I was prescribed fish oil in the last year of the last millennium. Fish oil was supposed to treat my triglyceride levels that had topped 300 at the time. This was back in the days when there was just fish oil, and you took a lot of it. There was little understanding of what was desired in the supplement, but the doctors back then were pretty sure that you should be taking fish oil on a daily basis to lower bad blood cholesterol. I was prescribed nine 1400 milligram softgels, to be taken every single day. That meant that everything tasted like fish oil for several years. Everything tasted like fish oil until they started enteric coating the softgels. I got pretty creative with how I took them, so as to limit the flavor and gas that the fish oil imparted to everything. There was no mention of what kind of fish oil in that original script. Omega 3 might have been a known thing at that point, but it wasn’t on my radar.
As we scrolled past 2000 and headed for the middle of the next decade, researchers started to get a better understanding of what kind of fish oil was desired. That was when Omega 3 fish oil became a thing. Omega 3 was what they were finding made the difference. When I learned this fact I did the math and figured out that I could cut my dosage to two or three softgels if I bought the right kind of fish oil, a reduction that was grudgingly okayed by my GP of the time.
But then the next set of research results came back, and it looked like the researchers were backpedaling on the benefits of fish oil in avoiding heart attacks. I tried to get the doctors to let me stop taking the stuff because I hated having to work around the taste of the oil in the back of my throat all the time. At every visit, the general practitioner and then the cardiologist kept insisting that I had to keep taking the nauseating stuff. I humored them and kept taking it, but I stopped worrying about how much and how often.
I stopped worrying until the last of my current keg ‘o fish oil from the warehouse shopping club started to run low, and I went looking for a replacement bottle. It was when I checked the Omega 3 content of the brand I had been taking against the new bottle’s Omega 3 content that I realized that I had been slacking off the one thing that might have been keeping my cholesterol at bay. That my recent adventures with angioplasty might have been partly of my responsibility. The brand I had been taking had about a third of the Omega 3 of the brand that I had just purchased. Which meant I should have been taking 9 of the damn things just like I had been doing at the beginning. So the bottle that I had been dipping out of for over a year probably should have only lasted about 3 months, and there is no telling for how long I haven’t been meeting the minimum dosage of Omega 3 that the cardiologist expects me to take.
How much is that? you might well ask. I had no idea, so I asked the cardiologist today and they said EPA over 660 DHA over 60, twice a day. I had to look on the bottle label to find out what EPA and DHA were references for, and only then realized that EPA and DHA are two different kinds of Omega 3.
1400 mg of fish oil is a completely misleading measurement, and a straight reading of Omega 3 isn’t enough to know whether what I’m taking is the right stuff or not. Nope, now I need to be taking those two specific variants of Omega 3 (EPA and DHA) and those are the minimum numbers, twice a day.
If I die from a heart attack, it will be obscure nomenclature that kills me. You can put that on my tombstone.