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Is prescription fish oil worth the cost?

May 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Along with traditional medicine like statins, studies show omega-3 oils found in fish may help prevent heart disease. Fish oil is sold as a dietary supplement, but now it comes in prescription form. But is the pricey prescription oil worth the extra money? ABC7 teamed up with Consumer Reports to see if the cost evens out with the benefits. Anne Conway doesn't like to eat fish. So to get the heart-healthy benefits, she takes a fish oil supplement.

"I take fish oil for my arteries to make my good cholesterol higher," said Anne.

Anne buys her fish oil as a supplement at the drugstore, but you can also get a prescription for fish oil called Lovaza. Consumer Reports says it is one of the first supplements to be offered as a prescription.

"Lovaza has a concentrated amount of fish oil. So if you need to take a high dose to lower your triglycerides, you can do so by taking fewer pills, which is more convenient," said Gayle Williams, Consumer Reports.

However, Lovaza is expensive. It costs roughly $160 per month. Experts say even people with existing heart disease don't usually need the high dose it offers.

"The American Heart Association recommends one gram of omega-3s per day for people with existing heart disease. You can easily get that much from one or two capsules of a fish oil supplement," said Williams.

In picking a supplement, you need to choose carefully. Consumer Reports recommends picking a brand that is labeled "USP Verified."

"USP Verified fish oil has been tested by the U.S. Pharmacopeia for purity and potency, so you know you're getting oil that's free of mercury and other contaminants," said Williams.

Choosing a supplement for as little as $10 per month is healthy for your wallet, as well your heart.

If you choose to get your omega-3s from eating fish, stick with options like wild salmon, tilapia and sardines, because they have plenty of healthy omega-3s and low mercury levels.

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