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Why Fish Stomps Flax as a Source of Omega-3

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I want to thank everyone for sending in their questions and voting on the next topic. The good news is that there’s a lot of interest in all of the topics I’m researching right now. The bad news is that there was no clear winner.

I’ve decided to go ahead with the series on fish and fish oil, but I may write about thyroid and diabetes simultaneously. I’m also going to experiment with shorter (although I’m clearly breaking that rule here), but more frequent, articles. Hopefully these will be easier for me to write and for you to read.

Finally, stay tuned for the first episode of The Healthy Skeptic audio podcast, coming up next week. I’ll be interviewing Stephan Guyenet, Ph.D, on the subject of obesity and weight regulation. Stephan is a senior fellow at the University of Washington studying the neurobiology of body fat regulation. He’s also the author of Whole Health Source, which is one of my favorite health related blogs.

Before we get into talking about the benefits of fish consumption, or how how much fish or fish oil you should eat, it’s probably a good idea to start with a basic review of the omega-3 fatty acids.

Essential Fatty Acids 101

A fatty acid is a chain of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms with a carboxyl group on one end. Fatty acids are classified on the basis of how many carbon atoms are in the chain, as well as how many double bonds exist within the molecule.

Fish contain a variety of fatty acids, but the ones that are believed to confer the majority of the benefits are the long-chain omega-3 fats eicosapentanaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fats are found exclusively in seafood and marine algae.

As you can see from the chart below, it is also possible for the body to synthesize EPA and DHA from the short-chain omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is found in plant foods such as flax, hemp and pumpkin seeds and walnuts.

Click thumbnail for a larger version

However, research clearly indicates that the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is extremely limited. Less than 5% of ALA gets converted to EPA, and less than 0.5% (one-half of one percent) of ALA is converted to DHA.

A common misconception, especially amongst vegetarians and vegans, is that our need for EPA and DHA can be met by consuming flax oil and other plant sources of ALA. But the conversion numbers above clearly indicate that this isn’t the case.

Studies have shown that ALA supplements (like flax oil) are unable to raise plasma DHA levels in vegans, despite low DHA levels at baseline. (ref) So unless they are supplementing with an algae-derived source of DHA, it is likely that most vegetarians and vegans are deficient.

This is significant because researchers now believe that the majority of the health benefits we get from dietary omega-3 fats come from the longer chain derivatives (especially DHA, as I will explain below).

Is DHA essential?

In fact, some researchers have proposed that DHA is essential. When scientists label a nutrient as “essential”, they they’re not just saying that it’s “very important”. In the context of nutrition essential means that the nutrient cannot be synthesized in the human body, and must be derived from dietary sources.

According to today’s nutrition textbooks, there are only two essential fatty acids, omega-6 linoleic acid (LA) and omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). It is believed that as long as these fats are present in the diet, all of the longer-chain omega-3 and omega-6 derivatives can be synthesized in the body.

As I pointed out above, while this is theoretically possible, in reality the conversion doesn’t work well. This is true even for healthy people, but it’s especially true for those with nutrient deficiencies, because the conversion of ALA to DHA depends on zinc, iron and pyridoxine.

The bioavailability of iron in plant sources is poor compared to animal sources, so iron deficiency is common in vegans and vegetarians. This is another reason why they tend to be poor converters of ALA to DHA.

Several other observations support the hypothesis that DHA is essential:

  • DHA content in the tissues of all mammals is very similar despite widely varying intakes of omega-3 fatty acids. 1
  • DHA and AA, but not other omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids, are selectively transferred across the placenta (PDF).
  • 60% of the dry matter of the brain is lipid, and DHA and AA are the most abundant fatty acids of brain phospholipids (PDF)
  • DHA status in newborns is much lower in those receiving formula with LA and ALA, than in those receiving milk or formula with pre-formed DHA (PDF)

It is possible that the primarily carnivorous diet of our ancestors, which ensured a consistently high dietary intake of DHA and AA, precluded the need to evolve efficient conversion mechanisms.

