Should You Take Fish Oils? Only if You ALSO Do This

The concept of omega-3 fatty acids and the benefits for cardiovascular disease originated in the 1970’s with Dyerberg and Bang’s study on the Inuit Eskimos.

Since then, the research on the relationship of omega-3 fatty acids (most popularized by fish oil supplements) has exploded.  Protective effects on cancer rates, seizures, diabetes and heart disease have been demonstrated.  However, lately, research has not been quite as favorable and the most recent study found not effect of fish oil supplements on heart diseae (fish in the diet, however, was still protective).

The are several situations where the benefits of fish oil may not be fully realized.  Here are my thoughts:

  1. Highest on the list is likely that the dosage that many people are taking is generally not high enough (I’ve covered dosage in a previous blog article that can be read by clicking here) and this can definitely affect the benefit.
  2. First, much like anything else, supplements are not designed to work in a vacuum.  In other words, a crappy, processed lifestyle loaded with omega-6 fats will not be counterbalanced by any amount of fish oil supplementation.
  3. The processing of fats in our bodies is complex and requires balance between omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids.  Mother Nature provides the best balance.  Make sure your fish oil supplement contains the omega 6 GLA (black currant, borage oil or evening primrose).  If not, you may generate inflammation rather than protect against it.
  4. Fish oils can become oxidized in our bodies if we are burdened by oxidative stress from a poor quality lifestyle.  A diet loaded with protective phytonutrients from a large array of fruits, veggies and spices will help protect the fats that you take in, whether from a supplement or fish.

With that being said, this particular article just adds additional insight to #2 above.  Researchers looked at the relationship between the levels of EPA + DHA (the fish oils) and physical activity and the ability of the fish oils to lower multiple cardiovascular risk factors.

Not surprisingly, only those who were regularly active got a benefit from higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids in his or her blood.

Hate to use this as a push to be more active, but I’m going to.  Overall, the bottom line is that you HAVE to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke through a comprehensive program.  Singly taking fish oils or singly exercising is not going to give you the bang for your buck that a combination is going to.  And this is yet another reason why mainstream medicines’ approach to heart disease prevention (i.e. “a single pill will fix it all”) is such a failure.


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.