Fish Oil – The New Snake Oil?

So I ran across this item this morning at Agrimoney.com.

Source: Agrimoney.com | Crop farmers may become fishes’ best friends

Apparently this company has developed a type of canola that contains relatively large amounts of an oil with omega-3 that is similar to that produced in fish. The GM seed has been produced by adding in genes from microalgae which make omega-3 oils. The claim is that this microalgae is the source of the omega-3 oils that are found in fish. About 2.5 acres of this canola is supposed to produce s much omega-3 equivalent as 10,000 kilos of fish.

The new canola (rapeseed) is still in testing and hasn’t yet received approval from USDA or from other canola growing countries. But everyone is excited about it because this could go a long way to fill the ever increasing demand for omega-3. In the US alone omega-3 supplements are a billion dollar business and people by the millions gobble down the capsules. Food processors are adding it to a wide variety of foods like yogurt, cereals, juice, even cookies for heaven’s sake. So it is hoped that a product like this may help to reduce overfishing that has driven some of the most popular types of fish in the oceans to near extinction.

But there are problems. And everyone seems to have been completely Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 7.03.24 AMignoring them. And the biggest problem seems to be that no one seems to be really sure that omega-3 actually works. Even worse, there are some indications that taking omega-3 might actually be detrimental for the health of some people.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a report a year or so ago that indicated that linked eating a lot of oily fish or taking fish oil supplements to a 50% increase in the risk of prostate cancer in men, and a 70% increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer.

Taking omega-3 supplements is supposed to improve heart health, of course. But studies are indicating it doesn’t do that, either. A study published in 2013 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that taking omega-3 supplements did nothing to reduce heart attack, stroke or death from heart disease.

Why all this confusion and conflicting information? Because how food and it’s components affect the body is an extremely complex subject and often still largely a mystery. Using supplements for anything other than to treat an actual deficiency is generally something you should do only with caution and great reluctance.

Eating a diet that has fish in it is considerably different from gulping down a handful of omega-3 pills because no one seems to be able to prove beyond a doubt that omega-3 is the only thing at work when there is an improvement in health. It’s more likely you need everything in that fish, all of the vitamins, minerals and other substances that are in the fish itself, not just a single component of that fish.

Even though we have hundreds of companies trying to sell you fish oil and omega-3 supplements, adding it to other foods as a marketing gimmick, there are a lot of studies out there that indicate that taking fish oil and omega-3 supplements to reduce heart problems doesn’t work any better than taking a placebo. Like this one. Or this one. Or… Well, you get the idea so why go on.

 

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