In other words, since we were eating a lot of meat and fish with pre-formed DHA and AA, our bodies didn’t need to be experts at converting ALA and LA in plants to DHA and AA. It is far easier for the body to assimilate pre-formed DHA and AA than it is to synthesize them from precursors.

What about EPA? Isn’t it essential too?

EPA is another long-chain omega-3 fatty acid that is conventionally believed to be responsible for the benefits of fish consumption.

EPA is often referred to as “anti-inflammatory”. However, according to this report on essential fatty acids by Masterjohn, EPA’s effect seems to be more of an interference with the metabolism of omega-6 arachidonic acid (AA) than the performance of any essential role itself.

Take a look at the chart again that I linked to in the beginning of the post. The fatty acids in blue boxes are less inflammatory, and those in pink boxes are more inflammatory. The chart shows that AA is used to synthesize prostaglandins that cause inflammation (indicated by the pink box on the chart). Because it has the same number of carbon atoms, EPA competes with AA for the enzymes that metabolize it. Since the prostaglandins made by EPA are less inflammatory than those made by AA (indicated by the blue box), EPA is often referred to as “anti-inflammatory”.

But while EPA is certainly less inflammatory than AA, it doesn’t make sense that the body would require an essential fatty acid just to block the inflammatory effects of of another fatty acid.

By contrast, DHA is used to synthesize compounds that play an active role in resolving inflammation. EPA only makes these compounds in the presence of aspirin (PDF). EPA is thus likely to simply be a byproduct of compromised DHA synthesis.

What does this mean to you?

Putting all of this information together yields the following conclusions:

  1. DHA is the most important of the omega-3 fatty acids, and is primarily responsible for the benefits we get from consuming them.
  2. DHA is likely to be essential, which means that you must consume it in the diet to prevent disease and ensure optimal function.
  3. The conversion of plant sources of ALA, such as flax seed oil, to DHA is poor in healthy people and even worse in people deficient in certain nutrients. Vegans and vegetarians are especially prone to be poor converters of ALA to DHA.
  4. If you’ve been buying flax oil in the hopes that it will help, you’d be far better off putting that money towards some fish or fish oil capsules.
Dietary changes over the past century have lowered the DHA status to a state of subclinical deficiency in many people. Countless studies show that this deficiency is at least in part to blame for the rising incidence of cardiovascular disease, inflammatory disease, mental and psychiatric disorders and suboptimal neurodevelopment.

DHA is not the only reason to eat fish, which is also rich in selenium and vitamin D. However, DHA is likely to be the primary reason why populations that eat fish on a regular basis have consistently been shown to healthier than those that don’t. We’ll discuss this further in the next article.

  1. Jones PJH, Kubow S. Lipids, Sterols, and their Metabolites. In: Shils ME, et al., eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease: Tenth Edition. Baltimore, MD; Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (2006) pp. 92-122.

248 Comments

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  1. I’ve started supplementing with flax oil in my daily morning smoothy. I also take a DHA supplement at night and eat as much fish as I can. That said (and cost of supplementation aside) is it ill-advised for me to take the flax oil? Could it be interfere with the DHA from supplements and fish oil, or will I still gain some benefit from the flax running interference with other omega-6’s? Also, if I need to use oil at home for stir-frying or salad dressings, is canola oil and/or a light olive oil my best choice (for use with heat?).

    Thanks much in advance!

    • Too much PUFA – whether omega-3 or omega-6 – can increase the risk of oxidative damage. So the flax oil is unnecessary and possibly harmful in the long term. The best oils for stir-frying is coconut oil.

  2. Lisa,

    If you’re deficient in Vitamin D, for sure take some. If that’s a problem, you might try cod liver oil and get your Omega 3s and A and D. But be aware that it is much easier to overdose on A and D, as they are oil-based and are held by the body, so it’s not as safe as you portray it., I have not heard anything on aging effects… and I’m 59 and have been taking fish oil for over 8 years. Most people try to argue with me when I tell them my age.

    A number of people are deficient in some B vitamin.They are not the same.so B1, B6, or a variant of B3 may be more helpful.

    I do admit that most tests run by docto4rs are based on artficially low levels, so any test which says you’re deficient should be taken seriously while those which say you are not should be evaluated more carefully.

