CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- What's the fuss about fish oil? This question comes at me often.
In fact, the topic of fish oil is finding its way into most conversations regarding health. If you are one who believes in supplements, chances are you're already swallowing about four a day. If you're a skeptic by nature, you are just now beginning to see the light.
Whether to take fish oil can be a slippery subject, so I'd like to fill in a few blanks by highlighting the findings of some consumer lab that tested 59 fish oil supplements and omega-3 fatty acids for PCBs. I'll also share the Mayo Clinic's ratings with regard to the benefits that can be derived from getting enough fish oil.
In March, a lawsuit was filed in California alleging 10 fish oil supplements violated California's Prop 65 labeling requirement because they contained PCBs. Interestingly, the results concluded that while all fish oils and fatty acids tested contained PCBs, none of the 59 tested contained what is considered unsafe levels. In fact, the majority had very low levels.
This fish tale is getting ahead of itself.
Fish oil supplements contain varying levels of two main ingredients -- EPA (eicosapentaenoic) and DHA (docosahexaenoic), which are omega-3 fatty acids. These are recognized as heart-healthy, "good" fats that our body can produce in limited amounts. Because EPA and DHA have been studied widely and offer a variety of cardiovascular benefits, they have earned a recommendation from the American Heart Association. However, they caution everyone to consult their health care provider before beginning any type of supplementation.
The Mayo Clinic assigns a grading system, ranging from A to F, to the benefits of fish oil:
A -- Strong scientific evidence for this use
B -- Good scientific evidence for this use
C -- Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D -- Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work)