What is the Truth Behind Fish Oil?

We’ve talked about fish and the benefits that come with eating more fish as opposed to red meat or chicken. We’ve also talked about how different types of fish and fish oil can give you vitamins and proteins that can help with your health, from lowering your cholesterol to preventing cardiovascular disease.

One such type of fish were oily fishes such as the salmon or sardines, the oil secreted by these fishes contains high levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, which as stated above can help with cholesterol levels. There is more than one way of obtaining the Omega 3 effects that come from fish oil, with the most common one being supplements made with extracted fish oil.

The fish oil industry regularly sells these products as being necessary and beneficiary for a person’s health and wellness. However, the truth is far fishier than you’d usually think. It’s true that supplements made out of fish oils have become quite common, but not only could they not be as healthy as the fish oil industry wants you to think, but it might even be bad for your wellbeing and cause more problems and diseases.

This comes mostly from the fact that fish oil supplements are extracted from oily fishes such as sardines, usually in factories where sardines are processed through machines specialised in drawing the oil out of them. The problem with this approach is that, more often than not, this causes the oil to be exposed to oxygen for long amounts of times, and fish oil oxidises very quickly.

Oxidisation of fish oil is especially bad for these supplements. For one, oxidised oils contain high amounts of oxidised lipids and these fats can become harmful to the body and can trigger inflammatory responses in the body that, if untreated properly, can eventually lead to cardiovascular disease among other problems.

Dr Preston Mason, a Harvard University researcher, decided to test this out and had people compare the smells of off the counter supplements with that of prescription quality fish oils. What the subjects found was that not only did the supplements had a stronger odour but that they were a lot more oxidised than the prescription fish oils.

Dr Mason himself had already published a study that reviewed and investigated the levels of oxidation found in fish oil supplements. His result was consistent with many other studies, among them one from New Zealand which concluded that 83% of fish oil products failed to meet the industry’s standard for oxidisation after testing them.

Wanting to defend this, Adam Ismael, head of the GOED Fish Oil Trade Association had the company buy up to 47 products from the New Zealand market to check up on whether the oxidation levels were actually as high. The company was able to figure out that, while not as high as the previous New Zealand study stated, the standard of oxidation in fish oil products was around 20%, which while indeed shorter, is still pretty high when you consider that it’s people’s health that’s at risk.

That’s not the only problem that has arisen for fish oils. Even without the high oxidation levels, there is still the issue of whether fish oil products are as healthy as people want to treat them.

Epidemiologist, Dr Andrew Grey, decided to get to the bottom of this and compiled a list of articles and studies that all examined the benefits and makeup of fish oil products. What he found by looking through some of the most prestigious scientific journals was that there was no concrete evidence that fish oil supplements could prevent cardiovascular disease or heart attacks.

When this was brought to Adam Ismael in an interview he had with the Huffington Post, he was quick to mention the same studies that Grey had compiled as a way to defend fish oil. However, it seemed that he wasn’t aware of the fact that those studies either didn’t have enough evidence to back up their research or the evidence they did have could be considered faulty.

However, researchers agree that getting your fish oil from natural elements (from eating real fish) should still have benefits for the body and your health in regards to preventing cardiovascular disease and cholesterol levels. Even if the benefits are not quite as high as the fish industry wants you to believe at least, it’s something to keep in mind.


Photo Credits:  Organic Facts, The Conversation, Alibaba, The New York Times

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