The Nation's Health + Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids: Fish oil in the news


Hooray for the New York Times. They ran an article pointing out the miserable and inexcusable failure of American physicians to use fish oil after heart attack.

“It is clearly recommended in international guidelines,” said Dr. Massimo Santini, the hospital’s chief of cardiology, who added that it would be considered tantamount to malpractice in Italy to omit the drug. the United States, heart attack victims are not generally given omega-3 fatty acids, even as they are routinely offered more expensive and invasive treatments, like pills to lower cholesterol or implantable defibrillators. Prescription fish oil, sold under the brand name Omacor, is not even approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in heart patients."

The article focuses on the use of fish oil only after heart attack and doesn't tackle the larger issue of how fish oil is crucial for coronary disease in general. Of course, the article doesn't address the extraordinary effects of fish oil on lipoproteins, particularly triglyceride-containing varieties like VLDL and the postprandial (after-eating) intermediate-density lipoprotein (IDL).

It also talks about prescription fish oil and just glosses over fish oil as a nutritional supplement. I know of few reasons to use the prescription form. More than 90% of the time, nutritional sources of fish oil do the trick. (That is, fish oil capsule supplements, not just eating fish which doesn't provide enough for coronary plaque reduction or control.)

Occasionally, I'll meet someone who has a severe hypertriglyceridemia (very high triglycerides), or is a Apo E 2/2 homozygote (very rare). These special instances may, indeed, do better using prescription fish oil, since it is more concentrated--one prescription capsule providing the same omega-3 fatty acid content as three conventional capsules (1000 mg fish oil, 300 mg EPA+DHA).


But for most of us, the standard fish oil supplement you buy at the health food store or department store does just fine. If you read about the impurity of fish oil supplements (likely prompted by the manufacturer of Omacor, prescription fish oil), refer to the studies by Consumer Reports and Consumer Labs, both of which found no mercury or pesticide residues in dozens of fish oil preparations tested.

Look on the bright side. The conversation is growing. Fish oil, whether prescription or my favorite, Sam's Club Members' Mark brand, is a fabulously effective supplement with benefits that, in nearly all cases, exceeds the benefits of drugs.

Fish oil is an absolute requirement for your Track Your Plaque program and for you to hope to achieve control or reduction of your heart scan score.

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