Debunking the Myth: Omega-3s and Bleeding

Debunking the Myth: Omega-3s and Bleeding

closeup hand holding fish oil vitamin for healthy


By Toby Amidor, MS, RD

This post was sponsored by the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED). All thoughts are my own.

There is so much misinformation swirling about food and nutrition. As a nutrition professional in the media, one topic that I fearlessly tackle is busting nutrition myths. An interesting myth you may have heard is that taking in too many omega-3 supplements can cause excessive bleeding. This can be of concern if you’re heading into surgery, and some believe that you should stop omega-3 supplements before you head into the operation room. However, research does not back it up.

The Research
It is believed that this myth originated from the Greenlandic Inuit, a population that lived on whale blubber, which has a nice amount of omega-3 fats. Researchers first linked the consumption of omega-3 fats with a decreased risk of heart disease in the Inuits. However, scientists found that the Inuits, with their diet high in omega-3 fats, also had significantly longer bleeding times that other Danish people. Scientists assumed that it was the omega-3s that caused the longer bleeding times.

However, a 2017 systematic review published in the Danish Medical Journal found that there is no evidence to support the theory that consuming high amounts of omega-3s can lead to increased bleeding. Data from 16 studies on folks undergoing surgery found that fish oil didn’t increase bleeding time. The authors of the study concluded that there is no evidence to support the discontinuation of omega-3 supplements before surgery.

The Benefits of Omega-3s
With over 30,000 published studies on EPA and DHA and a wide body of scientific evidence linking omega-3s to overall wellness, including heart, brain, and eye health, there are plenty of reasons to make sure you’re taking in omega-3s. There is no set guideline for how much you should take, however health professional recommend between 250 to 500 milligrams of EPA and DHA per day. To find out if you’re taking in enough omega-3s, take this quiz.

Two servings of fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, mackerel, or herring, provide about 650 milligrams to 3,340 milligrams of EPA and DHA, which meets the weekly recommendation. One serving of fatty fish is 3.5 ounces cooked or about ¾ cup of flaked fish.

If you don’t think you’re getting enough omega-3s on a regular basis, you may consider a supplement. To make sure you’re selecting a high quality omega-3 supplement, read the label to ensure you’re getting enough EPA and DHA in each serving.

  • Erin
    Posted at 21:46h, 02 October Reply

    I love this article! I hear this myth so often from my clients. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Christy Brissette
    Posted at 13:15h, 05 October Reply

    Such a common misconception! Thanks for sharing this research, Toby.

  • Barbara
    Posted at 20:14h, 06 October Reply

    I don’t think it is a myth because I get bleeding spots into my forearms every time I take a fish oil capsule. This also happens to me when I take an aspirin or NSAID.

  • Liz Weiss, MS, RDN
    Posted at 08:10h, 11 October Reply

    Thanks for the post, Toby. I eat a lot of salmon and I do take a daily omega-3 supplement to cover my bases. And when my boys were in high school, each experienced concussion. Omega-3 was part of their healing regime.

  • Kevin
    Posted at 11:52h, 20 December Reply

    Studies are not always reliable. I know that when I take EPA/DHA supps I get rectal bleeding. Omega 3’s decrease platelet stickiness, omega 6’s increase it. It would follow that bleeding would increase.

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