Fish oil not the answer for many maladies

December 8, 2011

In my previous column, I explained effective uses for improving health with fish oil. Today's column is about ineffective uses of fish oil.

Fish oil is touted so often that it's beginning to sound like a cure-all. It isn't. And you have to be careful taking it. High doses of fish oil can be dangerous. Always check with your doctor before changing your intake of foods or supplements.

You get fish oil directly from fish or by taking supplements made from oily fish. Fish loaded with beneficial oils known as omega-3 fatty acids include anchovy, bluefish, herring, mackerel, menhaden, mullet, salmon, sardines, sturgeon, trout and tuna.

Fish oil is recommended for many conditions. How effective is it?

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database provides ratings for fish oil. According to the ratings, fish oil is effective for lowering triglycerides, blood fat related to cholesterol.
It is rated as likely effective for lowering the risk of dying from heart disease. And it's possibly effective for many conditions including high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis and stroke.

The following are some of the negative ratings in the database:

Possibly Ineffective

Gum infection (gingivitis), liver disease, leg pain caused by blood flow problems (claudication), preventing migraine headaches, preventing muscle soreness caused by physical exercise, breast pain. skin rashes caused by allergic reactions, and stomach ulcers.

Likely Ineffective

Type 2 diabetes.

Insufficient Evidence To Rate

Allergies. Some research suggests that mothers who take fish oil supplements during the late stages of pregnancy may lower the occurrence of allergies in their children.

Alzheimer’s disease. There is some preliminary evidence that fish oil may help prevent Alzheimer‘s disease. But it doesn’t seem to help prevent a decline in thinking skills for most people who already have mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Atrial fibrillation. Research studies into the effects of fish oil on atrial fibrillation have produced conflicting results.

Depression. There is inconsistent information about the effect of taking fish oil on depression. Some research shows that taking fish oil along with an antidepressant might help improve symptoms. But other research shows that taking fish oil does not improve symptoms.

Dry eye syndrome. Some research links eating more fish with a lower risk of getting dry eye syndrome in women.

Cancer. Research studies into the effects of fish oil on cancer prevention have produced conflicting results.

Cataracts. There is some evidence that eating fish three times a week can modestly lower the risk of developing cataracts.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). There is some conflicting evidence about the use of a product (Efamol Marine) that combines fish oil and evening primrose oil to reduce the symptoms CFS.

Chronic kidney disease. Preliminary evidence shows that fish oil might have benefit for some people with chronic kidney disease who are receiving dialysis treatments.

Ulcerative colitis. Research studies into the effects of fish oil on ulcerative colitis have produced conflicting results.

Pregnancy complications. There is some evidence that taking fish oil during the last ten weeks of pregnancy can help prevent premature delivery.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Research shows conflicting results.

If you would like to read more columns, you can order a copy of “How to be a Healthy Geezer” at

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