  3. I have a friend who had been diagnosed with bipolar that had depression as a prominent feature. He had vitamin and mineral levels checked and was found to be very low in vitamin d. He was put on a high dose of d and in a few days his depression disappeared. He said the change was rapid and dramatic like a switch being flipped. I think I would pursue optimization of vitamin d for mental issues as well as other vitamins and minerals first. The antithyroid and aging effects that have been observed with pufas including fish oils really concerns me. It seems very possible that these oils may be ones to minimize in the diet rather than increasing. If any benefits they may have are exceeded by damaging effects, it would be wiser to get the beneficial effects from other things such as vitamin d that are not double edged swords. I am definitely going to continue to study this subject and read the research recommended above.

  4. I have some issues with WAPF overall, but… it seems a bit bizarre to claim they are in cahoots with the “dairy industry.”

    That industry does not particularly want me buying raw milk and pastured butter from the tiny family farm down the road, raw cheese from the Mennonite family that delivers with my CSA, eggs from my neighbor (since I can’t raise my own anymore), and making my own yogurt so it remains raw.

    Nothing I buy has a “brand” name, unless you count the name of the farm itself.

    I’m pretty sure WAPF would approve of my dairy habits, yet the dairy industry would not.

  5. Wan, I actually see the reputation of alternative MD’s changing, one at a time. The “aware” clients, a growing group, are only so eager to be able to recommend a good alternative-aware doctor, and would probably rather recommend an MD than a naturopath, all other things being equal.

    I see it as important to see any career as a “human” career. For the last 4 years before retirement, I was in real estate. I had been in computer consulting before that. I believe there is an analogy between real estate and a medical practice in that in both, you can either maximize the # of clients, and therefore $, shorting each client as much as possible on your time and valuable considerations, or you can give more, treating the clients as “family” and gain more a feeling of both brotherhood and accomplishment. But this will cost you $ each day. The idea is to look for a value in what you do that is measured in other than dollars. You may find it. I did and am not dissatisfied with the outcome. Build a business that is always rewarding the client and you will have a faithful throng that will refer others, and they will all come in happy. There’s way too much awareness now regarding the negative side of drugs to allow yourself to become yet another pawn of that industry such that you have to keep hiding from the truth and hiding the truth from the clients. This is all closer to ending than the drug companies can bear to confront. They are very desperate right now. They are finding it very hard to grow their business and don’t like to see it as an empire in liquidation. But I think it is. Can’t get too much further off topic!

  6. Thank you Glenn for your advice and help. I will definitely keep track of anything new and read as much as possible to have a more objective idea of what I am dealing with. I can’t wait to do medicine, but at the same time I am aware of the ‘risks’ I am taking. As you said, it can be a big business. But then, which profession isn’t nowadays? I will embark in medicine with another state of mind though. I know it’s easy to say this now, especially that I haven’t really had a taste of the profession yet, but I am very much determined to see medicine as a more ‘human’ career, than a money-making one. If the alternative methods are better, then yes. If not, stick to the good old ones! Then again the decision could be bias, but as you said, it is essential to be informed and look at the matter from different perspectives.
    I also really hope the reputation of doctors will change, although, with an increase in money-minded doctors, it is not likely to do so. I hope I will bring a more positive contribution to this field, in terms of its reputation, and also in terms of its methods of dealing with health.
    Thanks again and good health to you too Glenn

  7. Wan, you are accurate to say “not trusting MD’s” is an overgeneralisation. We that use and read about alternatives have just come across so many stories of abuse at the hands of MD’s that we throw that concept around quite loosely, knowing that we all know what we are talking about: the vast majority of MD’s. That profession is apparently hopelessly caught in the downward spiral of being victimized by the drug industry as their pawns.

