The omega-3 that’s worth the hype


SALT LAKE (ABC4) – There has been confusion about fish oil supplements and questions about whether they have any benefits in fighting cardiovascular disease and other problems.

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Some studies have shown that fish oil is of no benefit, but not all are created equal. Many researchers say that there is an exception.

When it comes to delving into the fish oil debate, we’re really talking about the active ingredients of omega-3 fatty acids. The researchers are focusing on the DHA and EPA components of omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential nutrients that we need and we get them from the foods we eat.

“We have to realize that not all fish oils are omega-3 fatty acids. The component of interest is actually omega-3, ”said Viet Le, Pa-C.

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Omega-3 fatty acids are found in plants, flax seeds, some nuts and in fish. The confusion surrounds fish oil because there are many fish oil supplements out there.

The researchers focused on the components of omega-3 fatty acids.

“The omega-3 fatty acids we’re looking at are eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. That’s the gist of it. The strength of the prescription is different from that of the off the shelf, said Viet Le, Pa-C.

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Viet Le is a certified cardiovascular physician assistant with Intermountain Healthcare in Utah and has done an in-depth study of the subject.

He says beware of off-the-shelf fish oil supplements because you don’t know what’s in them and what amounts.

But prescription and FDA approved fish oil is different.

In a clinical study called “REDUCE-IT,” the researchers looked at a prescribed drug called Vascepa.

“It’s just the EPA, the omega-3 version that uses it, and it’s a 4 gram EPA that shows great cardiovascular event results. So heart attack, death, stroke, etc., said Viet Le. “

The confusion arose with other research such as the STRENGTH study which used both EPA and DHA.

“It showed a neutral effect when these two drugs were combined into one. They don’t go well together, ”said Viet Le.

The results of combining EPA and DHA were inconclusive, which is why many doctors do not recommend commercially available fish oil supplements.

“We just don’t know what you’re getting off the shelf. I am not aware of any benefits with commercially available dietary supplements. Prescribing will be one way. EPA alone has been shown to be beneficial, but EPA with DHA is not. It’s neutral, ”said Viet Le.

Add to the confusion? Vascepa, a prescription EPA, is technically not a fish oil, but it is often placed in this category.

“It has been said that it is a fish oil, but it is not. It’s actually synthetic. Both DHA and EPA have important functions in the body separately, ”said Viet Le.

There is even talk that EPA alone could help fight COVID-19. “I hope that they are essential for the body. EPA reduces inflammation, ”said Viet Le.

As an assistant to a cardiovascular physician at Intermountain Healthcare, Viet Le’s primary goal is preventing heart disease and other major health problems for its patients.

“Get back to basics with the lifestyle first. Let’s not develop coronary disease at first, but I want people to know EPA and other omega-3 fatty acids that we are now at least investigating with EPA. This has been shown to be beneficial and is another tool to use and give hope to people. We have tools, but we start with the lifestyle first, ”says Viet Le.

Further studies on EPA and DHA must be carried out separately.

Take that away? Prescription fish oil or prescription EPA in Vascepa has been shown to be beneficial for many health problems.


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