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Eat Fish, Not Fish Oil Pills

North Americans spent more than $1.2 billion last year for fish oil pills. A testing company called LabDoor found that, of 30 brands of fish oil pills, six contained less than 30 percent of what the labels claimed. At least a dozen brands contained lower levels of the most potent fish oils that are claimed to help prevent heart attacks and dementia. LabDoor did not find significant levels of heavy metals, such as mercury, in any of the fish oil products.

No Government Agency to Protect You
This report shows that some companies manufacture fish oil pills that do not contain what they claim on their labels. It is an even greater concern that an act passed by the U.S Congress in 1994 prevents the Food and Drug Administration or any other government agency from requiring companies to prove that their pills contain the ingredients claimed on the labels.

Eating Fish May Help to Prevent Heart Attacks
Many studies show that eating fish twice a week is associated with a reduction in heart attacks. Studies have failed to show that eating fish more often than twice a week offers further protection against heart attacks. Fish oil pills are a different story. Some studies show that fish oil pills help prevent heart attacks, but a large meta-analysis of well-controlled clinical trials shows that fish oil pills do not appear to help people with a history of heart disease (Arch Intern Med, May 14, 2012;172(9):686-694). Also some trials have shown an increased risk for prostate cancer in people taking large amounts of fish oils.

What Does this Mean for You?
People who get adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids suffer fewer heart attacks. Eating fish twice a week is associated with reduced risk for heart attacks. You can also meet your needs for omega-3s by eating whole grains, seeds, beans and nuts. The omega-3s in plants are less potent than those in fish, but your body converts more than five percent of the short chain omega-3s in plants to the type of long chain omega-3s found in fish. It is controversial whether fish oil pills offer the same health benefits.

Checked 5/15/15

February 2nd, 2014
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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