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Dear Dietitain – Fish Oil Supplements?   

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Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC

Dear Dietitian,

I had a heart attack three months ago and since then have been more conscientious about my diet. I’ve been eating more fish and a friend was telling me about fish oil supplements. Are these helpful in heart patients? --Jerry

Dear Jerry,

Omega-3 fatty acids, or simply omega-3s, have received a considerable amount of attention from the healthcare field and the general public. There are several omega-3 fatty acids, and two in particular have been studied, DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid). These omega 3s are found is certain fish. They are also sold as fish oil supplements, with an estimated 19 million Americans taking them daily.

So why the big fuss? As with many discoveries, omega-3s first were thought to prevent certain types of cancer, manage epilepsy, and prevent heart disease.  According to the American Heart Association science advisory, fish oil supplements reduce death rates in people who have had a heart attack and people with heart failure.  However, there is not enough evidence that supplementing with fish oil will help prevent heart disease and stroke in the general public. Nor is there sufficient evidence that it will help epilepsy or prevent cancer.

As with all nutrients, it is best to get omega-3s in your food. Salmon, herring, sardines and rainbow trout are good sources of EPA and DHA.  One needs 6-8 ounces of any one of these fish every week to obtain the amount of omega-3s needed. Consult the internet for flavorful ways to prepare these fish.


Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian with over fifteen years of experience. Have a question?  Email Leanne at