    However, there is still a way to work, in my estimation, proudly in this day and age as an MD, and that is to continually stay abreast of research in the field and to align yourself in some way with alternative methods of treatment. Since way over 90% of research is worthless, it takes a lot of gleaning to find studies that weren’t built and edited to prove that another drug if effective, etc. One of the shortcuts to all this though is to find and read a few good alternative health writers, and to read ones with different biases. With this you will get a better overall perspective. For instance, this blog run by Chris still seems to be taken in by the giant fish oil scam, which if I had time, I could show you year by year how it developed, first by slamming saturated fats, then praising polyunsaturates, then sloughing off the omega-6 segment and focusing on omega-3. Brian Peskin has opened up the playing field again and exposed the fallacies that exist in this area, FOR THE MOMENT. But things will change.

    The Weston A. Price Foundation is another place to find out the truths of the values of saturated fats, and they help dispel some of the myths of polyunsaturates, but they again are under the influence of the dairy industry, so they have their biases.

    Definitely stay on your track, but be aware of what’s going on in alternative medicine and the growing dissatisfaction within the public’s mind regarding typical alopathic treatments with drugs. I can’t give you a study, but I think one, if conducted, would quite easily and clearly show that once a person changes from the reliance on mainstream medicine to some form of alternatives, they never change back. So this is a trend to follow if you consider medicine as a business.

    And definitely read something off Brian Peskin’s web site at least once a week until you feel comfortable with the material. He seems to add new papers weekly. He exposes the most glaring risks to our bodies that are easily remedied by individuals, i.e. not environmental toxins and electromagnetic fields which are ubiquitous, but diet dangers that can be stopped overnight.

    Best of health to you and yours.

  8. Thanks Chris for this great article! It was very helpful for my high school mini thesis on unsaturated fats. The comments were also very interesting although I would like to point out some generalized comments on doctors. Although what happened to Moss seems pretty unfair, outraging even, and it is totally understandable that he cannot trust doctors, it would still be an overgeneralisation to say that they cannot be trusted. I guess my opinion is quite bias, as I am hoping to enter the medical field, and both of my parents are medical practitioners.
    Anyway, thanks for the help, and for the interesting comments and debates!
    Oh, and thank you Glenn for the links to Brian Peskin articles.. I’m hoping I can find time to read all of them !

  9. Well, I haven’t been personally abused by the medical profession, but I still have the distrust, Moss. Its always nice to hear a recovery story too, that involves one’s own research and hard work, and of course besides the solution, there’s the new found self confidence that will come in handy then next time we’re challenged. Not to mention – there’s no way one will turn around and trust the allopaths after they’ve cost you part of your life. So good comes out of everything, and we might as well see the light side.

    I’m thrilled you are treating bipolar with supplements and without drugs. Whatever works that causes no harm. There’s not a single patented medicine that causes no harm.

    Best of health to you and thanks for sharing with me.

  10. I mostly deal with people who have received diagnoses of one form or another of bipolar disorder, although I am also dealing with people with other mental “illness” diagnoses. All I can say about your list of side effects is, they are certainly no worse — and less certain — than the effects of the drugs doctors tend to give us for these “diseases”. My kidneys are already mostly gone from “treatment”. The all-knowing doctors said they could halt the deterioration (then at 20-25% function) but not reverse it, that it would never reverse. By going off all medications and using some supplements and herbs, I now have 40-45% of my kidney function, and will no longer believe what a doctor tells me unless my leg is broken.

    Yeah, that’s an expression of anger, not of fact. I still go to doctors for the little lube-and-oil functions, and to check that my kidneys are still holding their own. But distrust of doctors among those who have been “treated” for “mental illness” with “psychiatric medication” (read: dangerous psychoactive drugs with horrible effects and worse side effects) is rampant, and this is the population I deal with on a regular basis.

    • In all my readings about Omega-3/FA, this is the only reference i have come across that presents a contrarian view. Thanks for this link. It is worth keeping things in perspective, looking at both sides of an issue, whatever the final decision may be.

      I read your comments on ratio of OM3 to OM6. A quick pubmed search yields nearly 1000 documents. So, one can understand why the experts have varied suggestions from 1:1 ratio (about the same as raw king salmon) upto the limit that you suggest (1:4). Meanwhile, Chris Kresser’s point is that americans are consuming way more OM6, and hence the need to supplement with OM3, to balance it out.

      Better to stay with safe boundaries, because bigger(more) is not always better. A bigger pill could wind up being toxic to body; balance in everything is the key.

