Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Fish Oil Supplements?

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Another problem for the diet supplement industry is in the news.  Apparently, studies are continuing to demonstrate that fish oil supplements do not help heart health or prevent heart disease.  In other research news, the original hypothesis that a diet high in omega-3 fats in the Inuit Eskimos was based on misinformation about the heart disease rates in this population. even though their diets consisted of high omega-3 content from whale blubber.    The original conclusion from studies by two Danish researchers, Bang and Dyberberg originally stated that the Inuit Eskimo population had low rates of cardiac disease when it appears after revisiting the data, they had higher rates of heart disease when compared to non-Inuit Greenlanders.  For that report, CLICK HERE.

Diet supplement - omega 3 fish oil-based

Diet supplement – omega 3 fish oil-based (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in the 1980’s, it was proposed that fish oil was also cancer protective, namely breast cancer.  However, my own research casts doubt on this hypothesis.  We found that  when female rats were fed a high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids (as menhaden oil)  compared to a high percentage of omega-6 fatty acids (as corn oil), there was no significant differences in breast tumor formation between the two groups.  We were surprised at this finding  after reading previous research studies claiming otherwise.  The study was repeated and the same results occurred – no differences.

These reports do not address the effects of eating fish in the diet but only target fish oil supplements.  Omega-3 fatty acids ( alpha linolenic acid) and  omega-6 fatty acids (linoleic acid are considered essential nutrients.  That means we cannot make these nutrients in the body and we must obtain them from dietary sources.  They are necessary for forming cell membranes, immune system function and vision, and produce hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids.  Still, we need to consume only about 1-2% of our total energy intake from essential fatty acids.  On a 2500 calorie diet, that corresponds to 1 tablespoon of  plant oil each day.  It is often suggested  we consume omega-6/omega 3 fats in a 2:1 ratio.  Generally,  a lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many of the chronic diseases of high prevalence in Western societies.,

We also need to consume a regular intake of  alpha-linolenic  acid from flax seeds and walnuts to help make eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanenoic acid (DHA), two related omega-3 compounds.  To obtain EPA and DHA pre-formed we need a regular fish consumption of salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel, white fish, wild trout, or halibut twice a week.  Mussels, crab, and shrimp are lesser but additional sources.

Studies have suggested that eating omega-3 fatty acids from fish a couple of times a week can lower blood triglycerides in people with high concentrations. They are also suspected to help in managing the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis and may help with some behavioral disorders and depression.

So, bottom line:  Get your omega-3 fatty acids from food, not supplements for now.




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