Fish Oil Products: Do Serving Sizes Contribute To Cholesterol Benefits?


The recommended serving sizes of fish oil products often do not contain enough omega-3 fatty acids to achieve cholesterol-lowering benefits. This emerges from an analysis recently published in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice.

Omega-3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosehexaenoic acid (DHA), have been found to be linked to cardiovascular health benefits. The American Heart Association recommends a total of 2 to 4 grams of EPA and DHA daily, which can be obtained from a healthy diet and consumption of fish oil products.

“The purpose of this study is to describe the EPA and DHA levels in a proposed serving size of fish oil products in order to ultimately determine how many fish oil products contain the appropriate amount of at least 2000 mg EPA + DHA per serving necessary to lower the Cholesterol level is required. Explained the authors.

The National Institutes of Health Dietary Supplement Labeling database was used to identify the fish oil products. The labels were then analyzed to determine the EPA and DHA levels and the amount of units required to obtain a minimum of 2000 mg of EPA and DHA. The results were reported using descriptive statistics.

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A total of 231 products with different formulations were analyzed. “Two (0.9%) products, both of which were liquid formulations, contained at least 2000 mg of EPA and DHA in the standard serving size indicated on the label,” the authors reported. Data analysis showed that the serving size of total EPA and DHA ranged from 60.2 mg to 2684 mg (mean 697 mg). The results also showed that the number of servings required to achieve 2000 mg of EPA and DHA ranged from 1 to 34 (mean 5). Liquid formulations had the highest EPA and DHA levels per serving, while gum products had the lowest (with some taking up to 34 servings to reach 2000 mg).

“Patients cannot rely on the recommended serving sizes listed on the natural product label to achieve the correct dosage of daily fish oil intake for health benefits,” the study’s authors concluded. To ensure that an adequate amount of EPA and DHA is consumed, the authors recommend that healthcare providers educate patients about the proper administration of these products and communicate “realistic expectations of the benefits of fish oil”.


Ward ED, Thomasson K., Fischer KR. Analysis of the omega-3 fatty acid content in fish oil products. Journal of Pharmacy Practice. Published online May 6, 2021. doi: 10.1177 / 08830738211015051


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