Overdose of fish oil supplements – dangers and consequences

Fish oil has long been known for its beneficial properties due to its rich content of omega-3 (EPA and DHA), as well as vitamins D3, A and E.

Let us briefly recall some of the benefits of consuming fish oil, as well as supplements based on it:

  • contribution to cardiovascular health (normalization of blood lipid profile, as well as “antiplatelet effect”)
  • a powerful anti-inflammatory agent
  • relieves symptoms of degenerative joint diseases
  • contributes to bone health, as well as better mood
  • hormonal balance
  • healthy vision
  • adequate immune response

That is not all, of course, but we are only illustrating the “wide indication area” of the action of fish oil. Let’s not forget, when we say omega-3 essential fatty acids in the foreground are α-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), all of which are polyunsaturated and essential. Our body cannot produce them on its own, but can only be ingested through food.

Fish oil is rich in “active forms of omega”, ie. with EPA and DHA, there is a dominant ALA in vegetable oils, which is not “so” bad, because in our body the enzyme d6-desaturase produces EPA and DHA from ALA. However, the problem is the limited ability to form (limiting the activity, ie the amount of available enzyme) omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from ALA, so the intake of EPA and DHA is very important, because our body is not the most efficient in “processing ALA of plant origin”.

Let us mention that omega-3 supplements usually contain about 1000 mg of concentrated, purified, fish oil, which is standardized in most cases to 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA.

General recommendations say that we need at least 500 mg of EPA + DHA on a daily basis. According to EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) up to 5000 mg of omega-3 per day is considered safe.

One of the striking facts concerning the “global inflammatory process” which has the character of a syndrome, and the scale of the epidemic, is that it is an important factor in the development of the same diet. In fact, it is the fatal dominance of omega-6 over omega-3 essential fatty acids in the diet. In addition, we have trans fats that further upset the balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory agents. In the diet of modern man, that ratio is 15: 1 in favor of omega-6, and it should be at least 1: 1 in relation to omega-3.

All in all, omega-3 supplements have become inevitable, but you shouldn’t overdo it!

Studies show that omega-3s can help in the state of insulin resistance, but on the other hand, in the case of megadosing in already “advanced” type 2 diabetes, it is possible that there is an increase in “fasting” glycemia (8 g of omega-3). Omega-3 megadoses in this case are even therapeutic (accompanying hyperlipidemia).

Omega-3s are also known for their antiplatelet effect, ie. in the prevention of thrombosis. In the case of megadosology (1000-5000 mg), a higher probability of episatx (nosebleeds) has been shown. The biggest problems, fatal, occur with therapy with oral anticoagulants (coumarin derivatives), as well as heparins (operations…).

Megadosing with omega-3 supplements can also lead to a drop in blood pressure, especially in people who already have hypertension (a rare occurrence has been observed in healthy people). Problems can be more pronounced due to interactions with drugs, antihypertensives (4-6 grams of omega-3 per day).

Large doses of fish oil-based supplements can also lead to digestive discomfort. Most often we have the appearance of heartburn, as well as gastro-oesophageal reflux, diarrhea and bloating are somewhat less common. It can be said that the mentioned signs of “difficult digestion” are symptoms of an overdose of this group of supplements.

There are claims that omega-3 megadosage can lead to a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke (“brain hemorrhage”) due to its antiplatelet effect. But let’s not forget that the primary cause of everything is rupture, ie. spraying of a blood vessel as a consequence of a sudden jump in blood pressure and sagging of a blood vessel as a consequence of an atherosclerotic change, aneurysm or some defect of the blood vessel wall.

Omega-3 supplements based on fish oil (cod in the first place) may have a slightly higher content of vitamin A, so in case of chronic consumption of higher doses, hypervitaminosis with this vitamin can occur. Initially, the symptoms can be “generalized” – dizziness, nausea, joint pain and skin irritation, and over time, more serious liver damage can occur.

As we can see, fish oil supplements are safer, but you should always pay attention to “associated” chronic diseases or conditions where it is possible for “excessive” supplementation of omega-3 to do more harm than good.

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