Natural Health Products

Non-traditional solutions to help boost your health and wellness.

Fish oil

General Information

Fatty acids can be classified into saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fatty acids are considered to be unhealthy, and the unsaturated fatty acids (e.g., DHA, EPA, and ALA) are considered to be healthy. The healthier, unsaturated fatty acids can be found in fish oils.

Common Name(s)
fish oil, fish oil fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, cod liver oil, salmon oil, tuna fish oil
Scientific Name(s)
Fish oil
How is this product usually used?

Fish oils can be obtained from eating fish or by taking supplements.

What is this product used for?

Fish oils containing ALA, DHA, and EPA have been commonly used for:

  • Promoting overall health
  • Promoting heart health (e.g., to reduce heart attacks)
  • Lowering triglycerides (a type of fat found in the body)
  • Reducing symptoms such as pain and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis (used together with regular therapy)
  • Supporting brain and cognitivecognitiverelating to the ability to think, reason, remember, and discern function (e.g., for Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Supporting development of eyes and nerves in children

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that people consume at least 2 servings of fish per week.

Your health care provider may have recommended this product for other conditions. Contact a health care provider if you have questions.

What else should I be aware of?

Fish oils have shown to reduce triglyceride levels, however, they’re not as effective as prescription medications. It should not replace medications if you have high triglycerides. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if this supplement is right for you before starting it.

Studies have also shown that intake of unsaturated fatty acids such as Omega-3s lower the incidence of death caused by heart attack. There are also studies that show that Omega-3s do not have any positive health effects. However, there is good overall evidence to support the use of omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, to reduce heart disease.

Use of fish oils to prevent Alzheimer’s has not been supported by research.

The most common side effects of fish oils include belching, bad breath, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea. Large doses of fish oil can affect blood clotting and can increase risk of bleeding if you’re taking other medications such as blood thinners.

If you are allergic to fish or seafood, have liver disease or bipolar disorder, or have an implanted defibrillator, you should avoid use of fish oil.

Before taking any new medications, including natural health products, speak to your physician, pharmacist, or other health care provider. Tell your health care provider about any natural health products you may be taking.

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  2. McColl J. Fat facts. Pharmacy Practice 2002;18:46-57.
  3. Fish Oil (monograph). Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. (Accessed online 1 October 2008)
  4. Health Canada. Licensed Natural Health Products database. Fish Oil. (accessed 28 May, 2010)
  5. Bucher HC, Hengstler P, Schindler C et al. N-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in coronary heart disease. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Med 2002;112:298-304.
  6. Hooper L, Thompson RL, Harrison RA et al. Omega 3 fatty acids for prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004.
  7. American Heart Association. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids., accessed September 16, 2008.
  8. Health Canada. Eating well with Canada’s Food Guide: Meat & Alternatives. (Accessed 1 October 2008)
  9. Fish oil. Medline Plus. Accessed 23 April 2014.

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