  11. Thanks Moss. I see you are dealing with people with “special needs” and that can benefit therefore from “special treatment” that is possibly outside what has been determined physiologically to be adequate amounts of nutrients. Since I don’t know which maladies you deal with I can’t comment on the methods you might use, but I don’t doubt you’ve experienced good results from the use of lower potency fish oils.

    As you haven’t indicated that you have investigated the experiments and studies that Brian Peskin explains and references in his articles, here’s one of his papers that you might want to study to see what he says are contraindications of heavy doses of EPA and DHA. These involve problems such as increased incidence of colon cancer, thickening (not thinning) of arterial walls, worsened blood-sugar control, and some brain manifestations I’ll leave you to interpret the significance of:

    http://www.brianpeskin.com/BP.com/reports/CAMB-Fish-Oil-Fallacies-Report.pdf

    And to balance the “Peskin tutorial” information and insure you have a chance to read as much of his findings on omega-6 and its importance to the human body, including especially the brain, as the above article provides on omega-3, here’s another paper:

    http://www.brianpeskin.com/BP.com/reports/NewLookLDL-CAMB.pdf

    In the above paper you will see that the body’s physiology has always been set up to derive EPA and DHA from the parent omega-3, yet how there is a constant 100 times as much parent omega-6 as omega-3 in the brain and nervous system, regardless of diet. This should start to tell us what damage we are doing to our bodies when we ingest already oxidized omega-6 and trans fats because these substances do not have the functionality of healthy omega-6, yet take their place, molecule by molecule, in cell after cell. There’s a hundred other interesting points to mention, just in this one paper alone, but I’ll leave it to you to investigate if you wish.

    • I made the previous comment a bit early, i guess. Just finished reading the link you provided here for Brian Peskin’s views. He is another contrarian and quotes numerous studies too. Thanks again for the links.

      All this experimentation with drugs and supplements, within 100 or 200 years, which is just a blip considering the evolutionary timescale…..

  12. Actually, Glenn, I’ve been telling my “people” NOT to go for the highest-potency fish oil. The high-potency ones usually don’t have the same balance of EPA to DHA (usually favoring EPA, such as OmegaBrite), and there may be effective cofactors in regular fish oil that don’t exist when you concentrate it for EPA and DHA content.

    As most of the people I advocate for are people with diagnosed mental health challenges, and as we all (with very few exceptions) appear to be getting great benefits from continued use of at least 4 grams of regular-strength fish oil, and as it is cheaper and much more effective than the drugs our doctors would rather give us, I think we’ll continue taking our fish oil. I’m aware of the other benefits to the body of Omega-3s; but to us, those are just beneficial side-effects.

  13. To finish, All the EPA and DHA humans are now overdosing on now will eventually show up as a problem. The body was designed to create EPA and DHA as it needs them, and within each individual cell. There never before this decade were vast quantities of these derivative floating around in the the blood (which, by the way, you need cholesterol to transport), being stuffed into this cell and that cell, and not just into fat cells.

    A strange thing I’ve observed, mostly from reader comments, on the human perspective on nutrition: We all want the best, most potent source of everything. There are people who consume almost nothing EXCEPT supplements, if you include things like smoothies and protein drinks, because of their heavy supplement load. There is absolutely no way that we can expect to get anything except an imbalance by eating this way. I suggest as an alternative to start a garden or find a local source of really, really healthy food, and see if you dare then to drop the supplements. Remember, even “organic” doesn’t mean healthy. A piece of land can be certified as organic within 3 years. Does that mean all the nutrients are in the soil to provide really healthy food. No, it just means relatively free of pesticides, commercials fertilizers, etc. The health of the soil is only partly restored.

    Back on subject: Regarding Essential Fatty Acids, read ALL of Brian Peskin.

    He’s iconoclastic. He breaks with tradition. He exposes myths. He’s scientific. He’s unrelenting. What more could you ask for as a Skeptic?

