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Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements and Prescriptions

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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:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Take blood-thinning medicines
  • Have an allergy to fish or shellfish

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.

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