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What is Pharmaceutical Grade Fish Oil?

By Madeleine A.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pharmaceutical grade fish oil is a type of fish oil supplement that begins with processed fish oil that is of the health-food grade. Typically, pharmaceutical grade fish oil is distilled, which converts it to fractions that are rich in healthy fatty acids known as omega-3. Generally, it takes approximately 100 gallons (378 liters) of high-quality fish oil to manufacture 1 gallon (3.7 liters) of the pharmaceutical grade fish oil.

Typically, these fish oil fractions are combined to provide a unique ratio of docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid for the finished product. Scientific studies have concluded that pharmaceutical grade fish oil provides significant clinical health benefits in those who take the supplements. In addition, pharmaceutical grade fish oil supplements are believed to be lower in contaminants and pollutants such as mercury. These types of fish oil pills may also cause less gastric distress than other grades of fish oil supplements.

Pharmaceutical grade fish oil is sometimes given to patients for the treatment of depression. Fish oil for depression may alleviate or reduce symptoms by increasing levels of "feel good" chemicals in the brain. In addition, fish oil supplements may also be helpful in treating bipolar disorder, or manic depression, and psychosis. It is important to note, however, that the benefits of pharmaceutical grade fish oil in the treatment of depression typically are not immediate, and may take approximately six weeks to become noticeable.

Fish oil supplements may also play a role in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. In addition, pharmaceutical grade fish oil may also benefit cardiovascular health by improving arteries and lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke. Generally, because of the lower incidence of gastrointestinal distress seen in patients taking pharmaceutical grade fish oil, as opposed to other types of fish oil, patients usually comply better with their dosing regime. Sometimes, unpleasant side effects of fish oil can cause people to discontinue using the supplements.

It is important for people to check with their health care providers before beginning a fish oil capsule regime. Because fish oil supplements are known to decrease platelet aggregation, they are potent blood thinners. For this reason, they may interfere with, or intensify the effects of other medications used to thin the blood, such as aspirin or other anticoagulant medication. When the blood becomes too thin, the individual is at risk of abnormal bleeding. The physician can adjust the dosage of either the fish oil or medication in order to gain optimal results.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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