Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is fish oil really good?

I regularly take fish oil having read a lot of material about its benefits over the years.

The New Scientist has an article this week that indicates that it might not be all it is cracked up to be.....Omega-3: Fishy claims for fish oil

Brain boosting

Claim: fish oil supplements significantly improve reading, spelling and behaviour

Current thinking: a systematic review of all studies found insufficient evidence to identify any effect. The largest study to date reported no effect on cognitive function in later life

Then again, the New Scientist is notorious for supporting whatever is the Conventional Wisdom.


Asclepius said...

Ben Goldacre (of 'Bad Science' fame), has done a wonderful job in this area over the past few years. Check out http://www.badscience.net/category/fish-oil/

PurestGreen said...

It may seem a little out of left field, but if you've never thought about "raw food" there is a growing group of raw food lovers in Scotland. There is a pot luck each month in Edinburgh and Glasgow. On 28 June Dr. Brian Clement will be speaking in Glasgow.

Just something a little different, and as you seem to be casting your net wide for information, I thought I would mention it. :)

Chris said...

Cheers Purest Green. I noticed you have been sending some traffic to my other blog....thanks.

Not sure what I think of raw food. Does it include raw meat?

Steven Low said...

The problem is the doses.

< 5g EPA+DHA per day (I don't think any study has ever exceeded this amount) is not going to do anything when you're still processed foods with lots of inflammatory omega 6 industrial seed/vegetable oils, and lots of carbohydrates.

Anonymous said...

Steven hit the nail on the head. After I started taking 6g of EPA+DHA per day, I could definitely feel sharper and reaction times improved over a period of weeks (n=1 of course... actually it was n=3 as we all felt the same thing). But that it tested in someone eating relatively clean. If tested in someone consuming a n-6 rich diet, small amounts of fish oil will do little to a 20:1 n-6:n-3 ratio and will just likely fall into the background noise.

Anonymous said...

Just had a flick through the NS article and in particular the myths that are addressed at the end of the article - ADHD, agression, AD, brain boosting, cancer, depression.

If we take, as some have suggested, that the effects possibly seen with omega 3 supplementation stem more from offseeting the problems with higher omega 6 intakes, does that then mean that we could possibly link too much omega 6 with;
- Aggression
- AD
- Decreased mental function
- Cancer
- Depression??

PurestGreen said...

I don't know much about fish oil. Can we get the same benefit from walnuts and superfoods like avocado?

Chris - most of the raw foodies I know aren't strictly raw. Of course you can always eat sushi. Pure raw foodists are generally raw vegans. It may sound limiting but I was amazed by some of the recipes. Let me know if you're interested in a pot luck and I'll make my tropical fruit tart and maybe even bring some chocolate macadamian nut milk. :)

Steven Low said...


Most of the brain dysfunctions you see cropping up nowadays have some relation back to inflammation.

Your list is just a short one.

Of course, there's likely other factors involved because moving to an more industrialized diet leaves people deficient in a lot of other minerals such as zinc, magnesium, vitamin d, etc. so it's likely not just an inflammation problem.

Although there are definitely inflammation roots in most of the problems you listed and many more you didn't list.

Anonymous said...

Exactly my point Steven. Having debates over the anti-inflammatory efficacy of n-3's is a bit of strawman argument in my mind and a diversion from the real issue - the inflammatory power of high n-6 & sugar diets.

Aaron Curl said...

I agree with the above....if your omega 6 to 3 ration is the standard 20 to 1 like so many normal carb eaters the tests would be innacurate to say the least. I will continue to take omega 3's because they work and I don't need an experiment to know they work!

Dr. B G said...

To add to Steven and the above comments, all hormone deficiencies lead to inflammation and increased ROS and mitochondrial dysfunction:
--testosterone, estrogen, thyroid deficiencies
--adrenal overactivity or insufficiency
--heavy metal and pesticide accumulation
--gut dysbiosis

Omega-3 and omega-6 are hormonal in their actions. The sad thing about omega-6 is that our mammalians systems do not utilize them at the same rate or sheer quantities as omega-3s so it takes longer to 'eliminate' out of the system. There estimates that the biological half-life of omega-6 in our membranes and adipose tissues where it is stored is THREE YEARS.

Dara Torres uses a ULTRA high high dose of fish oil. Those who follow Robb Wolf and xfit nutr certs, we use a lot and see tremendous benefits combined with clean eating, low n-6 intakes, and WODs. Evolutionarily omega-3 induces amazing gene expression that no exercise or clean eating can replicate that I can find and even has epigenetic potential to correct abnormalities...


Anonymous said...

perhaps, as research suggests, proper o3-o6 balance is important, and, thus we'd be better off getting more o-3s, but doing it by gulping down some artificially extracted/produced tablets seems bizzare to me - i guess eating more fish and less oreos will do the job...

Anonymous said...

There is some debate as to whether it is the ratio that is important or the absolute amounts of each. Either way, the situation is best improved my decreasing n-6 intake. This means n-3's have to compete less harder for enzyme pathways, and less is required to acheive the same result. This will make it easier for individuals to obtain optimal amounts (less expense, less pills to swallow), and from an ecological perspective, put less pressure on dwindling fish stocks.
We can choose to either pull more fish out of the ocean an encapsulate their oily goodness, or we can choose to stop ploughing and planting endless fields of corn and soy. Bit of a no brainer as far as I can see.

Curt said...

Not a 'fair and balanced' review. They didn't take into account the low dose of EPA/DHA most studies use which are not likely to have any benefit. Most experts say you need to take at least 2 grams of EPA/DHA daily to see results.

The author also didn't write enough about its proven benefits at the higher dosages. Seems like they began with a biased viewpoint and then wrote only to support their view.

Lemon Gifts said...

Take a look at the scientific research and clinical studies (http://www.buy-fish-oil.com/fish-oil-kids-children-babies-infants-supplements.php ) for infants, children, teens and pregnant mothers alone. That's an awful lot of research to refute.
Steven Hawk