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Did you know Omega-3 supplements can potentially cause formication?

According to what I found on the Mayo Clinic website: “Restlessness and formication … have also been reported.” Note that’s an “m” in formication (the sensation of ants crawling on your skin) and not an “n”, which of course would be a side-effect with which many of us could happily live.

I have a habit of looking up things on the web to see if what I don’t know could be important. (I’m sure none of you suffer from this ailment.) So when a friend mentioned that she had taken heavier doses than usual of omega-3 fish oil pills / capsules to help with jet lag (and she reports that it did help), I immediately went online to see if this was a good idea.

Most sites I found have at least some cautionary information about taking too much fish oil, since there is a chance of heavier-than-usual bleeding, depending on the dosage (especially important to know before surgery). And of course, depending on the quality of the product, they also warn that there could be mercury or other impurity issues. But that was most of what I found. Nothing too frightening. Until I got to the Mayo Clinic site. Eek!

Here’s just one paragraph of possible (although they are NOT saying likely) side-effects for something most of us think of as totally safe and a good thing:

“short-term memory, headache, hemolytic anemia (abnormal breakdown of red blood cels), depression, somatic disorders (physical symptoms associated with psychological symptoms), increased risk of colon cancer, nasopharyngitis (inflammation in nose and throat), worsening of asthma symptoms, decreased physical activity, increased appetite, increased blood pressure, and an uncomfortable feeling.”

Oh well, that’s not soooo bad.

But seriously. They said all this about Omega-3s and fish oil, the good guys, or so we’ve all been told – and so I continue to believe for the most part.  And in fact the site says right up front that they are “generally regarded as safe”. Still, I admit that I was stunned by all the possibilities of what I read. And although I urge caution before even trying to read any more of this stuff, if you want to see for yourself, here’s what the Mayo Clinic’s website says:

Omega-3 Side-Effects and Warnings

But if you prefer to spare yourself any further gasps and stress that come from reading pretty much any drug’s or supplements’s list of scary potential side-effects (even knowing that most side-effects they list are rare), here are some of the basics…

Summary of Omega-3 Info on Mayo Clinic’s Site

According to their site, taking Omega-3 and fish oil supplements for some people may in fact increase LDL (the bad cholesterol), although for some it can also help lower cholesterol and especially triglycerides (clinically-proven according to another page on their site). It may even lower your blood sugar, which is potentially a good thing, unless your blood sugar is already low. Hmm…then it’s not so good. And it may cause depression, although it may also help with that.

Ah…another good thing is that it may help with anxiety. Although reading the list of side-effects may not.  Well, at least I’m glad it may cause short-term memory loss, so I can forget most of what I just read. As can you.

I hope that helps clear things up.

My non-professional conclusion on Omega-3 Fish Oil?

Omega-3 supplements and fish oil may indeed be good for our health, and my personal conclusion is that I will continue to take it daily without any qualms. But please don’t think that more is better. And do check with your doctor, as I have, since each person is different. At the very least, it’s good that your doctor knows what you take.

As a general rule, no matter how great a supplement is said to be, and no matter how many doctors and non-doctors may prescribe it, I think it’s good to remember that these things can have affects beyond what is intended (especially in combination with conditions we have and other things we are taking), and therefore probably best not to be taken lightly. But none of this is meant to say that they are not to be taken!

Your thoughts, as always, are most welcome.