Expert Q&A

Fish oil: What are the guidelines for consumption?

I know fish oil is good for me. How much do I need and what should I look out for?

It is true that fish oil is very good for the heart, nervous system, and hormonal system. Many people are deficient in essential fatty acids (EPA). Fish oil is an excellent source of EPA that is concentrated and usable in the body. The dose of fish oil depends on what is going on. For general health maintenance, 650-1000 milligrams of fish oil or cod liver oil is a good dose. For specific conditions in the nervous system, cardiovascular system or hormonal system, 4,000 milligrams to 6,000 milligrams of fish oil may be recommended.

Where does fish oil come from?

Fish oil comes in a couple of forms. It is made from the whole oily fish, while cod liver oil is made from the livers of fish. Cod liver oil contains higher amounts of vitamin A and vitamin D, which can be therapeutic in themselves. Vitamin D can be synthesized in the skin when exposed to sun and can be especially helpful for people who do not get outside much or live in places where there is little natural sun. Vitamin A is helpful for skin complaints and can stimulate the immune system. However, because both of these vitamins are fat soluble, it is possible to take too much. Toxicity symptoms include dry skin, headaches, bone pain, visual disturbances, and birth defects during pregnancy.

Fish products and mercury

Mercury toxicity is also a concern when using fish products. The livers and oils in fish actually concentrate mercury levels along with other heavy metals and chemicals. Professional grade and pharmaceutical grade, high-quality fish oil is tested for mercury and other toxins. Cheaper fish oils are not tested and can contain dangerous levels of contaminants. (see Fish Safety & Buying Guide.)

For more information on consuming fish oils for cancer patients see the following article from TheDietChannel: Fat and Fiction.

Wendy Hodsdon, ND
Contributing Expert

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