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2012-10-05

Fish Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Heart Failure

Omega-3 fish oil supplements have recently seen a string of negative media coverage. Studies on concentrated fish oils continue to show that the health benefits determined from epidemiological studies just don't hold true (or to a much lesser extent) when we look at supplements.

If you've been to one of my seminars on krill oil, you'll likely remember me saying that the studies on fish oil are not showing the benefits we thought. I've been saying this for years now (long before I started this nutrition research blog), and discussed this in THIS post from last year. Why? Because our understanding behind the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids come from epidemiological studies where we look at a population that, for example, consumes X amount of fish, and they have a lower risk of various diseases, like cardiovascular disease. Of course, in true pharmaceutical fashion, we (well, not me, but others) think that it's just the omega-3s in fish that must confer the health benefits. So if we extract that from fish, isolate it, concentrate it, and then give it to someone, we should expect the same results as the fish consumption studies. Right?

Not so. It's incredibly ignorant to think that the only therapeutic compounds are omega-3s, and this is why studies on fish oil supplements aren't as positive as we hoped--because fish is much more than just omega-3s.

Aside: If you wonder why I talk about this when I discuss krill oil, it's because krill oil is much closer to eating actual krill--it contains many other healthy compounds, like phospholipids, astaxanthin, choline, vitamins, etc. that we wouldn't get if we were just isolating and extracting the omega-3 component.

This new study shows that same trend, except some media headlines were incorrectly reporting this as "Omega-3s again linked to lower risk of heart failure."

New data from over 20,000 people showed that those with higher levels of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) had a 34% lower risk (compared with people with lower levels), and those with higher levels of DPA (docosapentaenoic acid) had a 45% lower risk.

Interestingly, however, blood levels of EPA and DHA were not associated with heart failure risk.

Results showed that at least one serving of fish per month was associated with a 30% reduction in heart failure risk. There was a trend toward a lower risk for increased intakes of marine fatty acids, but this did not reach statistical significance.

Don't get me wrong here...I'm not suggesting omega-3s don't have therapeutic value, just that we should stop extrapolating benefits reported from studies on fish consumption to omega-3 supplements. Two different things.

This is why, for supplements, I continue to prefer krill oil (much closer to eating the actual krill), and being a tree-hugger, I like that krill oil is incomparably more sustainable and ecologically-friendly than fish oil supplements.

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Source: Plasma and dietary omega-3 fatty acids, fish intake, and heart failure risk in the Physicians’ Health Study

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