Fish Oils: Help Your Heart Or Not?

There has been a rash of stories in recent weeks based on a Cochrane study that said fish oils are not heart-healthy at all. Eh? That goes against all my knowledge and training.

Here’s WDDTY’s take on the issue – and they point out just one other study (from many others) that came out around the same time – with a bigger sample – that says  they are heart-healthy. As always, it seems the media catches onto the negative and reports it as fact, but it is not so clear cut.

Fish oils don’t protect against heart disease (but then they do)

For the third time in as many years, a major research group has concluded that fish oil supplements don’t protect against heart disease or stroke—and, in the same week, another study has concluded that eating fish, and their long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, prolongs life and lowers the risk of a heart attack.

There is a debate between fish oil supplements and getting the oils from food. Of course, food is always going to be better. It’s in its natural form, which is easier for us to assimilate. The truth of the matter is, though, that the vast majority of us Joe Public don’t eat fish regularly enough – let alone eat good quality fish. We’re not talking cod in breadcrumbs here or even packet haddock from the supermarkets; more fresh mackerel, wild salmon and wild seabass (note: not farmed!).

Also, the way you cook your fish makes a difference, which makes sense. If you cook it at lower temperatures to preserve the delicate oils, you’re going to get a much stronger protective effect:

Boiling or steaming the fish seems to retain its health-giving benefits whereas people who ate only fried fish were just as likely as people who didn’t eat any fish to suffer from heart disease.

Moral of the story seems to be: Steam yer fish if you can, or bake it slowly at lower temperatures. And if you can’t get good quality fish in regularly enough, then supplementing is the next best bet.

4 Replies to “Fish Oils: Help Your Heart Or Not?”

  1. The fact that we are polluting our oceans is such a problem for so many reasons, not the least in that foods which are very important in a species appropriate human diet are being polluted. We have been eating wild caught salmon twice a week. I would like to have it on the menu more often, but the mercury issue has me worried. And now after reading articles about the increasing radiation contamination of fish taken from the Pacific Ocean, we have cut salmon down to once a week, and are wondering if we should take it off the menu completely or find a source of good frozen and shipped Atlantic fish. . . . . Another issue is for omega3/omega 6 fatty acid metabolism in people with pyrrole disorder. Research has shown that people with pyrrole disorder need more good omega 6’s and need to restrict omega 3’s! Whereas most people find omega 6’s inflammatory and omega 6’s reduce inflammation, people with pyrrole disorder have just the opposite effects. And when tested most people show up with omega 3 deficiencies, but most people with pyrrole disorder have an omega 6 deficiency! Difficult to know how to react if you have pyrrole disorder as I haven’t been able to find any advice on whether treating the pyrrole disorder changes this metabolic concern, or any translation of the research results into actual dietary advice. . . . About 10 – 20% of the population have pyrrole disorder, most of them undiagnosed.

    1. Thanks Terry. I think, as usual, it is all about moderation and balance of foods. I have been finding quite a few people deficient in omega 6 actually on testing and I think in some ways, for some people, we have indeed skewed our diets to favour the omega 3s overly – that may indeed be a pyrrole indicator. Interesting.

  2. Gosh Terry, Complicated ! We eat wild salmon once per week and I eat anchiovies sold in the glass jars/ one jar lasts me several lunches. I’d much rather eat the food than have to resort to buy the oil as I do worry about oxidation and rancidity of oils. But this is a further complication.
    I had read that the farmed salmon/highly unhealthy, were escaping from all farms and polluting the wild salmon population – just have to try our best.
    If we stress over then that’s even worse for our health outcome.
    And I don’t want to have to stress over which oils to buy.
    I was buying Green Lipped Mussel powder in capsule form (sourced from the pristine waters of New Zealand lol) as seemed the best alternative plus the salmon anchiovies but have stopped the Green L mussel as thought they may be responsible for my rash. Interesting conversation /thought provoking Micki 🙂

    1. Thanks Lynne – I aim to make us think :). I agree: we can stress too much about such things. Moderation and do healthy things most of the time; that’s all we can do, otherwise the stress becomes counteractive! And the mercury Tri-test is proving useful because many people worrying about fish mercury levels can now see exactly what their levels are from fish or amalgams and the total. I am finding mostly lower than people worried about, so it allays that fear.

Leave a Reply