Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Disease Risk
By Dr. Scott Stoll
During the past 100 years medicine and the supplement industry have been dominated by reductionist philosophy that seeks to isolate, refine, and define a pill that will treat, prevent or reverse disease. The false belief is founded on the idea that science can break things down to the smallest parts and identify the magic super ingredient and that by taking this single ingredient in large amounts we can overcome disease. But, Aristotle was right, “The sum in always greater than its parts.” Studies have identified that single nutrients work together like a symphony. This synergistic interaction of nutrients validates the important benefit that whole foods are far superior to their isolated parts and in fact have a multiplicative effect when consumed together—like your smoothie, lunch or dinner. In fact, in 2005 the NIH conducted a review of published studies on vitamin intake and disease risk and found that the majority of the studies did not demonstrate any significant benefit. Still we continue to look for simple solutions that do not demand any personal change, or alteration of the foods that we have grown to love and the $23 billion dollar supplement industry and medical system support our mediocre state.
This idea is exemplified in the “big fish story of fish oil” that started with the DART trial in the 1980’s. The study examined the risk of heart disease risk and the consumption of fatty fish or fish oil and found a 29% reduction in risk. The findings launched a new multi-billion dollar industry that now utilizes 100,000 tons of fish oil every year and gives people a false hope. However, the sequel to the DART trial, the DART 2, with more subjects and better study outcomes found that people taking fish oil tablets had a higher risk of heart disease. What happened? The first conclusion that launched the industry was inaccurate.
A large systematic review and meta-analysis in 2012 of all of the studies on the effects of omega 3 fatty acids on lifespan, cardiac death, stroke and heart attacks found no protective effect from omega 3 fatty acids including those that have had a heart attack. Further, a recent study on omega 3 fatty acids validates the potential risk of taking isolated and consolidated supplements. Researchers at Ohio State University studied the effect of consuming omega 3 supplements and the relative risk of prostate cancer. The study reviewed data on 834 men with prostate cancer of which 156 had high-grade prostate cancer and the association with blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids. They found a strong association between high omega 3 fatty acid levels and high-grade prostate cancer and concluded that this current study confirms previous reports of prostate cancer risk and high blood levels of omega 3 fatty acids and those high levels may be involved in the growth of tumors or tumorigenesis. It is not clear why this is occurring and is likely due to the toxins including DDT, PCB’s, and heavy metals in the fish oils or other aspects of the higher consumption of animal protein and fat.
The only supportive evidence for an omega 3 fatty acid supplements is the new research looking at dementia and early brain atrophy. Researchers and clinicians have discovered that some people who have genetic biochemical differences in their ability to convert the omega 3 precursors (about 30% of the population) in their diet to activate forms of omega 3’s may be at an increased risk for dementia. This includes the plant based, vegan and vegetarian communities. Also as we age our ability to make the active forms of omega 3’s also declines and we have increased requirements of dietary sources of omega 3 fatty acids.
So what do we make of this information in light of all of this research. First, remove all of the sources of the inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids that include vegetable oils, animal fat, and processed foods, Second, seek natural sources of omega 3 fatty acids such as walnuts, fresh ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds, and leafy greens that come packaged with fiber and micronutrients that synergistically work together with your cells for optimum benefit. And finally, consider a pure algae derived omega 3 supplement
To your health!
Dr. Scott Stoll
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Meet Our Guest Writer…
Dr. Scott Stoll