Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Primary Care Physicians

Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, HI recently published the results of a survey concerning omega-3 fatty acids and primary care physicians in harlingen tx care physicians. Specifically, this survey looked at how frequently primary care physicians in Washington State prescribed omega-3 fatty acids fish oil health supplements.

Only 17% of the responding physicians were identified as “high fish prescribers”. Since fish oil supplements are readily available and a “prescription” is not necessary, it may be that physicians feel it is not necessary to recommend omega-3s to patients. But, other factors may be at play.

Time, Time, Time…

The majority of the physicians surveyed agreed that proper nutrition is important in the prevention of heart disease and that patients should be advised about dietary considerations. A little more than half recognized the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil health supplements or simply adding fish to the diet in “secondary prevention” of heart disease. So, why is it that fish oil is not frequently recommended?

Have you visited your primary care physician lately? In many areas of the country, primary care physicians commonly schedule 6 or more patients per hour. Meaning that the waiting room is packed and your time with your doctor may amount to little more than 5 minutes.

Those physicians in the survey who frequently recommended fish oil also reported having more time to discuss the importance of diet with their patients. The researchers suggested that “reducing time barriers associated with dietary counseling should be explored further to increase recommendation of this important advice.”

Other Barriers…

…in January of 2006, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School wrote, “Physicians face several barriers to counseling their patients about nutrition, including conflicting evidence of the benefit of counseling, limited training and understanding of the topic, and imperfect and varied guidelines to follow.”

Numerous studies have confirmed the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and primary care physicians should be aware of these benefits, but since (as with practically everything in medicine) there are conflicting opinions about omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil health supplements and dietary consumption of fish, the topic can be confusing. There are no clear-cut rules about how much is too much, or about how little is effective.

Concerns over the presence of mercury in fish make it even more difficult to provide dietary recommendations that can be applied to everyone. Women of child bearing age and children need to use the most care when selecting which fish to eat and how often. For example, Oceans Alive, a department of the Environmental Defense Network, recommends that young children should never eat Atlantic salmon, because of possible mercury contamination.

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