fish oil benefits and dha

How helpful is fish oil? Is it good for you? Or should we stay far away from it?

My hope today is to weigh the evidence and offer you what you need to know about this much talked about subject.

In our Better Eye Health Program, we use a form of fish oil that is high in the long chain omega-3 fatty acid DHA. We recommend that people doing the program take a supplement with DHA because it helps people that are trying to regenerate the damaged cells in their eyes and retina. You need a good intake of raw materials if you’re going to rebuild damaged tissues. One quarter of the weight of the brain is DHA, and the retina is a part of the brain.

I’ve been getting numerous questions in the last year or two from people who say that some doctors propose that fish oil supplements are dangerous. They’re concerned about taking something that might be dangerous and I don’t blame them for having questions. I thought it might help to talk through the issue, regardless if you are relating to degenerative eye issues. Healthy oils helps many things.

This is a complex subject for several reasons.

The subject is made complex by the fact that not all supplements are created equal. We recommend the product Super DHA from Carlson Labs. This is derived from small fish caught wild in the northern Atlantic and North Sea. Fish from these waters are generally clean and smaller fish, lower on the food chain, are much less polluted than large fish like cod or swordfish or tuna. Carlson does a very good job of checking the oils they sell and they certify them to be free of toxins and heavy metals.

(And here I mean not just containing acceptable amounts, but actually FREE of these pollutants.)

Not all fish oil supplements are this clean. It is true that if you eat contaminated fish or a contaminated fish oil supplement every day, you will increase your levels of heavy metals and toxins. Many doctors and others who write about these things seem to ignore the fact that there are clean supplements of high quality oils available. Instead they claim all fish oil supplements as questionable, even dangerous. This is not true.

The discussion is also complicated by an extensive body of literature in the peer-reviewed medical journals that shows the clear value to your health of regular intake of fish oils. People used to get these oils naturally from fish. However, this has become tricky as much of the fish that is available to us these days is very contaminated. I do not recommend to my clients that they eat fish every day because of this.

The body of literature about the benefits of fish oil comes from many different specialties. Cardiologists have done extensive research showing the value to your heart, both in preventing heart disease and in healing a damaged heart, that a good fish oil can provide. They routinely recommend fish oil supplements to their patients if they are educated about this research. (see Kwong, RW, Paper presented at the American College of Cardiology 64th annual scientific convention, San Diego, March 16, 2015)

There was a very interesting study just published in February 2, 2016 issue of JAMA that shows an inverse relationship between consumption of fish oil and development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. (JAMA, Feb. 2, 2016, Volume 315, Number 5, p.465)

(Check out the article HERE)

This means that those who ate fish and fish oils regularly had less chance of getting dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. What is really interesting about this study is that the mercury levels of some of the people in this study were found to increase slightly as they were tested repeatedly over time. Yet even in the people who had a slight increase in mercury levels, their mental function improved. The beneficial effects of the fish oil seem to be present even with slight increases in mercury levels.

I don’t think mercury is good, and I don’t recommend eating fish or taking supplements that are likely to increase your mercury levels. However it is interesting that the benefits outweighed the risks in this case.

I won’t quote articles here, but there are dozens (if not hundreds) of articles over the last 15 years in the literature showing the benefits to pregnant women and nursing mothers from eating fish or taking fish oil supplements. This is interesting, because in general pregnant and nursing women are discouraged from eating much fish or taking fish oil because of the concerns about mercury and other contaminants in the fish and the oils. However when someone does a study, what they find is that the benefits to the fetus, the child and the mother outweigh the risks.

This is a tricky subject and I wish that the foods available to us were risk-free. They’re not, but sometimes the benefits to be had outweigh the concerns and risks.

I will continue to recommend regular consumption of DHA rich fish oils from small clean fish as long as there are clean and reliable sources of these products available. If you have questions or are curious how to evaluate a brand of fish oil, please contact us and we will help if we can.

In the meantime – To Your Health.

About the Author

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe for Full Access