Guest Writer for Wake Up World
The L.A. Times published an article by Rosie Mestel (4/9/12) questioning whether or not fish oil was good for us. This article was based on findings reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine, from a team of scientists from S. Korea. Here’s the article link.
The findings of the study show that, “taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements won’t protect against repeat heart attacks, strokes or other cardiovascular problems.” The lead researcher, Dr. Seung-Kwon Myung, chief of the carcinogenesis branch of the National Cancer Center, Republic of Korea, said that, “It is effective against cardiovascular disease to eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, not supplements.”
The lead researcher on a long term study of more than 20,000 patients is supportive of eating oily fish 2 to 3 times per week, and not replacing healing foods with supplements. While I do believe that high quality fish oil supplements can be a great support for some people, I agree with Dr. Seung-Kwon Myung that there is no replacement for the whole food.
Our bodies use the omega-3 fatty acids found in flax, wheat germ, hemp seeds, and fish to create anti-inflammatory substances in the body. When we ingest alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA, we begin a process whereby our bodies use ALA to form the fatty acids found primarily in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The EPA and DHA are then converted by our body into the anti-inflammatory substance I mentioned above – prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins assist us in a variety of ways. They regulate cellular communication, they help maintain homeostasis, they increase blood flow to the kidneys, dilate bronchial tubes, and most importantly for this discussion, they control inflammatory function. The prostaglandins created by the conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA are anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, no more or less important than prostaglandins that are inflammatory, but that’s a different blog….
Suffice it to say, the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins are highly important for healing to occur within the body. The fatty acids found in fish, EPA and DHA, are one step closer to the goal of prostaglandin production than the fatty acids found in the other foods listed above, such as flax and walnuts. Many factors must be present within the body for the conversion of ALA into EPA and DHA. Proper digestion, liver function, correct enzyme activity, as well as adequate amounts of zinc, magnesium, and specific B vitamins – all this must be present for the tricky conversion to occur. Our ethnicity may also play a role in our ability to convert fatty acids into the anti-inflammatory substances we need.
Bottom line? Follow the doc’s orders and eat fish, preferably cold water oily fish that is wild caught. The quality of fish oil found in supplements is questionable, and these rancid oils severely disrupt the conversion of fatty acids into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Researchers found that, “the potential cardiovascular benefits of fish oil supplements have produced mixed results,” while fresh fish such as wild caught salmon and mackerel helped heal cardiovascular inflammation.
About the Author
I am a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association, located in Olympia, Washington. For over a decade I have explored varied diets and healing modalities, ranging from raw veganism to the Primal Diet. My interest in diet stemmed from a strong desire to heal life long health problems without continued reliance on prescription drugs.
In 2006 I graduated magne cum laude from Murray State University with a bachelor of arts degree, emphasis in medical anthropology and professional writing. My time studying varied culture’s practices sparked my interest in continuing to investigate the link between chronic illness/ degenerative disease and dietary habits.
The teachings of the Weston A. Price Foundation and the Nutritional Therapy Association, paired with my background in medical anthropology, have led me to believe that a properly prepared, whole food, nutrient dense diet is one of the primary keys to optimal health. I can be contacted further via my site nourishsystem.com