Truth about fish oil

By Kate Robitello

The fish oil supplement industry is thriving and is set to score $1.8 billion dollars by 2018. With all of the hype over fish oil supplement benefits, people are continuing to stock up on the stuff like there’s going to be a shortage in the near future. However, many people aren’t certain as to why these supplements are a good idea, or whether the evidence supports the fish oil frenzy.

Omega-3 and omega-6 are both polyunsaturated fatty acids, commonly known as essential fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation in the body, whereas omega-3 fatty acids contribute to preventing inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a serious issue, and its presence is linked to a large list of degenerative ailments, like heart disease, type-2 diabetes and cancer.

Anthropological research tells us that our ancient and modern ancestors did not experience such diseases. It also indicates that our ancestors consumed a diet that rendered an omega 6-to-3 ratio of 1:1. Today, the average American consumes a diet high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids, ratios range from10:1 to 25:1. Hence degenerative disease is prevalent in the world today.

Looking at the situation from a logical standpoint, it makes perfect sense as to why a person might consider simply consuming an omega-3 supplement in order to achieve omega balance. However, this is the type of “band-aid” mentality that neglects the much bigger picture. Rather than consume more omega-3 fatty acids, why can’t we just consume less omega-6? Also, it is important to ask if omega-3 supplements are beneficial?

The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition also conducted a study that involved 3,000 men with angina. One group was advised to increase their consumption of fruits, vegetables, and oats, while the others increased their consumption of oily fish or took three fish oil capsules per day. What they found was the fish-eating group as well as the fish oil group displayed an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. In fact, the fish oil group displayed the most significant risk increase!

In similary studies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported an increase in blood-sugar levels in type-2 diabetics provided with fish oil capsules and noted that the fish oil supplements were also shown to cause oxidative stress, perhaps due to environmental contaminants within the supplements.

The solution? Eat a plant-based diet, abundant in fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, and a small amount of nuts. Minimizing or eliminating animal products, cooking oil, and processed foods. Spare your health, your money, and your gag reflex–ditch the fish.

Kate Robitello works at Pyramid Wellness in Rutland.

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