  14. As another healthy skeptic, I read this article and saw mostly the same things that myself and 50,000 others at least have seen on many websites that are trying to explain why humans need essential oils, and how they use them. In the interest of debunking a few mainstream myths here, I would like to suggest that all of us go directly to http://www.brianpeskin.com/ and read and or listen to what Brian Peskin has to say about the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids. It certainly debunks a lot of the mainstream ideas about Lenoleic and Alpha Lenolenic Acid.

    Brian reads over 600 research articles per week and is the person I would consider the premier expert on the use of the essential oils in human physiology. Now I’m not suggesting to go to his website and read one article and then return to the mainstream. I’m actually suggesting going there and reading everything he has to say. That is, if you’re interested in the study of these oils in the human body.

    I think that if you read what he has discovered, you will see why people survived fine for these millions of years whether they ate fish or not. Why its not really necessary to find every “best” source of every nutrient on the planet and restrict your intake to each of the “best” sources.

    Brian does not make statements like “believed to confer”. He writes purely what has been determined by experiments to be the case. So if you read his papers, you will soon learn that EPA and DHA are NOT found exclusively in seafood. Its obviously impossible, because they are found in the human body, even a human body that has never eaten seafood. Even Chris says above, “DHA content in tissues is very similar across all mammals”.

    Of course, EPA and DHA are derivatives of the parent omega-3 fatty acid, ALA. The human body makes them as needed. The mainstream media keeps saying that unless the human body is very well supplied with supporting minerals such as zinc, iron and pyridoxine, it can’t even create the DHA it needs from the essential parent, ALA. Bunk. If humans were so frail and dependent on seafood they would have gone extinct long ago. Its quite obvious from observing societies that eat no fish, that the human body does just fine at deriving the medium chain fatty acids EPA and DHA from ALA. What the mainstream has mistaken for “inefficient conversion” of ALA in human plasma is based on the assumption that all ALA is good for is to supply EPA and DHA to the tissues. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Both Linoleic and Alpha Lenolenic Acids have multiple functions in the human body, especially in the cell walls, over and above allowing themselves to be broken down into the derivatives pictured in the “Eicosanoids” chart above. For instance, Lenoleic Acid is the efficient means of pulling oxygen from the blood into the cell for metabolism. Omega-9 can do this also, but it takes two molecules of Omega-9 (monosaturated) to do what one molecule of Lenoleic Acid (omega-6) can do. And this is precisely why consumption of adulterated cooking oils made from omega-6 rich plant oils such as corn and safflower is causing our great cancer and heart disease epidemics. Once the omega-6 is ruined, it still takes a place in the cell walls of each of our 10 trillion cells, but it doesn’t FUNCTION. Once a cell goes a period of time with even a 35% reduction in oxygen, it starts deriving energy TOTALLY from fermentation, and NONE from oxidation. Once this switch is thrown, it never reverses. That cell is cancerous.

    Chris, when you say, in introducing your chart of the fatty acids “it is also possible for the body to synthesize EPA and DHA from the short-chain omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid” it implies that the process is some sort of back-up system, for the case where the person hasn’t ingested and distributed enough EPA and DHA. This is somewhat misleading, as we all know that we’ve survived millions of year without fish oil supplements, many of our ancestral lines without any sea food. Its better to look at the synthesis as the original design. It works that way in animals, period. Its just one of the many things that makes the species resilient.

    To summarize, we’re doing just fine if we can eat healthy foods. We don’t really need to supplement with more omega-3’s. The paramount thing that will make you healthy is absolutely cutting out the adulterated omega-6’s that you get in almost all processed, commercial foods. It the food has a shelf-life greater than 2 weeks, or is not in the frozen or refrigerated section, and it has any kind of fat in it that isn’t saturated, don’t touch it. don’t eat in restaurants because you have no idea what you’re getting. If we did that, we would cut down on the 40 to 1 omega-6 to omega-3 imbalance and end up with a natural, healthy diet with respect to fats (assuming we also get plenty of saturated fats) and the whole issue of supplementation could fly out the window.

