B.C. Tuna Fishermen's Association

Omega-3 Fats

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What are omega-3 fats?
These beneficial fats are in the oil naturally found in fish. The omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA, play different but equally vital roles in human health. Though research with omega-3 supplements is promising, most experts recommend eating more fish rather than taking supplements.

How do they work?
EPA - helps make the platelets in blood less sticky which in turn could help prevent the build-up of plaque otherwise leading to a heart attack or stroke.

DHA - may help stabilize heart rhythm; potentially important for people recovering from heart attacks. May help regulate cell membrane functions involved in transmitting signals among brain cells.

What are the potential benefits?

Heart disease control
In Chicago's Western Electric Study (over 2,000 men) the risk of death from heart attack was half the usual rate among those who ate an average of about 8 ounces of fish (2 servings) a week. Other recent research suggests that just one serving a week of "fattier" fish, like salmon or mackerel, could cut the chance of cardiac arrest by 50% in folks with weakened hearts.

Rheumatoid arthritis relief
Some patients taking omega-3 supplements report less joint pain and less morning stiffness. There does not seem a benefit with the more common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis. The American College of Rheumatology recommends eating fish more often, but is holding judgement on supplements until more is known about long term safety.

Healthy brain function
These fats may be helpful in mood and brain disturbances. For example, recent research at Purdue University showed that boys with attention deficit disorder who had lower levels of omega-3 fats in their brains had more behavior problems. Studies are underway to see if omega-3 supplements can improve the boys' behavior. It clearly seems to work for some. The researchers advise adding more fish into children's diets until more is known about the long term safety of supplements.

Colitis fighter
Bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis lead to pain, weight loss, and tremendous suffering. Washington University reseachers in St. Louis saw dramatic improvement with fish oil supplements, including weight gain, less inflamation, and less need for medications such as prednisone.

Blood triglyceride control
Fish oil supplements may be helpful in lowering blood triglyceride levels in patients with high blood levels.

Cancer fighter
Omega-3s suppress tumor growth in animals. Japanese women have only a third as much breast cancer as American women. Heavy use of foods such as fish and soy in the Japanese diet may be responsible. A recent study of 25 women showed that supplemental fish oil could change the ratio of fats in breast tissue. 


Hindered blood clotting
Large doses of fish oil could result in rare strokes or other bleeding disorders. This is a concern for anyone taking other blood thinning agents such as coumarin or aspirin. Consult with your physician or Wegmans pharmacist if you're taking fish oil supplements in addition to other drugs.

How much omega-3s?
Americans now get 700-1,400 milligrams weekly. The estimate for therapeutic benefits is 3,500 milligrams weekly. There is no official recommendation for omega-3s. The estimate is based on amount needed, for example, to lower triglycerides.

Omega-3s in Fish

Less than 500 milligrams

Abalone Grouper Scallops Shrimp
Catfish Haddock Oysters Snapper
Clams Lobster Perch Sole
Cod Mahi mahi Pike Trout (sea)
Crab Mussels Pollock Trout (brook)
Flounder Octopus Orange Roughy


500-900 milligrams

Halibut-Pacific Striped sea bass
Rockfish Swordfish
Salmon (Chum) Turbot
Smelt Tuna-yellowfin
Squid Whitefish


More than 1,000 milligrams

Anchovies Sardines
Halibut-Atlantic Shark
Herring Trout (Rainbow)
Mackerel Trout (Brook)
Salmon (most) Tuna (Albacore)