The University of Maryland website has a review of omega-3 fatty acids.

Here are the essentials

  • The body doesn’t make them.
  • They must be obtained from food or supplements.
  • Three major types: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
  • Once eaten, ALA is converted to EPA and DHA, which are most readily used by the body.

Beneficial effects

  • Reduces inflammation and helps prevent heart disease and arthritis.
  • Important for cognitive and behavioral function.
  • May reduce cyclosporine side effects (ie, high blood pressure and kidney damage) in transplant patients.
  • Adding omega-3 fatty acids (specifically EPA) to etretinate (Tegison) and topical corticosteroids may improve symptoms of psoriasis.
  • Helps statins treat hypercholesterolemia.


  • If you take anticoagulants (drugs to “thin” the blood [warfarin, Coumadin]) make your physician aware that you are taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

The article also discusses how to take omega-3 fatty acids and more safety information.

12/7/06 09:55 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.