Welcome readers to a new Forza series, ‘Supplements Under the ‘Scope’. These articles aim to debunk supplements which are not as great as marketers suggest, and may be potentially harmful. Also, it will uncover genuinely helpful supplements which slip under the radar. First up, Fish Oil!
The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in fish oil products, ranging from the original supplement to “Northwestern Atlantic Subcontinental Jalepeno Salmon Oil” (not really, I made that up). However, recent studies propose these products may not be as beneficial as the advertisements would have you believe. The research shows they may in fact be a little fishy!
Any who, enough with the great humour, let’s dive into this one.
Why Take Fish Oil?
The supplement companies basis for the effectiveness of fish oil is achieved via the link between the Inuit people, whose diets are high in fats, coupled with the fact they have an extremely low prevalence of heart disease.
Fish oil is said to deliver a number of benefits…
- The oil is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which improves heart health. This is achieved partly by creating a balanced ratio with Omega-6 fatty acids, which are often high in modern day diets due to their presence in processed goods.
- Boosts eye health and reduces the incidence of macular degeneration.
- Reduces asthma symptoms, decreasing reliance on medication.
- The anti-inflammatory properties aid sufferers with chronic inflammatory conditions, including Crohn’s disease.
- Boosts immune health by prompting immune cells to be on ‘high alert’.
Before you start stockpiling “Sven’s Inuit Quadruple Strength Organic Blowfish Oil”, let me elaborate on the above. Many of the aforementioned benefits do not possess concrete research-based evidence as to Fish Oil being the defining factor, particularly long term. For example, studies have demonstrated a reduction in triglyceride levels (high levels are responsible for heart disease), though only in subjects with very high existing triglyceride levels. Would the changes be the same for the Average Joe?
What are the Dangers?
As with many supplements, problems commonly arise when the quantity is high and sustained over a long period of time. Omega-3 fatty acids have a high oxidative capacity, meaning they are easily broken down. The compounds which result from this reaction are harmful and can potentially damage vital structures like proteins and components of cells.
Many of the studies undertaken thus far do not demonstrate this unfortunate correlation as they are generally short-term. The damage caused by oxidation would only be apparent after prolonged usage.
In relation to the Inuit people, the fish oil marketers failed to take into consideration the rest of their dietary intake. The variety of whole foods they consume most likely has a buffering effect, decreasing the dangers of oxidation.
Where to from here?
As my Mamma always says, “Everything in moderation”. The main thing I have gathered from my research is to take only small quantities of fish oil if you are going to take it at all. Personally, I have stopped gulping ‘Jose’s Smelly-Ass Burpalicious Fish Oil Blend’ and will opt for a different approach to achieve a healthy fatty acid balance. This will involve:
- Reducing intake of refined foods which are high in Omega-6, and increasing intake of foods high in Omega-3’s, like fatty fish.
- Eating a well-rounded diet centred around whole foods, like vegetables.
Pretty basic, but basic is what often works best. Leave your thoughts and opinions below. Cod Bless!
“I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it”
By Andrew Cammarano