Side Effects of Taking Omega-3 Fish Oil Supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids are recommended to decrease the risk of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. According to Medline Plus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that it is generally regarded as safe for an adult to take up to 3mg of Omega-3 fatty acids per day; however, there are some potential side effects that come with taking Omega-3 supplements.

  1. Bleeding Risk

    • The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends keeping doses at or below the FDA guidelines of 3mg per day to avoid the risk of bleeding. Although this side affect is rarely seen with lower doses of Omega-3 fatty acids, higher doses can increase bleeding within the body, enable bleeding to last longer than normal due to the breakdown of blood clots and even lead to a hemorrhagic stroke, according to Medline Plus. Individuals reaching this higher level may also notice nosebleeds or blood in the urine.

    Gastrointestinal Symptoms

    • Gastrointestinal problems are so frequent with Omega-3 fatty acids that this side effect is considered "common" by Medline Plus, which is a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH.) These symptoms may include (potentially severe) diarrhea, acid reflux, burping, indigestion, heart burn, and abdominal discomfort and bloating. The severity of these symptoms can be decreased by taking a supplement with food and slowly working your way up to a higher dose, instead of starting out with a high dose.

    LDL Increase

    • Consuming fish oil may not only raise your high-density lipoprotein (HDL,) but it may also raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) level by 5 to 10 percent, according to Medline Plus. If you already have high levels of this "bad" cholesterol, raising the amount of LDL this much can be counterproductive, especially if you are trying to lower your LDL to healthy levels with diet, exercise and prescription medication (statins). However, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, increasing your Omega-3 intake to reduce your Omega-6/Omega-3 ratio may help some statins do their job better.

    Vitamin Overabundance

    • Supplements derived from both fish oil and fish liver oil can lead to an overabundance of vitamins and potential toxicity. Fish oil supplements may contain extra vitamin E, which supplement-makers add because taking this product for an extended period of time can lower normal vitamin E levels. However, this leaves some users with an overabundance of this vitamin. Fish liver oil naturally contains vitamins A and D, so taking these supplements for an extended period of time can lead to toxicity, according to Medline Plus.

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  • Photo Credit Fish oil vitamins image by Stephen VanHorn from Fotolia.com

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