Non-Prescription Omega-3s and Your Health
Omega-3 supplements can help make up for a lack of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
But when it comes to preventing or treating disease, many studies have not found much benefit in taking low daily doses of omega-3 supplements.
However, if you have heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends higher amounts of omega-3s that may be hard to get from diet alone. So, ask your doctor if supplements or prescriptions are right for you.
Prescription Omega-3s and Your Health
Prescription fish oil capsules contain a higher dose of omega-3 fatty acids than non-prescription versions.
Your doctor will probably only recommended prescription-strength fish oil if your triglycerides are very high (more than 500 mg/dL).
Research suggests very high triglyceride levels are linked to an increased risk of heart disease. However, more research is needed to determine if prescription omega-3s lower the risk of heart disease.
Very high triglycerides are also linked to pancreatitis.
Two types of prescription-strength omega-3 fatty acids are available:
- Epanova (omega-3-carboxylic acids). This contains a combination of EPA and DHA.
- Lovaza (omega-3-acid ethyl esters). This contains a combination of EPA and DHA.
- Vascepa (icosapent ethyl). This contains EPA only.
Side Effects of Non-Prescription Omega-3s
The FDA doesn't regulate supplements as closely as prescriptions. So the amount of omega-3s listed on the label may be higher than what you actually get. In addition, supplements may not be pure omega-3s and may contain other ingredients or contaminants.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements come in many different doses and types. Each supplement can contain different ingredients, depending on the manufacturer's standards.
Non-prescription omega-3 fatty acid supplements may cause mild side effects, such as:
- Fishy burps or taste in the mouth
- Upset stomach
Talk to your doctor before taking omega-3 supplements if you:
Also, ask your doctor if you really need to take an omega-3 supplement. In most cases, all you need are a few adjustments to your diet. If your doctor does recommend a supplement, ask what type and dose you should use. Be sure to talk about your health history and other medicines you're taking.