advertisement



Q & A Library


Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Q
Are Fish Oil Capsules and Fish Oil Supplements Safe?

Are fish oil supplements safe? Do they contain heavy metals and other toxins?

A
Answer (Published 8/21/2002)

Updated 7/12/2005

I'm afraid your concern is justified. Despite assurances from manufacturers, some fish oil supplements probably do contain toxins. My colleague Kathleen Johnson, a nutritionist here at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, tells me that she's not sure if heavy metals as well as pesticides and PCBs are a problem. However, she notes that results from a study published in 1998 indicate that tests of 44 different fish oil supplement brands sold in 15 countries between 1994 and 1995 revealed appreciable quantities of organochlorines including PCBs and pesticide residues.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Supplements & Herbs - If you are interested in supplementing your diet, and want to take the mystery out of choosing vitamins, try Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor. Visit today for your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor Recommendation.

So far, the only reports of potential health consequences of contaminated fish oil supplements indicate that they may increase the risk of breast cancer, but this link isn't well established.

We all need the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil for long-term health and to reduce our risks of heart disease, cancer, decrease inflammation and enhance mood. If you're healthy, you're better off getting omega-3s not by a fish oil supplement but by eating at least three servings per week of oily fish (wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring). Avoid carnivorous fish such as swordfish and marlin, which spend a lot of time in coastal waters where pollution levels are highest; bluefish, which tend to concentrate mercury; and albacore tuna, which may harbor the same pollutants as swordfish and marlin.

However, some people may benefit from taking fish oil capsules in addition to eating fish. Ms. Johnson recommends them to those with autoimmune or inflammatory disorders, heart disease, diabetes, mental or emotional disorders, or insulin resistance. Because they can affect blood clotting, avoid fish oil supplements if you're taking any anticoagulant drugs like Coumadin (warfarin), have had a hemorrhagic stroke, or are scheduled for surgery.

While omega-3s are beneficial in almost any dose for these conditions, if you are not getting any omega-3's from your diet, you may have difficulty getting adequate levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docoahexaenoic acid) from fish oil capsules alone. Choose a brand that provides high levels of both EPA AND DHA in the least number of capsules and are distilled to remove PCBs and other contaminants.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Browse Dr. Weil’s articles and advice to learn more about fish oil supplements and fish oil capsules.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle, LLC on DrWeil.com (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being
in just eight weeks!
Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!
 

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe
Wellness Guide

Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food Pyramid
Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you
and their corresponding answers
from Dr. Weil.

 
Copyright © 2014 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here