Thursday, December 6, 2007

Fish oil supplements - yes or no

In summary, the issue of whether or not to supplement with fish oil supplements is controversial:

· Traditional authorities recommend supplementing with fish oil capsules. The research supporting this is, in my opinion, mixed and inconclusive. The veggie advocates generally rule against fish oil supplementation.
· The arguments against are:
o All free standing oils, including fish oils, are cancer promoting. I don’t know how seriously to take this with regards to fish oils, but there is research to support this concern.
o Fish farming is very bad for the environment and much of the oil we consume from fish comes from farmed fish
o Even non-farmed fish contain toxins such as mercury, which should be avoided
· Flax seeds, soy (not isolated soy protein) and raw walnuts are good sources of Omega 3/6. The body produces ample supplies of other essential fats from Omega3/6 consumed from flax, walnuts and other plant sources
o The argument against this is that the research has focused on fish oils, not plant sources. Fish oil sources are, therefore more reliable.
· This is not a clear issue, but I have concluded, from all the conflicting opinions, that consuming a wide variety of plant foods, including walnuts, ground flaxseed (I neglect this) and soy provides plenty of these essential oils. Fish oils don’t set well in my stomach and they are another pill to remember to take. Unnecessary, IMO, but everyone has to draw their own conclusions from the variety of opinions.
· If you decide to take fish oil caps, be sure that it is mercury free and from a reliable source of non-farmed fish.

When it comes to health, drawing one’s own conclusions from conflicting expert advice is the name of the game on many (most) issues. I have concluded that opinions from people with big titles doesn’t necessarily make it so. These people are the target of lobbying from the food/supplement industry and, sadly, are not always objective. Some of the promotion of drugs, for example, by physicians and the health establishment is downright criminal. Sadly, there is no substitute for doing one’s own research. I have found very few issues where this isn’t true. Popular magazines and newspapers are rarely a good source for health information. Journalists don’t know much about these issues and simply rely on sources that they, often incorrectly, view as authoritative.

No comments: