The case against getting your omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils

In ‘The real cause of cancer’ (Green Health Watch Magazine edition 33 page 8) we reported Brian Peskin’s recommendation against getting your daily omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil. He advises that:

  • the omega-3 (ALA):omega-6 (LA) ratio in fish oil is wrong. These days humans need an omega-6:omega-3 ratio ~2.5:1. Farmed fish usually have omega-6:omega-3 ratios between 1:10 and 1:20. Wild fish usually have omega-6:omega-3 ratios between 1:2 and 1:5.
  • the forms of omega-3 it contains are principally ‘derivative’ (eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), whereas the human body principally needs ‘triply essential’ omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)), from which it makes all the EPA and DHA it needs

Is Brian a maverick with a bee in his bonnet or one of those rare creatures – a seeker of truth brave enough to speak out against medical and pharmaceutical orthodoxy? Are there others who agree? Check out these study conclusions:

  • Fish oil treatment (1.65 grams per day) for two years did not protect against heart disease. The arteries of the people taking fish oil clogged up at the same speed as, and thickened slightly more than, those of the non-fish oil taking control group. Treatment with fish oils for two years provided negligible additional benefit over treatment with a placebo for people with coronary artery disease1
  • Men with angina who had followed the advice they had been given to increase their intake of fish oils had been more likely to die of a heart attack. The risk was particularly high for those also given fish oil supplements2
  • There is no strong evidence to date that higher intakes of either long chain or shorter chain omega-3 fatty acids increases overall lifespan or reduces the likelihood of cardiovascular events, stroke or cancer. Important harm from raised intakes of omega-3 cannot be excluded3
  • Supplementation with fish oil for six months worsened diabetics’ glycaemic sugar control, their glycaemic tolerance and their glycosylated haemoglobin levels (bad news)4
  • Omega-3 from fish oil supplements can significantly decrease the effectiveness of the immune system, reducing its ability to kill cancer cells so increasing your risk of developing cancer5
  • Use by humans of the 90% fish oil prescription lipid-regulating drug Omacor doubled the number of infections overall, increased the number of flu infections specifically, and quadrupled the number of skin rashes users experienced6
  • Feeding fish oil to adult rats quickly increased the levels of long chain omega-3 fatty acids in their brain, decreasing the levels of omega-6 fatty acids by the same amount (i.e. replacing it)7
  • There is growing evidence that mouse and human bodies metabolise EFAs in the same way8

Carlson and Salem were sufficiently alarmed to warn that these findings “may be of relevance to questions concerning the provision of long-chain omega-3 from fish oil in baby foods.9

Editorial

Brian is not challenging the value of omega-3 fatty acids per se, but the value of:

  • consuming ‘derivative’ omega-3s from fish oils, and
  • consuming the wrong ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the diet (between 1:10 and 1:20)

He recommends the consumption of a blend of ‘triply essential’ omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) and ‘triply essential’ omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) with an LA/ALA ratio of ~2:1.

References

1 Angerer, P., et al., Cardiovascular Research 2002; 54:183-190
von Schacky et al. Annals of Internal Medicine 1999;130:554-562
Sacks,FM et al. Journal of the American College of Cardiologists 1995; 25(7):1492-98
2 Burr et al. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2003;57:193-200
3 Hooper,L et al. British Medical Journal 2006;332(7544):752-60 (a review of 96 trials considered the least flawed or biased, including 52 trials exclusively of fish oil)
4 Stacpoole et al. Metabolism 1989;38(10):946-56
5 Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation and immunity. Philip C. Calder. The International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) 4th Congress. June 2000 Congress in Tsukuba, Japan
6 Introducing the body of evidence. Reliant Pharmaceuticals Inc Sept. 2005 p15
7 Bourre,JM et al. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 969 1988:458-61 and Acta 1043 1990:149-52
8 Lands,WEM et al. Lipids 1990;25:505-51
9 Carlson,SE and Salem Jr,N. Health effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in seafoods (ed. Simopoulos,AP et al) Karger, Basel, Switzerland 1991 vol 8 pp 74-86
10 Nick Anderson. Green Health Watch Magazine article12096 23.8.2007

(17634)  Nick Anderson. Green Health Watch 53 27.7.2019

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