Dr. Kadile, I’ve been told I should take fish oil capsules for my heart, but I recently heard that fish oil may cause prostate cancer. What should I do? –Robert, Palm Springs.
Robert, first of all, you should have regular check ups with your physician to determine your risk for heart disease and prostate cancer, and of course maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise and proper diet.
The Omega-3 Fatty Acids found in fish oil have repeatedly and consistently been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk in multiple types of scientific studies. If you do not regularly eat 2-3 servings of fish a week, daily supplementation of omega-3 fish oil capsules is a good way to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The media recently reported that “Omega-3 fish oil may cause prostate cancer”. Well this was news media hype that was alluding to a study, published in Journal of National Cancer Institute in July 2013. An interesting fact about the study was that none of the study subjects were apparently taking fish oil supplements, nor were they eating meaningful amounts of cold water fish. There appears to be several flaws to the study, but the media ran with it. There are several studies overlooked by the headline hungry media that show a reduction in prostate cancer in response to higher omega-3 status.
I believe the benefits clearly outweigh the risk for fish oil supplementation.
Dr. Kadile, my doctor advised me to start taking fish oil, but I am confused on how much I should take. What is a good dose? –Michael, Cathedral City
Michael, most of the over the counter available omega-3 fish oil will state “1,000mg” or “1,200mg” on the label, but you have to turn the bottle around to look at the rest of the label to determine how much EPA and DHA are in the capsule. Fish oil is rich source of two essential omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). EPA is good for the heart and DHA is good for the brain, so the more EPA and DHA contained per fish oil capsule, the better. Not all fish oil brands are the same so it is very important to look at the label and make sure you pay attention to the serving size. What may seem like a good dose of EPA/DHA could be a serving size of 6 capsules! I generally recommend taking a product that provides at least 700-1,000mg of EPA and 200-500mg DHA daily in the smallest amount of pills. Higher dosages are available in liquid form. Molecularly distilled fish oils are naturally high in EPA and DHA and low in contaminants.
Dr. Kadile, what are the side effects if I take fish oil? -Kathy, Rancho Mirage
Kathy, common adverse side effects are varying degrees of stomach upset, gas or burping fish breath. I have found that higher quality fish oil supplements have less side effects. Fish oil supplements may cause easy bruising and can affect blood clotting, so check with your doctor if you are on any anticoagulant or “blood thinning” medications.