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Omega-3 from Fish vs. Fish Oils

A new study on Native Alaskans has found that high intakes of omega-3 fatty acids (from fish) may reduce the risk of obesity-related chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. This we knew already. It was first discovered about 40 years ago, leading to the rise of cod liver oil supplements, and now the concentrated fish oil market.

In this study, the reduction in diabetes risk was linked to the observation that the studied population’s average consumption of omega-3s from fish is 20 times more than people in the lower 48 US states.

While this is great, I take issue with extrapolating results from an epimediological study on fish consumption, and making conclusions on the health benefits of fish oil concentrates. Why, you ask? Fish has many other substances and nutrients that are non-existent in purified, concentrated fish oils. For one, fish naturally contain phospholipids...fish oils contain zero phospholipids. But yes, I acknowledge that fish also contain dioxins, PCBs, and mercury...and fish oils contain zero (or very little of these toxins). So I guess it's a fair trade off...perhaps.

However, also consider that most fish oils on the market are still in the semi-synthetic "ethyl ester" form (not the natural triglyceride form).

These points are now becoming such as issue that I'm aware of at least one fish oil supplier on the supply side of the industry that's trying to do what the krill oil industry has done from the start -- make a "whole" fish oil, which contains phospholipids and preserve the omega-3s in the natural form (although I'd say we got to go a lot further to make an oil that is actually like eating a fish).

We may see other suppliers follow suit. The reason is that many epidemiological studies (like the one just discussed) has shown fish to offer great health benefits; however, controlled clinical trials on fish oil concentrates, are revealing that fish oils are not as health-promoting as the epidemiological studies suggest (again, the problem being inappropriate extrapolation of whole fish consumption to purified and concentrated fish oils).

So stay tuned for a (potential) evolultion of the fish oil industry to something a little more holistic and natural...some day.

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Source: Associations of obesity with triglycerides and CRP are attenuated in adults with high red blood cell EPA and DHA

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