About UsPatient CareHeart information Center EducationResearchSupport The Texas Heart Institute
Heart Information Center
Understanding Omega-3 Fatty Acids or "Fish Oil"
  Back to previous page
  En español

Understanding Omega-3 Fatty Acids or "Fish Oil"
| Share

Omega-3 fatty acids are also known as "fish oil." Studies have shown that these polyunsaturated fatty acids benefit the hearts of healthy people, those at high risk of cardiovascular disease, or those who already have cardiovascular disease.

Doctors are still studying the ways that fish oil reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. They do know that fish oils

  • decrease the risk of arrhythmias
  • decrease triglyceride levels
  • slow the growth rate of fatty plaque in the arteries
  • lower blood pressure (slightly)

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating fish (especially fatty fish) at least two times a week. Examples of fatty fish include mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon. These fish are high in two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The AHA also recommends eating tofu and other forms of soybeans, walnuts, flaxseeds, and canola oil. These contain alpha-linolenic acid (LNA), which can be turned into omega-3 fatty acid in the body.

If you are thinking of taking a fish oil supplement (in a pill form), talk to your doctor. A fish oil overdose can cause serious health problems, such as internal bleeding or stroke. 

In the news . . . Fish oil supplements [Photo credit Houston Chronicle Gita Kulinica]Have fish oil supplements lost their luster? 
Fish oil supposedly helped prevent a range of health issues...That's changing a bit now. Read the article from the Houston Chronicle. [Photo credit Gita Kulinica, Chronicle] "Pills are not a substitute for a good diet," says Dr. Stephanie Coulter who directs the Center for Women's Heart & Vascular Health at the Texas Heart Institute. One exception, she says, are people who can't control high triglyceride levels with diet and exercise. For those people, she said, 4 grams of fish oil supplements per day have been shown to reduce triglycerides by 40 percent. "As adults, we can all protect our hearts against heart disease by eating fatty fish at least twice a week." Coulter says.

See on other sites:

American Heart Association 
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Updated October 2013 

Texas Heart Institute Heart Information Center
Through this community outreach program, staff members of the Texas Heart Institute (THI) provide educational information related to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cardiovascular disease. It is not the intention of THI to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided and THI urges you to visit a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your questions.
Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Subscribe to us on YouTube Find Us on Flicikr Follow Us on Pinterest Add us on Google+

Please contact our Webmaster with questions or comments.
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
© Copyright 1996-2014 Texas Heart Institute.
All rights reserved.
This website is accredited by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. U.S. NEWS America's Best Hospitals 2013-14