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How Fish Oil Protects Your Heart
Last review: 08/12/10
While there are many (unnecessary) pharmacological treatments for the prevention and management of coronary heart disease, both health professionals as well as the public believe simple dietary interventions may prove to be more beneficial.

Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oils can protect against cardiovascular disease.

Omega-3 Protects Your Heart

Following are just some of the benefits omega-3 has to offer:

  • Antiarrhythmic: counteracting or preventing cardiac arrhythmia
  • Antithrombotic: tending to prevent thrombosis (a blood clot within a blood vessel)
  • Antiatherosclerotic: preventing fatty deposits and fibrosis of the inner layer of the arteries from forming
  • Anti-inflammatory: counteracting inflammation (heat, pain, swelling, etc.)
  • Improves endothelial function: a major factor in promoting the growth of new blood vessels
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Lowers triglyceride, or neutral fat, concentrations

Guidelines from the American Heart Association have supported the use of fish oil supplements for patients with documented coronary heart disease. (Please note: Any and all recommendations regarding fish and fish oil consumption should be balanced against safety issues.)

British Medical Journal 2004;328:30-35 January 3, 2004

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

I know this article from the British Medical Journal is one year old but I felt this piece remains extremely relevant and includes some great charts and illustrations. (You might want to click the hyperlink on the reference and save the free full text article, as it is one of the best references on the benefits of fish oil).

The perspective of this article mirrors my own opinions about the use of fish oil as a natural alternative -- along with a healthy diet -- in protecting your heart instead of conventional medicine's all too common "Band Aid" approach. (It is my belief that modern health care focuses on toxic drugs that treat specific symptoms and never on the root cause of the problem.)

One important factor to remember about taking fish oil (that this excellent piece doesn't cover) is: Since most fish of all varieties have high levels of mercury -- a tasteless but toxic heavy metal -- it's vital you find a FISH OIL source free of impurities.

How do you know which fish oil is best for you? Here are three quick tests:

1. Make sure that your brand is free of mercury and PCBs. This will not be on the label so you will need to:

  • Contact the manufacturer for their analysis
  • Review an independent third party that has analyzed the product
  • Hire a company to test the product yourself

2. Confirm that there are very low oxidation products in the fish or cod liver oil.

It is important to understand fish oil and cod liver oil have long-chain unsaturated fats (primarily EPA and DHA) and they are very susceptible to oxidation or damage. If the oil is not processed properly damage will occur. Many years ago nearly all the fish oils were oxidized. That is why when you mention cod liver oil to most anyone they turn up their nose in disgust. Typically, they only taste bad when they are oxidized.

3. Make certain that your fish oil or cod liver oil has therapeutic levels of vitamin E in it.

Nearly all manufacturers insert a small amount of one unit per teaspoon. This is sufficient to prevent oxidation of the fish oil in the bottle. However, after you consume it this is woefully inadequate. Your body will tend to oxidize the fish oil and much larger doses of vitamin E are needed to prevent the fish oil from going rancid in your body.

There are several high-quality fish oils on the market, but most of them are not and you are playing Russian roulette with your health unless you do your homework. Do your own test as I have described above or select Carlson's fish or cod liver oil. You can purchase them in nearly any health food store or you can support our work and all the free information we provide you and purchase it in our store.

You see, generally our diet contains far too much omega-6 fat (found in margarine and vegetable and sunflower oils). Experts looking at the dietary ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids suggest that in early human history the ratio was about 1:1. Currently most Americans eat a dietary ratio that falls between 20:1 and 50:1! The optimal ratio is most likely closer to the original ratio of 1:1.

For most of us this means greatly reducing the omega-6 fatty acids we consume and increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in fish oil.

And, as I mentioned above, while fish WOULD BE an excellent omega-3 source, mercury levels in almost all fish have now hit dangerously high levels across the world, and the risk of this mercury to your health now outweighs the fish's omega-3 benefits.

However, there is a silver lining to this cloud. After searching for a SAFE source of fish you can eat without having to worry about mercury levels and added toxins, I finally discovered one: Vital Choice Alaskan Wild Red Salmon. I had the salmon, which are harvested in Alaskan waters, tested through an independent lab and it was found to be free of mercury and other toxins. I also tasted it in a variety of recipes, and I can now confidently and enthusiastically recommend this source to you!

Among the salmon's outstanding nutritional benefits are high levels of omega-3 with DHA and EPA. These two fatty acids are pivotal in preventing heart disease, cancer and many other diseases. Plus, it tastes delicious!

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