Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids actually harmful?

“I would like your opinion, is fish oil harmful, Dr. Z…”

This is the question I was asked by a patient after he read an article written by an M.D. that negated the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. I would like to paraphrase my response and thoughts here in this brief post for those who may be wondering.

Firstly, if the source is not reputable…please do not supplement at all. If you are purchasing 120 tablets of “X” for $9.00, ask yourself if you honestly think that whatever it is that you are buying is a quality product. Common sense should dictate at that point and you need to put it back on the shelf with the rest of the “high quality” items. Fish oil is not any different. Continually,  lab studies find many of the brands we see at grocery stores, health stores and pharmacies contaminated with extraction chemicals and rancid oil. These oils are much like olive oil in that they are very sensitive to heat. If you heat the oil during the extraction process, you denature them and they now become inflammatory oils much like the ones we try to avoid. The reason EPA and DHA are sought after is because of the effect they have on inflammatory pathways in the body. Well, think about it…you ingest rancid fats daily in your diet and then supplement with fish oils to reduce the inflammation…shouldn’t you make sure that you are not compounding that problem??

Moving on, so assuming you have a high quality fish oil to begin with, the research tells that these oils are nothing short of elixirs for our bodies. One of thousands of studies,  this one done by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, entitled “Eskimo study suggests high consumption of omega-3s in fish-rich diet reduces obesity-related disease risk,” points out that even though this population may be obese, they do not have the diseases that are caused by chronic inflammation found in obesity. “”Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons,” Makhoul said. “It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup’ik Eskios from some of the harmful effects of obesity.”

In Summary, I do not think it is dangerous to supplement with fish oils that are pure. In fact, I think it is necessary which is why personally do. Keep in mind this population consumes 20x the amount in the average American diet! Eat up!

Dr. Ryan Zeronis, DC