The human liver is classified as a gland, and it is the largest gland in your body. This vital organ is responsible for a wide variety of tasks, which include controlling the use of carbohydrates, proteins and lipids as well as monitoring the secretion of bile. Fish oil is a popular supplement utilized to treat a variety of conditions, which include lowering triglyceride levels and preventing heart disease. As with many natural supplements, fish oil may have certain effects on the liver. Discuss the use of fish oil with your physician before starting a supplementation routine to ensure its safety.
Active Compounds and Effectiveness
The primary active compounds within fish oil include eicosapentaenoic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, alpha-linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. The use of fish oil as a supplement began in the 1980s, when researchers found omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent high blood pressure and heart attacks. While initial reports done by the Mayo Clinic in 1994 and 1999 showcased potential health benefits of fish oil, ensuing studies have not found definitive positive results in fish oil supplementation. Further research is necessary to determine the true effectiveness of fish oil on the cardiovascular system. Scientific studies for fish oils effects on the liver are promising, but more studies are required.
Liver Inflammation & Fish Oil
LifeExtension cites several studies suggesting the primary active ingredient in fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, may help reduce inflammation within the liver. Because of this, fish oil is commonly recommended for those who have cirrhosis of the liver and liver disease. A study performed by the Kansas State University Department of Human Nutrition found fish oil supplements helped protect the liver from inflammation in rats. While the study has not been performed on humans, these initial findings are promising regarding fish oil's ability to protect the liver from inflammation.
Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
A study published by “The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism” found supplementation with marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, may help reduce nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Polycystic ovary syndrome is often accompanied by nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. At the conclusion of the study, researchers found participants with hepatic steatosis showed a decrease in hepatic fat in the liver, as well as a reduction in blood pressure and triglycerides. It is suggested these results are due to omega-3 fatty acids. While initial findings are promising, further research is required.
While initial research regarding fish oil’s effectiveness on liver disease is promising as this supplement may help reduce inflammation, MedlinePlus states the internal use of fish oil may increase the risk of bleeding among those with liver disease. Furthermore, the use of fish oil for liver disease is cited as being possibly ineffective for liver disease. If you have liver disease and wish to begin a fish oil supplementation routine, discuss the safety and recommended dosage with your physician.
- Colorado State University; The Liver: Introduction and Index; R. Bowen; March 2001
- MedlinePlus; Fish Oil; February 2011
- Mayo Clinic; Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Fish Oil, Alpha-Linolenic Acid; July 2011
- The Foundation for IgA Nephropathy; Fish Oil; February 2008
- LifeExtension: Cirrhosis and Liver Disease
- “Toxicology” Journal; Dietary Fish Oil Protects Against Lung and Liver Inflammation and Fibrosis in Monocrotaline Treated Rats; R.C. Baybutt, et al.; June 2002