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What’s the Deal with Fish Oil? Experts Share The Pros and Cons of Taking the Supplement

Plus, the amount you should be taking per day and how to incorporate it

Everyone’s always talking about how essential vitamins and supplements are for your well-being, but is it necessary to take all of them? In short, the answer is no and it’s best to pay attention to your specific health needs. Fish oil in particular has a variety of health benefits, however, there may be some side effects that aren’t the best. Here, discover why too much fish oil can potentially be harmful to your health, plus the amount you should be taking per day.

What is fish oil?

“Fish oil comes from the tissues of oily fish such as herring, tuna, anchovies, and mackerel,” says Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, fitness and nutrition advisor at Fortune Recommends Health. “It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are essential nutrients our bodies cannot produce on their own.”

How fish oil impacts health

Fish oil is great for various parts of your body, but it’s especially beneficial for heart and brain health. Here’s a quick overview of what the supplement can do.

It’s good for cardiovascular health

Mohr says fish oil can reduce the chance of high cholesterol and high triglycerides are in turn good for cardiovascular health. Many studies including one from the Journal of Research in Pharmacy Practice also found that regularly taking fish oil and other fatty acids significantly lowers blood pressure. If you already have low blood pressure be careful taking fish oil as it can interfere with some medications

Fish oil boosts your brain

“Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil support brain health and could potentially help reduce the risk of age-related mental decline and diseases,” says Mohr. There’s no evidence that fish oil improves brain function in people with Alzheimer’s disease, however, one study from Neurobiological Aging found that taking fish oil supplements might help brain function in those with less severe types of brain conditions such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or age-related cognitive decline. (Learn how else omega-3s are good for your health.)

What are the side effects of fish oil?

Fish oil supplement

While taking fish oil is mostly beneficial, taking too much does result in possible side effects. So, ensure that you’re taking the right amount for your health needs.

It can cause acid reflux

Even though fish oil is good for overall heart health, oftentimes it results in acid reflux, nausea or stomach problems. Mohr notes that this is due to the high-fat content found in these supplements. “These side effects can usually be managed by adjusting the dosage or timing that you take it,” he says.

Fish oil can cause atrial fibrillation

If you have heart issues, taking fish oil might not always be the best idea. According to a study published in the journal BMJ Medicine, there’s a 13% higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat, and a 5% heightened risk of having a stroke for those who are regularly taking fish oil with heart problems.

Michelle Routhenstein, MS, preventive cardiology dietitian, registered dietitian nutritionist, and certified diabetes educator adds that “the cause for this may be multifactorial such as being too high of a dosage and the potential for the fish oil to become rancid and oxidized.”

How much fish oil should you be taking?

The amount of fish oil you should be taking depends on your specific health needs. However, “a general guideline is to consume 250-500 milligrams of combined EPA and DHA per day for overall health maintenance,” says Routhenstein. When looking for supplements, both Mohr and Routhenstein recommend prioritizing those with the right EPA and DHA levels. If you don’t eat fish, taking these supplements is an easy alternative. “Fatty acids are essential for optimal health and inflammation reduction, obtaining them from the diet or supplementation is important,” says Routhenstein.

For more info on nutrients:

The Chlorogenic Acid in Coffee May Help Balance Blood Sugar and Ward Off Diabetes

Move Over, Fish Oil — Doctors Weigh In on The Astonishing Benefits of Krill Oil

This Supplement Could Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease, Reduce Inflammation, and Combat Signs of Aging

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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