Should you eat oily fish or take fish oil capsules for your heart health?

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

Fish oil either from fish or capsules contains two very important fatty acids- DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). They reduce inflammation in the body in addition to so many other health benefits. Remember, there are omega-6 fatty acids in vegetable seeds and others and not found in fish. They cause inflammation in the body. It is advisable to take omega-3 and omerga-6 fatty acids in equal ratios.

Among other benefits they lower your blood triglycerides which help to maintain adequate levels of the good cholesterol HDL. To lower triglycerides you need at least 2-4 grams of DHA/EPA a day.

You'd have to take a lot of fish oil supplements to get that amount. And you can't be sure how many omega-3s are actually in a supplement, because the FDA doesn't regulate them as closely.

In Sri Lanka the fish oil capsules do not have adequate DHA and EPA, and is not cheap, either. Taking high doses of fish oil capsules has its dangers like thinning the blood too much, and gastric upsets., You could supplement the capsules with vegetables and nuts that contain ALA (alpha linoleic acid) which is converted into Omega -3 in the body.

Some vegetable oils like flaxseed oil and green vegetables like kale and spinach can provide some omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts not available in Sri Lanka have ALA.

So, consuming oily fish at least twice a week supplies the requirement of DHA and EPA fatty acids. Daily taking two capsules of fish oil may be inadequate. Krill oil from tiny shrimps (Koonissas), contains adequate DHA as much as in oily fish, and has more EPA than fish.

Oily fish are salmon, mackerel and tuna. White fish having less body oil has oil in the liver like the cod and shark. Liver oils are rich in vitamin A & D and not omega-3.

Fish oils do lower your blood pressure by relaxing the peripheral arteries and making them more elastic (rubbery). It is also used as medication to prevent heart disease and stroke, as well for clogged arteries, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, after bypass surgery, heart failure, rapid heartbeat, and so on.

Fish oil is also used for kidney disease and complications related to diabetes. It benefits those having cirrhosis of the liver and those on cyclosporine medication after kidney and other transplant surgery.

Fish oil benefits those who suffer from depression, bipolar disorders, psychosis, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), Alzheimer’s disease, migraine headaches, epilepsy, and schizophrenia and in mental impairment. Forget not- osteo and rheumatoid arthritis- seems to lubricate the joints.

In conclusion, eating fish at least twice a week will keep the doctor away. Unfortunately, though Sri Lanka is surrounded by two oceans oily fish is too dear for the average wage earner. They have to go for small fish having hardly any omega-3 fatty acids.

If you need to take capsules please request a friend abroad to send a container having 200 capsules, each having 1000mg. It costs about ten dollars in the pharmacies.

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