In 1971, a team of Danish researchers found that an Inuit population in Greenland had lower cholesterol levels and a lower incidence of heart disease than Danes and Inuit people who lived in Denmark. A theory emerged: the aboriginal diets high in marine fat gave them heart protection.
Since then, fish oil and omega-3s – the main health-promoting component of fish oil – have been the subject of tens of thousands of publications examining their health benefits.
Today the “Eskimo theory” is largely discredited. “We really don’t know whether the Eskimos have heart disease or not,” said Malden C. Nesheim, a professor emeritus of nutrition at Cornell University who chaired a committee at the Institute of Medicine in the early 2000s The risks and benefits of seafood were assessed in a 2018 interview with the New York Times. “I’ve been an omega-3 skeptic since this study.”
What Are Fish Oil Proponents Saying What It Will Do For You?
Fish oil is said to: improve arthritis; Reduce ADHD; reduce the likelihood of heart attacks and cancer; Improving high-density lipoprotein (HDL, also known as good) cholesterol.
Should I try fish oil supplements?
Fish oil supplements are not required for healthy people. It is better to eat a few servings of fish a week instead.
The largest study – called the Vital Study – conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a subsidiary of Harvard Medical School, has tracked more than 25,000 people since 2010 and focused on whether daily intake of vitamin D or omega 3 fatty acids reduce the risk of cardiac events or cancer in otherwise healthy individuals.
It was found that omega-3 supplements did not reduce the risk of serious cardiac events in a normal risk population, but reduced the risk by 19 percent in a subset of people with low fish intake. The study is considered the medical gold standard.
African Americans benefited regardless of fish intake and showed a 77 percent lower risk of heart attacks. “This could be an accidental discovery,” said Dr. JoAnn Manson, director of the study and director of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We plan to follow it up in more detail and try to replicate it in a separate attempt because if this can be reproduced it would be a very dramatic benefit for African Americans.”
With much more research to be done, experts do not necessarily recommend consuming omega-3s for African Americans.
If you have a history of heart disease or high triglycerides (an estimated 25 percent of US adults, according to the 2015 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), it may be a good idea to take omega-3s.
The potential downside to having dietary supplements unregulated is that their production is not standardized so we don’t know what’s in them, according to Dr. Pieter Cohen of the Cambridge Health Alliance, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
He said that dietary supplements are expensive and that money could alternatively be spent on healthier diets. As an internist, Dr. Cohen found negative behavioral effects in some of his patients taking supplements.
“I have a lot of patients who say, ‘I take my supplement and then don’t worry about a healthy diet during the day,” said Dr. Cohen. “This is really wrong, because in this case we have absolutely no evidence that it is it is better to replace a healthy fish meal with an omega-3 supplement. “
Does more omega-3 equate to healthier?
Not necessarily. The effects of omega-3s have been studied as they relate to the nervous system and brain health, as well as conditions such as ADHD, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune diseases.
So far, however, the results have been inconclusive and inconsistent. “We need large-scale studies with very rigorous endpoint assessment to understand the effects,” said Dr. Manson. Over the next few months, she and her team, who worked on the Vital Study, will publish the results of several additional studies on omega-3s in areas such as cognition, depression, autoimmune diseases, kidney function and respiratory health.
How Do I Consume More Omega 3s Without Pills?
Eating oily fish lowers LDL and triglycerides.
Wild sockeye salmon is typically low in pollutants and high in omega-3 fatty acids, said Paul Greenberg, author of the “Omega Principle,” which studies the health effects of omega-3s and the environmental impact of its production.
Alternatively, you can eat small fish like sardines, anchovies, and herring.
Flaxseed oil is a herbal source of omega-3s, said Dr. Manson.
If you want a pill supplement, look for a label from the United States Pharmacopeia, a nonprofit that sets standards for medicines and supplements. “When a product bears the USP label, it means that it conforms to USP standards and can be legally bound by those standards,” said Craig Hopp of the National Center for Complementary and Inclusive Health.
If I still want to take omega-3 supplements, will they hurt me?
No, but ingesting excessive amounts in the form of supplements can cause an upset stomach. There is also evidence that certain omega-3 fatty acids contribute to prostate cancer, although the results still come together.
“The caution with dietary supplements is always that unfortunately there are many examples that what is on the label is not what is in the pill,” said Dr. Hops “Things can be missing. Not the stated amount of EPA and DHA. Or things can be added. ”
Where does fish oil come from?
It is obtained from cold water fish such as salmon, sardines and mackerel. “The interest in them is that they contain certain fatty acids,” said Dr. Hops Side note: the fish do not produce omega-3 fatty acids internally; They get them from the tiny plants, plankton (and other things) that they eat.
Am I destroying the environment by taking fish oil supplements?
May be? The way the pills are made is helping to destroy the balance of marine life, according to Greenberg, who examined this in his book. He explains that the reduction industry, which makes dietary supplements and feed for animals, including farmed fish, gobbles up 25 million tons of small fish annually to “turn them into oil and flour”.
This leaves a hole in the food chain where larger fish, marine mammals, and seabirds lack small fish like the Peruvian anchoveta (one of the most fished fish in the world, most of which goes to the reducing industry) for food.
“Unless you have these little fish between the planktonic level of life and the higher levels of life, there is no way you can convert the solar energy hitting the ocean from the planktonic level to higher forms of life,” Greenberg said. “The argument is that if you left more of that little fish in the water, there would be a lot more big fish for you to eat, populate the ocean, and make it a richer place.”
To discourage this cycle, he suggests taking a dietary supplement like a vegan algae-based omega-3 that comes from sustainable sources and doesn’t involve the reduction industry.