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Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Cholesterol and Triglycerides: Eating Fish and Fish Oil
Eating fish, at least 2 servings each week, is part of a heart-healthy diet. But fish and fish oil supplements do not lower cholesterol.
Some people take fish oil supplements to help lower triglycerides. Fish oil supplements can lower
Do not take fish-oil or omega-3 fatty acid supplements to lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Research has not shown that these supplements lower risk.1
Eating fish may help lower your risk of heart disease. As part of a heart-healthy diet, eat at least 2 servings of fish each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best for your heart. These fish include salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that women who may become
pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should not eat shark, swordfish,
king mackerel, or tilefish, because these fish have higher mercury
concentrations. But for middle-aged and older people, the protection that fish gives
the heart outweighs the risks of eating these fish. Eating a variety of fish
may reduce the amount of mercury you eat.2, 3
people with high triglycerides may take a prescription omega-3 fatty acids
medicine (such as Lovaza or Vascepa). This medicine is a highly concentrated form of
omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish oil. This medicine is used along
with diet and lifestyle changes for high triglycerides.
Fish oil capsules that you can buy
without a prescription can have significant side effects. Because of these side
effects, most doctors recommend eating 2 or 3 servings of fish a week rather
than taking fish oil capsules. The side effects of fish oil capsules
Fish oil supplements (2012). The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapies, 54 (1401): 83–84.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2004). What you
need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish: 2004 EPA and FDA advice for
women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, young
children. Available online:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2011). Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/Seafood/FoodbornePathogensContaminants/Methylmercury/ucm115644.htm.
Other Works Consulted
Eckel RH, et al. (2013). 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.citation. Accessed December 5, 2013.
Current as of:
April 8, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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