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Excess Omega-3 Intake May Have Negative Health Effects

CORVALLIS, Ore.—Previous studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids s are associated with lower risk of sudden cardiac death and other cardiovascular disease outcomes; however a new paper published in the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes & Essential Fatty Acids suggests consuming excessive amounts of omega-3s from either supplementation, foods or a combination of both may increase the risk of negative health outcomes.

Previous research led by Michigan State University’s Jenifer Fenton found feeding mice large amounts of dietary omega-3 fatty acids led to increased risk of colitis and immune alteration. As a follow-up, Fenton and co-authors, including Norman Hord, associate professor in Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, reviewed the literature and discussed potential adverse health outcomes that could result from excess consumption of omega-3 fatty acids.

 “We were inspired to review the literature based on our findings after recent publications showed increased risk of advanced prostate cancer and atrial fibrillation in those with high blood levels of long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs)," Fenton said.

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that benefit heart health and inflammatory issues; however, the researchers said excess amounts of omega-3 fatty acids can sometimes alter immune function in ways that may lead to a dysfunctional immune response to a viral or bacterial infection.

The researchers noted that the amounts of fish oil used in most studies are typically above what one could consume from foods or usual dosage of a dietary supplement. However, an increasing amount of products, such as eggs, bread, butters, oils and orange juice, are being fortified with omega-3s. They said fortified food, coupled with fish oil supplement use, increases the potential for consuming these high levels.

“Overall, we support the dietary recommendations from the American Heart Association to eat fish, particularly fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, lake trout or sardines, at least two times a week, and for those at risk of coronary artery disease to talk to their doctor about supplements," Hord said.

“Our main concern here is the hyper-supplemented individual, who may be taking high-dose omega-3 supplements and eating four to five omega-3-enriched foods per day," he added. “This could potentially get someone to an excessive amount. As our paper indicates, there may be subgroups of those who may be at risk from consuming excess amounts of these fatty acids."

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