    But for some reason, most people advising others on fatty acids won’t take on the whole food industry, maybe for fear they will lose their audience? So they hardly mention omega-6 except to say either we get too much, or it is “bad”. They only try to sell the idea of increasing our intake of omega-3’s. How sadly misleading. All the EPA and DHA

    • Glenn, the reason we survived millions of years whether we ate fish or not, is because we also get omega 3 from eating animals which ate grass. Therefore we consumed omega 3’s either by consuming fatty fish or by eating ruminants which ate grass. Either way, we ate some. An interesting note would be where the vegetarian hunter-gatherer tribes get theirs from, as they obviously consume neither, but the vast majority of humans consumed omega 3 from these two sources during evolution. The industry has now shifted animals indoors and feeds them grains, soya and additives instead of letting them feed on natural grass , and consequently the levels of omega 3 have decreased rapidly in meat. My only concern with fish oils is that heat is used to extract them which potentially damages the PUFS and turns them rancid.

    • I took your suggestion to read http://www.brianpeskin.com. I read his article entitled fish and fish oil fallacies. I found his logic disturbing. Referencing a double blind trial that supplemented patients with atherosclerosis, he states “BOTH groups had worsened clogging…a NEGATIVE result”. But when I check his reference the study did find a significantly positive effect for the patients receiving DHA…”Dietary intake of ω-3 fatty acids modestly mitigates the course of coronary atherosclerosis in humans.” Sorry, but Brian Peskin doesn’t seem to be the place for people that are intelligent enough to digest objective science for themselves.

      • Actually, that study you refer to had less than spectacular and non-significant findings. The conclusion of that paper is a big stretch based on negligible results. “Loss in minimal luminal diameter, as assessed by quantitative coronary angiography, was somewhat less in the fish oil group (P > 0.1)” “Fish oil recipients had fewer cardiovascular events (P = 0.10)”. Note the P value, to be statistically significant it should be <0.05. Clinical significance probably would require a P value <0.01 based on the size of the study. So Brian is essentially right in his conclusion, a study needs to prove something works or not works to be valid, this study does neither.

  15. Great podcast – I just listened to it and I would like to know your opinion on a few things:
    I’m somewhat confused as to the Omegas that are so widely added to supermarket eggs (Omega 3 +6).  What is the point of this if Omega 6 potentially cancels out the effects of Omega 3?
    Secondly, you talk about fish oils and fish as a good source of Omega3s/DHA however it depends on how well your body can break them down to absorb – depending on your current diet and intake of Omega 6.
    What is your take on micro-bluegreen algae such as Chorella and Spirulina as sources of DHA compared to fish oils (both in fish form and supplement form)From my understanding, Chorella has higher potency per unit than Spirulina, and both algaes have essential amino acids that are absorbed by the body at a higher ratio than oils.
    Thanks
     
     

    • I’ve never seen eggs with added omega-6 (I’d avoid them like the plague), but I have seen eggs with added omega-3. They do that because the confinement hens those eggs come from never get access to the free range, and never eat foods that would raise the omega-3 content of their eggs. They feed them flax seed instead to bring the omega-3 content up. If you’re buying supermarket eggs, those are your best bet.

      Spirulina and chlorella aren’t adequate sources of DHA. However, in my final article in the series I describe an algae-based DHA supplement that is suitable for vegetarians.

      • Hi Chris, I realize this is 4 years later, but I have had wonderful experiences with Pastured eggs, now available in Whole Foods and here locally in Santa Cruz, New Leaf markets (probably Berkeley Bowl as well). Not only do they taste better, but they feel better, and have a brilliantly orange yolk versus some of the other eggs I have seen with almost a pasty white yellow yolk. I have heard that in order to get a decent amount of w3 from eggs you would have to eat 24 in one sitting, so this may be what Michael Pollan calls the sales approach to health. I recommend people eat their eggs with some delicious smoked wild caught salmon. Much better on the tastebuds, and definitely the right oils!

  16. David – I keep getting asked by vegetarians whether they have to eat fish oil, and I tell them about the GNC DHA-from-algae product.  Nobody yet has reported back to me whether it helped them.  I’d like to know.
     
    Chris – It makes sense that the fish-processed DHA, with EPA, Selenium, etc., would be better for us.  “Makes sense” does not provide proof, and I’d like to see it, but it’s a reasonable working hypothesis.
     
    Moss

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