The Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations encourage Americans to eat 2 or more servings of fatty fish each week. Fish is not only a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids but also a valuable source of protein and trace elements that may provide protective effects for the cardiovascular system. Broiled or baked fish is recommended rather than fried fish because frying may increase the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids and may produce trans fatty acids and oxidized lipid products that may increase cardiovascular disease risk.
Although consuming fish is thought to have greater benefits than using fish oil supplements, in some instances, fish oil capsules can be safely substituted for fish if a person does not like fish. Generally, about 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids (about three capsules) from fish oil per day is recommended, especially for people with evidence of cardiovascular disease.
The American Heart Association also recently suggested that fish oil supplements (providing 2 to 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per day) could be employed to treat elevated blood triglycerides. However, fish oil capsules should be limited for individuals who have bleeding disorders, take anticoagulant medications, or anticipate surgery, because they may increase the risk of uncontrollable bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke. Thus, for fish oil capsules, as well as other dietary supplements, it is important to follow a physician’s recommendations. Remember that fish oil supplements are not regulated by FDA. The quality of these supplements, therefore, is not standardized, and contaminants naturally present in the fish oil may not have been removed.