Omega 3 which is found mostly in fish oil is known to have an array of positive effects on the human body and is hence advised by many as dietary supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids are fatty acids found in fish and other sea food as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is considered to be essential for the growth and development of the human brain. Furthermore its positive effects on the heart are also well proven. Other advantages of fish oil includes a decrease in the proliferation of tumour cells and reduced risk of numerous diseases such as hypertension, arthritis, atherosclerosis, depression, diabetes mellitus, and some cancers.1, 2
The consumption of fish and fish oil must be practised carefully due to the potential presence of environmental toxins such as mercury (methylmercury), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and other contaminants. Thankfully, the risks of being exposed to such harmful environmental factors are substantially reduced through elaborate purification processes used to develop certain selected concentrated fish oil supplements and prescription preparations. 3
Good Fish, Bad fish
Larger, longer-living predators such as swordfish and shark have higher tissue concentrations of methylmercury, while smaller or shorter-lived fishes such as shellfish and salmon have very low concentrations. Properly processed fish oil capsules are said to contain about 20% to 80% of EPA and DHA by weight with little to no mercury, and variable levels of PCBs and dioxins. 4, 5
Salmon (especially farmed salmon) are considered as a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. However they are believed to contain high concentrations of contaminants listed before. 6
Some of the fish species that provide an adequate amount of omega-3 PUFAs include sardines, mackerel, herring (Atlantic and Pacific), lake trout, salmon (Chinook, Atlantic, and Sockeye), anchovy (European), sablefish, and bluefish. 7 A properly chosen fish oil supplement based on the type of fish used and type of purification process followed to remove environmental contaminants is beneficial for regular use.
1. Horrocks LA, Yeo YK. Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Pharmacol Res. 1999 Sep;40(3):211-25.
2. DeFilippis AP, Sperling LS. Understanding omega-3’s. Am Heart J. 2006 Mar;151(3):564-70.
3. Bays HE. Safety considerations with omega-3 fatty acid therapy. Am J Cardiol. 2007 Mar 19;99(6A):35C-43C.
4. Mozaffarian D, Rimm EB. Fish intake, contaminants, and human health: evaluating the risks and the benefits. JAMA. 2006 Oct 18;296(15):1885-99.
5. Costa LG. Contaminants in fish: risk-benefit considerations. Arh Hig Rada Toksikol. 2007 Sep;58(3):367-74.
6. Hamilton MC, Hites RA, Schwager SJ, et al. Lipid composition and contaminants in farmed and wild salmon. Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Nov 15;39(22):8622-9.
7. Sidhu KS. Health benefits and potential risks related to consumption of fish or fish oil. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 2003 Dec;38(3):336-44.
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