Recent Blog Articles
Prostate cancer in transgender women
Why eat lower on the seafood chain?
Can long COVID affect the gut?
When replenishing fluids, does milk beat water?
Safe, joyful movement for people of all weights
Slowing down racing thoughts
Are women turning to cannabis for menopause symptom relief?
3 ways to create community and counter loneliness
Helping children make friends: What parents can do
Can electrical brain stimulation boost attention, memory, and more?
Do fish oil supplements reduce inflammation?
Ask the doctor
Q. I've read that taking doses as high as 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams a day of a fish oil supplement may lower inflammation. If so, I'd like to take it to reduce my risk of cancer and heart disease.
A. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are part of a healthy diet that is associated with lower levels of inflammation. Your body can't manufacture omega-3 fatty acids—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)—so it's important to get them through your diet. EPA and DHA are primarily found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and anchovies. ALA is found in plants and is available in vegetable oils, nuts, flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil.
Several studies have evaluated fish oil supplements for preventing heart disease, cancer, and other conditions related to inflammation, but there is still no convincing evidence to recommend them—especially at such a high dose. The one exception is if you have very high levels of triglycerides in your blood. Then your doctor may prescribe Lovaza, a fish oil medication containing 465 milligrams (mg) of ALA and 375 mg of DHA, to be taken four times a day.
If your doctor hasn't prescribed high doses of fish oil, you'd be better advised to add foods containing omega-3s to your diet. Nonprescription fish oils are notoriously prone to spoilage.
— by Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.
Editors in Chief, Harvard Women's Health Watch
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
You might also be interested in…
Foods that Fight Inflammation
In this Harvard Medical School Guide you’ll be introduced to foods—more than 120 in all—that will help you turn out meals that fight inflammation and disease. You’ll learn how plant-based chemicals called phytochemicals act as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents, helping to bring down levels of inflammation and to counteract inflammation’s harmful effects. And you’ll find dozens of anti-inflammatory foods with added health benefits that include lowering cholesterol, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and of stroke, improving blood pressure, adding protection against heart disease, and even reducing pain and soreness after exercise.
Free Healthbeat Signup
Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!