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The problem with fish oil

It might be very good for you...but it might be very bad for you

photo by welcomia

In my work I have to constantly stay on top of new research. What I once thought to be a solid truth can quickly turn into the opposite as new information becomes available. I need to know that the advice I give will do no harm, which means ensuring that it is still advice that's based on the most current and accepted data. Supplements are a bit of a grey area for me because it's very hard to know what's really inside any given capsule. I worry about how it was cultivated, the quality of the ingredients, how it was processed, how long ago it was processed, and how the package has been handled since it was made. All these factors can affect the efficacy of a supplement, and in some cases its safety.

All of this is why I rely primarily on whole foods in my client recommendations. That said, supplementation can still be important for some people and I generally have a few favoured ones that are helpful for many of my clients. One that I often recommend is omega-3 fatty acid in the form of fish oil. Long considered one of the best and most absorbable forms of EPA and DHA, fish oil is an excellent way to lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease and is important for brain health, among many other benefits. I've always known that the quality of the fish oil is important as it can become oxidized very easily and this can have an adverse impact on health. So I'm very concerned about a study from early last year that tested the top 3 supplements in the US and found that all had some levels of oxidized lipids, in some cases very high levels. The cited research that tested other products from around the world, often with similar results. What's worrisome about this is that ingesting some of these supplements can actually lead to increased cardiovascular risk in people with coronary disease. Read the full study here that includes links to other cited research. There's also a fantastic reference guide on the Labdoor website that examined 54 different fish oil supplements and ranks them based on several parameters of efficacy, safety, nutritional value, etc. Until I've done a little more research on my own, I'm going to stick with my usual recommendation: just eat more fish.

On that note, what is the best fish to eat? Salmon is one of the highest in omega-3 and one of the most popular. Wild varieties like sockeye, coho, and chinook are best. Always avoid farmed. Atlantic mackerel and herring are also both very high in omega-3. Albacore tuna is high in it as well but I generally don't recommend it because it also has a high mercury content. The source for fish is as important as its nutritional value so always refer to the Ocean Wise Guide before making any choices at the store or in restaurants.


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