Separating fact from fiction on fish oil usefulness

October 2, 2019

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 rates fish oil’s effectiveness based on scientific evidence. Its ratings say fish oil is shown to be effective for high triglycerides, which are associated with heart disease and untreated diabetes; and likely effective for heart disease. After that, results get murkier.

Conditions for which fish oil is possibly effective include: high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, menstrual pain, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder in children, stroke, osteoporosis, hardening of the arteries, kidney problems, bipolar disorder, psychosis, weight loss, endometrial cancer, age-related macular degeneration, movement disorder in children, psoriasis, high cholesterol, coronary artery bypass surgery, cancer-related weight loss, and asthma.

Here are those in the possibly ineffective category: chest pain (angina), gum infection (gingivitis), liver disease, migraine headaches, muscle soreness, breast pain, skin rashes, and stomach ulcers.

Fish oil is considered likely ineffective for treating type 2 diabetes.

There is insufficient evidence to rate its effectiveness for: allergies, Alzheimer’s disease, atrial fibrillation, depression, cancer, cataracts, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic kidney disease, thinking skills, Crohn’s disease, prediabetes, ulcerative colitis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

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