Dear Dr. Blonz: You often mention the benefits of eating fish like salmon or sardines, which are high in omega-3 fats. But does this recommendation hold if you are on anticoagulants? I have deep vein thrombosis and have been taking Coumadin. As part of my treatment, I go in regularly to measure my “bleeding time.”
I cook and eat fish periodically and have taken a fish oil supplement for many years. But during a recent call with friends, they warned me that it could be dangerous and that I should avoid all omega-3 fats from fish or supplements. Because I know these are essential nutrients, what do you advise? — S.P., Chicago, Illinois
Dear S.P.: Bottom line up top: If you are taking an anticoagulant such as Coumadin, you need to take care when making changes to your habitual intake of omega-3 fats. That does not mean you should stop or avoid them; the key is to be careful when making changes to your routine intake — whether increasing or decreasing. Let me explain.
The omega-3 fats at issue include EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, respectively), which are found in fish and other seafood. These have a shorter cousin, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is found in plants. The body has metabolic pathways that turn ALA into EPA and DHA, but it’s not an efficient process. Most omega-3s of plant origin get used or stored for energy, with only a small fraction being converted into EPA or DHA.