HF 592

Non-Prescription Fish Oil for High Triglycerides

Fish oil is a healthy source of omega-3 fatty acids. In high doses, fish oil can lower triglycerides levels. Triglycerides are a type of fat made by the body from extra energy and sugar. High levels can increase your risk of heart disease.

This handout only refers to non-prescription fish oil capsules recommended by your health provider. Prescription fish oil capsules are used for other conditions.

Why do I need fish oil supplements?

Your doctor may have told you to take fish oil because you have:

  • High triglycerides (>500mg/dl)

When Fish oil is taken daily it can:

  • Lower triglyceride levels

  • Decrease the stickiness of blood cells(platelets)

  • Reduces inflammation

Is fish oil safe?

Fish oil supplements are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in children and adults. Some types of fish may be contaminated with mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl). When fish oil supplements are made, these are removed. Shark, king mackerel, and farm-raised salmon supplements may be contaminated.

Cod liver oil is not recommended as it is lower in omega-3 fatty acids and large doses may provide too much vitamin A. Flaxseed oil and other sources of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) may not be used because they do not lower triglycerides.

Stop fish oil for one week before surgeries. Discuss this with your surgeon.


Fish oils may interact with:

  • Birth control pills

  • Blood pressure medicines

  • Orlistat

  • Blood thinners

Fish Oil Safety

You should not take fish oil if you have:

  • Fish or seafood allergy

  • Bleeding disorders

How do I take fish oil?

  1. Ask your health provider about the right dose to take. For those with>500mg/dl of triglycerides, daily dose of 3200-4000 mg of omega 3fatty acids (DHA+EPA) is preferred.

    592 Supplement Facts

  2. Find a fish oil supplement that is right for you. There are softgels and liquid versions. Your healthcare provider can advise you where to buy these supplements.

  3. Find the “Serving Size” on the Supplement Facts panel.

  4. Add the EPA + DHA to find the dose per serving. In the example, 1 softgel equals 935mg (683mg EPA + 252mg DHA).

  5. Take fish oil with or without meals. Choose a time that is easy for you to remember every day.

To decrease “fish burps” try to:

  • Store the fish oil in the fridge.

  • Swallow it cold

  • Take it at night.

Who to Call

If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions, please contact UW Health at one of the phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition

Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.

If you are a patient receiving care at UnityPoint – Meriter, Swedish American or a health system outside of UW Health, please use the phone numbers provided in your discharge instructions for any questions or concerns.