimmingly!

Pretty good! You don't need much schooling on fish and fish oil.

You might want to supplement your fish oil knowledge.

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