Fish Oil: Countering the Bad Effects of PKU


Fish OilLoss of ability to break down an amino acid called phenylalanine is called PKU. It is a rare condition which results when both parents pass down this disease through their genes. The baby acquires phenylketonuria or PKU through autosomal recessive trait. The babies with PKU are deficient in the enzyme, phenylalanine hydroxylase, which is vital for breaking down phenylalanine. If not broken down, this enzyme along with two other related substances are responsible for brain damage.

The symptoms of PKU are quite noticeable. A baby with PKU will have

Lighter hair, skin and eyes

A small head 

Frantic activity


Mental retardation

Sudden movements of arms and legs

Rashes on the skin


Mousy odour on skin, breath and urine

A simple blood test is enough to find out if a baby is suffering from PKU. The face-saving factor of this disease is that it is treatable. The diet can be structured to guard against PKU. The diet must be strictly followed while the child is growing and also through his entire lifetime. Fish oil plays a vital role in PKU. It replaces the missing long-chain fatty acids and helps in coordinating the motor movements of the child. Fish oil supplements should be taken regularly to counteract the effects of PKU.

If precautions are not taken immediately and treatments are not started, mental retardation will occur quite soon. It is important for women to test for PKU during pregnancy and take necessary medication and dietary supplements to keep the disease under control.

Fish Oil and Its Side Effects

fish-oilDespite its numerous health benefits, fish oil supplements are not free of side effects, even though they are considered as natural products. These side effects of fish oil can’t be taken lightly because it might cause serious effects especially when taken at higher dosages. Ironically higher dosages are often recommended by the doctors to obtain the maximum benefits of fish oil.

Some common side effects of fish oil are nausea, bad breath, heartburn or indigestion, Diarrhea and fishy burps or fishy aftertaste. These gastrointestinal problems might not look serious in the initial stage, but their seriousness can’t be ignored. For those who are taking fish oil supplements, here is a list of few symptoms to know you aren’t suffering from any possible side effect.

  • Bleeding or unusual bruising
  • Changes in vision or speech
  • Blood in the stools

In a recent research held at the Tufts – New England Medical Center Evidence-based Practice Center in Boston, Massachusetts, fish oil dosages in a limit of a few hundred milligrams a day to over eight grams a day were given in a period of few days to over seven years. It was found that in less than 7% of all fish oil studies have certain side effects. But there were no reports of any life-threatening illness, disabilities or severity like sudden deaths from taking fish oil supplements.

These possible side effects of fish oil are relatively minor when compared to the major health benefits of fish oil supplements. Regarding the side effects, many people find it really helpful to keep their fish oil supplement in the freezer so as to reduce the gastrointestinal-related side effects. Pharmaceutical-grade fish oils supplements, available in orange, lemon, and peach flavors are also effective for the fishy aftertaste problem as they do not contain mercury, PCB’s or other contaminants.