Saturday, February 4, 2012

Shopping for Omega -3 Fatty Acids can be confusing

 HINT-  Save 45.6 seconds of your day by just reading the bold print

Shopping for Omega- 3- Acids can sometimes be confusing. I was in a store yesterday that had at least 6 different brands of Omega -3 - fatty acids on their shelves.

My wife has elevated triglycerides and takes 4 to 5 grams of " Omega -3- FA" /day and I have normal triglycerides and take close to 2 gms/day.  The American Heart Association recommends 1 gm/day for someone without elevated triglycerides or heart disease. I have attached a copy of the American Heart Association recommendations below. The Jelis study , that we discussed on Jan. 30 , found a 19% relative risk reduction for a cardiovascular event by taking 1.8 gms of purified EPA for people with and without known heart disease or triglyceride problems.

I feel like a well informed consumer and had a simple goal of finding the smallest capsule with the highest amount of Omega -3 Fatty acids. My wife and I spent about 20 minutes reading labels using our calculator to find the pill that best met our goals. I have 3 different bottle setting in front of me now.

# 1 1200 mg of natural fish oil concentrate with 684 mg Omega -3 -Fatty acids
                              smaller print   EPA 410 mg
                                                     DHA 274 m
               Total amount /capsule---------  684

# 2   Fish oil 1400mg/980 omega-3
                                smaller print  EPA  647 mg
                                                     DHA 253 mg
                                                     other *****
               Total amount /capsule---------- 900 mg 

# 3   Cod Liver Oil    high in EPA and DHA /   Omega - 3 - Fatty acid 1100 mg
                                 smaller print EPA   400 mg
                                                      DHA  500 mg
                                                      Other *****
               Total amount per teaspoon          900 mg

I am not sure which omega -3 fatty acid is named  "other ".  I personally prefer to use EPA and DHA because they have been shown to be effective. We chose #2 because it  had a little more Mg / capsule than #1 and also had more EPA and less "other" than #3.  

I plan to take 2 capsules /day and my wife will take 5 capsules /day. We have lipid panels scheduled for next month.

What is in  that "Other " category ?   What is alpha  linolenic acid ?  Click on the link below.

The 'Other" Omega -3- Fatty acids
                                                                                                          Happy shopping,
                                                                                                          David Calder, MD
My friend , a  fellow blogger and founder of 1  and Laffing at Life is shopping for Omega 3's today and  may have a comment  about his experience.


Fish is a good source of protein and, unlike fatty meat products, it’s not high in saturated fat. Fish is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people and those at high risk of — or who have — cardiovascular disease.  Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats), which can lead to sudden cardiac death. Omega-3 fatty acids also decrease triglyceride levels, slow the growth rate of atherosclerotic plaque and lower blood pressure (slightly).
AHA Recommendation
We recommend eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least two times (two servings) a week. Each serving is 3.5 oz. cooked, or about ¾ cup of flaked fish.  Enjoy fish baked or grilled, not fried.  Choose low-sodium, low-fat seasonings such as spices, herbs, lemon juice and other flavorings in cooking and at the table. 
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have demonstrated benefits at reducing heart disease.
We also recommend eating tofu and other forms of soybeans, canola, walnut and flaxseed, and their oils. These foods contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another omega-3 fatty acid. Large-scale epidemiologic studies suggest that people at risk for coronary heart disease benefit from consuming omega-3 fatty acids from marine and plant sources. However, more studies are needed to show a cause-and-effect beneficial relationship between ALA and heart disease.
Increasing omega-3 fatty acid consumption through foods is preferable.  However, coronary artery disease patients may not be able to get enough omega-3 by diet alone.  These people may want to talk to their doctor about taking a supplement.  Supplements also could help people with high triglycerides, who need even larger doses. 
Patients without documented coronary heart disease (CHD)
Eat a variety of (preferably fatty) fish at least twice a week. Include oils and foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid (flaxseed, canola and soybean oils; flaxseed and walnuts).
Patients with documented CHD
Consume about 1 g of EPA+DHA per day, preferably from fatty fish.  EPA+DHA in capsule form could be considered in consultation with the physician. 
Patients who need to lower triglycerides 
2 to 4 grams of EPA+DHA per day provided as capsules under a physician’s care. 
Patients taking more than 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from capsules should only do so under a physician’s care.  High intakes could cause excessive bleeding in some people.
Benefits vs. Risks of Eating FishSome types of fish may contain high levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and other environmental contaminants. Levels of these substances are generally highest in older, larger predatory fish and marine mammals.
The benefits and risks of eating fish vary depending on a person’s stage of life.
  • Children and pregnant women are advised by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to avoid eating those fish with the potential for the highest level of mercury contamination (e.g., shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish); to eat up to 12 ounces (two average meals) per week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury (e.g., canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish); and to check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in local lakes, rivers and coastal areas.
  • For middle-aged and older men and postmenopausal women, the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the potential risks when the amount of fish are eaten is within the recommendations established by the FDA and Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Eating a variety of fish will help minimize any potentially adverse effects due to environmental pollutants.
Potential exposure to some contaminants can be reduced by removing the skin and surface fat from these fish before cooking. Consumers should also check with local and state authorities about types of fish and watersheds that may be contaminated and visit the FDA Web site for the most up-to-date information on recommendations for specific subgroups of the U.S. population (e.g., children, pregnant women).
Top 10 Fish and Shellfish in the United States Based on Consumption – Omega-3 and Mercury Levels:

Omega-3 fatty acids
(grams per 3-oz. serving)
Mean mercury level in parts per million (ppm)
Canned tuna (light)
Salmon (fresh, frozen)
Flounder or sole   
* ND – mercury concentration below the Level of Detection (LOD=0.01ppm)
Fish with the Highest Levels of Mercury (about 1 ppm):

Omega-3 fatty acids
(grams per 3-oz. serving)
Mean mercury level in parts per million (ppm)
Tilefish (golden bass or golden snapper)
King mackerel
Five of the most commonly eaten fish or shellfish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.    Avoid eating shark, swordfish, king Mackerel, or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.


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Your comments and questions are appreciated. David Calder,MD