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 the lack of fish oil benefits, but not all are created equal. Many researchers say there is an exception.

When we dive into the fish oil debate, we are actually talking about the active ingredients in omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers are focusing on the DHA and EPA components of omega-3 fatty acids. They are vital nutrients that we need and we get them from the food we eat.

“We have to realize that not all fish oils are omega-3 fatty acids. The interesting component 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 as there are many fish oil supplements out there.

Researchers have focused on the components of omega-3.

“The omega-3 fatty acids we are investigating are eicosapentaenoic acid, EPA and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. That’s the whole point. Prescribing strength is different than 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 extensive research on this topic.

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

But prescription and FDA approved fish oil is different.

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

“It’s just EPA, that’s the omega-3 version that it uses, and it’s a 4 gram EPA that has shown excellent results on cardiovascular events. So heart attacks, deaths, strokes, etc., said Viet Le. “

The confusion arose from other research, such as the STRENGTH study that 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 are getting off the shelf, I am not aware of any benefit from commercial 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 Confusion? Vascepa, a prescription EPA, is technically not a fish oil, but it is often placed in this category.

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

There is even talk of the EPA alone being able to help in the fight against COVID-19. “I have hope because they are vital to the body. EPA reduces inflammation, ”said Viet Le.

As an intern in cardiovascular disease at Intermountain Healthcare, Viet Le’s primary goal for its patients is to prevent heart disease and other serious health problems.

“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 investigating, at least EPA has been shown to be beneficial and another tool that helps and gives hope to people . We have tools, but we start with the lifestyle first, ”said 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 conditions.


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