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What are the risks of taking omega-3 fatty acids?

  • Side effects. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements might cause upset stomach or diarrhea. These side effects are worse at higher doses.
  • Interactions. If you take blood thinners, anti-platelet drugs, or anti-inflammatory painkillers (like Advil or Motrin), talk to your health care provider about using omega-3 fatty acids. The combination may increase the risk of bleeding. The same risks may apply to people taking supplements like ginkgo biloba.
  • Risks. People who are pregnant, have diabetes, a high risk of bleeding (particularly those on "blood thinners"), or high LDL cholesterol should check with their health care provider before taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements. At very high doses, they could increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Eating fish is generally the best way to get omega-3 fatty acids. But keep in mind that some fish contain higher levels of mercury: king mackerel, swordfish, and albacore tuna. The benefits of eating fish are thought to outweigh the risks, but it's a good idea to limit intake of these high-mercury fish.

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