Busting the most common fish oil myths

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • Did you have a chance to review dietitian Ashley Koff’s answers to questions on omega 3 & omega 6? If not, you may do so at the link below.


    Omega-3 + Omega-6: Are you in balance?


    Now, let’s get a another point of view from Dr. Fred Sancillio.


    Dr. Sancilio is a development scientist. He has published over 20 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals and has presented to scientists in conferences around the world. He started his career as a physical and analytical chemist in the Research Division of Hoffmann-LaRoche, Inc. Dr. Sancilio earned his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Physical and Analytical Chemistry from Rutgers University.

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    According to Dr. Sancilio, if you take a fish oil supplement to help lower your LDL cholesterol, you’re wasting your money. The same may hold true if you think there’s not much difference between the various types of fish oil and omega-3 supplements on store shelves except perhaps the capsule sizes (and the size of the smelly, fishy belches some cause after you take them).


    So, let’s dive into a Q & A discussion different aspects of omega 3 and what Dr. Sancilio refers to as myths… 


    Lisa Nelson RD: Do omega-3 supplements help to lower cholesterol?


    Dr. Sancilio: Too many people say their doctors recommended that they start taking fish oil because their lipid profile was high. They mistakenly think this supplement will help their HDL and LDL cholesterol. But the omega-3s found in fish, in particular the EPA and DHA fatty acids, work on a different blood lipid called triglycerides. Triglycerides are basically blood fat. Imagine having blood the consistency of chocolate pudding. High triglyceride levels make your blood extremely thick and hard for your heart to pump. When your heart works harder, it needs more blood to supply needed oxygen. Our bodies are very efficient at removing fish fat from our blood. Not so much fats from other animals. Omega-3s help prevent the production of triglycerides in the liver.


    Here is the relationship of triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol: Cholesterol builds up around triglycerides. If you were to cut open a diseased artery, you’d see something that looks like a pimple. The triglycerides would be the pus, and the LDL cholesterol would be built up around it. A triglyceride level above 300 mg/dL puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Anything above 500 mg/dL increases your risk of getting heart attack or stroke.


    Lisa Nelson RD: Do all types of fish oil/omega-3/krill oil supplements provide close to the same benefits?


    Dr. Sancilio: Omega-3 products derived from krill oil typically have less than 25 percent EPA and DHA concentrations. Compare that to super concentrated omega-3 products that have 80-88 percent EPA and DHA concentrations. The best-selling krill oil product currently on the market contains 74 mgs of EPA and DHA in each 300 mg capsule, or less than 25 percent. Many fish and krill oils also have a strong fishy smell even though they claim otherwise.


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    Lisa Nelson RD: In order to avoid the fishy aftertaste of omega-3 supplements is it necessary to take krill oil?


    Dr. Sancilio: Not anymore. Most omega-3 and fish oil supplements are simply mixtures of unrefined fish fat, which can turn rancid and create an unpleasant odor. To eliminate the odor, the manufacturing process requires repeated distillation of fresh fish oil, which removes the unpleasant odor. In refined pharmaceutical grade oils, such as those used in Ocean Blue products, the oil is molecularly distilled 26 times, resulting in a product that has virtually no smell or taste. We have eliminated any fishy smells and fishy burps.


    Lisa Nelson RD: Are the large bottles of low-cost fish oil just as good as the higher-priced brands?


    Dr. Sancilio: Most fish oil is typically made from the by-products of fish processed for food and other uses. This oil is unrefined and not concentrated, resulting in very low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and high levels of saturated fats, which are actually detrimental to your health. This is the oil that is used in most omega-3s and fish oil supplements. You can find brands of fish oil made from highly-refined, ultra-pure pharmaceutical grade omega-3.


    Lisa Nelson RD: Do the eggs that contain omega-3s provide an adequate source of DHA and EPA?


    Dr. Sancilio: No. The Omega-3 found in these eggs is plant-based alpha linolenic acid. It does not contain EPA or DHA.


    Lisa Nelson RD: Should omega-3 supplements be limited to patients with heart disease?


    Dr. Sancilio: The World Health Organization recommends that people without a history of heart disease consume 200-500 mg per day of EPA and DHA. The American Heart Association recommends 500 mg daily. Those who have a history of heart disease or related concerns should strive for at least 1,000 mg per day of EPA and DHA. And those who have high triglycerides should be getting 2,000 to 4,000 mg per day of EPA and DHA. So match the product you choose with the amount of omega-3s you should be consuming.


    Lisa Nelson RD: Do omega-3s help alleviate pain?

    Dr. Sancilio: Omega-3s help reduce the body’s inflammatory response. Every cell membrane is made of omega-6, omega-3, phospholipids and cholesterol. If you damage a cell membrane, the omega-6 starts the process and switches on the pain. At the same time, the omega-3 starts the anti-inflammatory process that turns off the pain. So we need a balance of omega-3s and omega-6s. However most people consume excess amounts of omega-6s, which are commonly found in soy, vegetable and corn oil. Also, fried foods are soaking in omega-6s. The majority of people consume well below the recommended daily amount of omega-3s. Even with adequate omega-3 supplementation, it may take two or three months to get your system in the correct balance.


    The product Dr. Sancilio recommends - Ocean Blue – is an omega-3 supplement that can be found at CVS and Walgreens.


    Are you working to lower cholesterol? If so, access the free ecourse How to Lower Cholesterol in 8 Simple Steps at http://lowercholesterolwithlisa.com.


Published On: March 26, 2014